By Rose Cooper
what? Forty is now known as ‘the new 30’. Great!
What the hell does that mean?What do the following have in common: Michelle
Pfeiffer, Kim Basinger, Goldie Hawn, Sharon Stone, Rene Russo, Sigourney
Weaver, Geena Davis, Susan Sarandon, Cher, Jamie Lee Curtis, Meryl Streep,
Annette Bening and Whoopi Goldberg (to name a few)? These women are all
crammed at the top of the list of the most in-demand and sexiest actors
in Hollywood. All of them are over 40. In fact, Cher, Streep, Sarandon,
Hawn and Weaver are all over 50. Ironically, one of the many reasons given
for the depression which lead to Marilyn Monroe’s ‘suicide’
was the fact that, at 36, her box office appeal was rapidly and inexorably
on the decline. My, my, my - how times have changed.
At the same age today’s woman struggles to decide whether to finally
retire that string bikini - her mother’s biggest dilemma might have
been whether her slip was visible beneath her frilly, and sedate, ‘Osti’
number. Eewwww. Welcome to the age of extended youth. Granted, with life
expectancy continually on the rise – ‘middle age’ isn’t
what it was once cracked up to be. When the expression ‘life begins
at 40’ sprang up many years ago, they probably thought the poor
old buggers needed cheering up. However, these days it really is the catch-cry
of a generation reborn. The most enjoyable, satisfying and rewarding part
of life really does begin at 40. Ahem, well…for us WOMEN anyway.
It has been common knowledge for well over a decade that women reach their
so-called sexual peak anywhere between 35 and 100. (Okay, between 35 and
45, but by the time this goes to print, anything could happen.) Ever since
they let that little stat out of the bag, the predatory Eartha Kitt-style
Catwoman lurking inside women everywhere was unleashed - purring, growling
and demanding the kind of lavishly salacious attention normally reserved
for the younger, perkier among us. Demanding it? Darn it we’re commanding
Age before Beauty?
In an increasingly superficial society, where youth and beauty (aka –
big, gravity-defying boosies and skeletal scrawniness) is prized above
all else, there’s still a distinct groundswell of mature, exotic,
earthiness that refuses to curl up in brown crimpolene and diet. Who knew?
Let’s face it, cosmetic surgery aside – the world still knows
that the woman prancing around, belting out Euro-trashy disco tunes clad
in gaffa-tape and fright-wigs is 53. Stop snickering, not all Cher’s
male fans are gay! Look at Tina Turner. And what about Ally McBeal? Alongside
the young-ish stick insects starring on that hit TV show are gorgeous
granny guest stars like Dyan Cannon and Farrah Fawcett. Ten years ago,
there was only one Joan Collins. Now screens are seething with ‘em!
Oh sure, we’re yet to see a complete turning of the tables. It’s
still hard to imagine a blockbuster movie featuring a Sean Connery/Catherine
Zeta-Jones style pairing in reverse gender. Then again with 50-something
actresses, like Helen Mirren being voted Sexiest Woman Alive - surely
it’s only a matter of time before Dame Judi Dench and that DiCaprio
dude finally get down and dirty in our darkened theatres. “Mrs Robinson,
I’m trying to seduce you!” (Hmm…I’d like to see
that.) So, what’s really going on out there? Is it Freudian - you
know, the Mummy thing? What is that intangible quality that can make one
saucy Susan Sarandon seem sexier than a truckload of nubile Natalie Portmans?
Well…to red-blooded males over 17 anyway.
To the casual observer, an older woman’s sex appeal isn’t
something that, um, sticks out. Well, not on the surface. It sort of oozes
from within. The over 40s woman has the air of one who’s comfortable
in her own skin and she certainly has the reputaton for being sexually
uninhibited, adventurous and assertive.
Obviously it’s kinda difficult to be sexy unless you feeeeeel sexy.
This subtly simmering, primal sensuality may seem innate, but in most
cases, it has been decades in the making. Not many of us actually ‘own’
our sexuality till relatively late in life. There is a distinct reason
(or conspiracy) for this. It can be summed up in two words: Double Standard.
Yes, that lame old story. While we’ve come a long way in the battle
of the sexes, there are still are frightful taboos associated with female
Dr Rosie McInnes of the Australian Centre for Sexual Health explains:
“From the time we’re young girls, we are told never to look,
scratch or touch ‘down there’. Boys meanwhile, quickly learn
the opposite. The word ‘wanker’ is in common use and accompanied
by an easily recognisable physical gesture of the hand. You never see
anyone ever pretend to extend a finger downwards and move it in a circular
motion in reference to the female version of masturbation. Girls have
no ‘need’ for such things, do they?
explains the ‘lag’ between the sexual awareness of boys and
girls. By the time young men reach their 20s, they’ve mastered the
art of orgasm. They know what pleases them and they’re at their
physical peak to make the most of their insistent hormones. They also
have society cheering them on. On the flipside, a significant percentage
of women at the same stage of life, not only haven’t even had their
first orgasm yet; the very idea of masturbation hasn’t occurred
Look around. Little girls are still bombarded with pressure to look good,
be good and please others. Boys are still raised to gorge their senses
on the sumptuous fruits that we have to offer – the more conquests
the better. Even in the naughty ‘Noughties’ a sexually assertive
woman will still be labelled by some as a slut or a nymphomaniac. There
will always be bad girls and good girls. As women mature, we not only
catch up on sexual experience; we outgrow the desire to live up to society’s
hypocritical stereotypes. We laugh in the face of propriety and shamelessly
permit ourselves to celebrate our sexuality. Older women sizzle because
they not only know how to light their own fire; they refuse to let people
tell them to stop playing with matches.
There’s probably a lot of young, educated women out there thinking
to themselves: “Hmpf. I may be young ‘Girlfriend’, but
I’m dead sexy. I’m emancipated, I can have hot, guilt-free
sex and I’ve been masturbating since I could walk. Maturity won’t
make one iota of difference to me.” The answer to that is –
that’s what you think. While I’ve been going to pains to explain
how sexiness is purely a state of mind, there are other factors that still
give the oldies an edge in the hornbag stakes…
Do You Make a Hormone?
At the top of the list of sexual mood killers/enhancers, are hormones.
Left to their own devices, hormones tend to go slightly berko in the years
leading up to menopause. It’s your body’s last hurrah as nature
does it’s damnedest to make you pregnant. It is no co-incidence
this is also the optimum age for women to start having affairs. Also,
more women are choosing to have babies later in life, and most of them
are on The Pill. As revealed in the June 1998 issue of AWF, among The
Pill’s lesser-known side effects is loss of libido. Many men remark
on the fact their partners were never so horny as when they were trying
to conceive. This phenomenon used to be attributed to a renewed sense
of romantic purpose in the love-making – “it was more exciting
because we were making a baby”. What is more likely is that a completely
chemical-free introduction to the natural hormones present at the time
of ovulation (after years on The Pill) would be powerful enough to make
a wanton hussy out of a Catholic nun. It’s certainly very lucky
for women, that, unlike men, their sexual potency has an extremely long
Joining the Club
The physical and mental changes surrounding motherhood also comes
with hormones attached. Nevertheless, few can deny the extraordinary sensuality
and self-awareness gained at this time, which lingers long after the last
maternity dress has been chucked in the charity bin. For some it’s
pregnancy alone that has the greatest impact: “We were really turned
on during my pregnancies. It was quite sensual, trying out new positions
(to find more comfortable ones), and my breasts were extremely errogenous
and full,” says Jane 43. “Pregnancy and childbirth seemed
to bring out my 'primal’ urges, which surprised me – I didn’t
know I had ‘em!” says Gina, 41.
For others, a vaginal delivery may leave remaining subtle changes to the
texture of the vaginal wall - increasing the sensitivity of the ‘g’
spot. “Amazingly after my third and last child in my 30s I finally
'came' into my own, with a real bang I might add!” reports Dot,
44. “After having my third child at 36 I was suddenly able to have
orgasms from intercourse alone. Foreplay’s virtually redundant nowadays,”
says Rhoda, 40.
Theory of Evolution
Experience is one thing, hormones another. Add to this a lifestyle
change, a mid-life re-evaluation or a change of partner and you’re
suddenly coming down with a chronic dose of spring fever in your autumn
years. For those women who had their families young, their 40s herald
the dawn of a completely new era in their lives: “When I was in
my 20s I was either trying to get pregnant or trying to avoid it. In my
30s I was too tired for sex and just did it to keep hubby happy. Now my
kids are grown, I have discovered sex all over again. If I had my way
we’d be doing it twice a night,” giggles Lena, 48. "Having
separated from my husband nearly a year ago and having a new sexual partner
after many years of dull, passionless sex has given me a shock sexual
awakening. I’ve never had it so good,” reveals Yvonne, 43.
“Definitely in our household the tide has turned. He's normally
asleep or too tired and I'm rearing to go. Vibrators are a wonderful invention
and a weekend away in a luxurious hotel can do wonders for hubby at least
temporarily. The older I get, the more fun want to have. I know a lot
of women including myself who have strayed in the quest for a bloody good
lust-filled bonk,” confides Sharon, 42. “I have never felt
so in touch with my sexuality as I am now, even after having had three
children I am confident about my body and I am much more adventurous than
I have ever been. Unlike in my 20's, my focus now is on being pleased
as well as satifying my partner. Things I found unpleasant when I was
young I love doing now,” declares Jeanette, 46.
What he said:
“Older women are way more confident in bed. They’re
less hung up on their bodies and stuff and they totally get into it. Knowing
your woman’s really getting off is the ultimate turn on for me.”
- Ed, 30.
“I’ve been with young women and older women.
I enjoy making love to them equally, but undoubtedly the older women enjoy
me more.” - Brian, 53.
“When you’re with a
more mature woman you know there’s gonna be no bullshit, no guesswork.
You don’t have to feel under pressure to ‘perform’,
they just do their own thing if what you’re doing isn’t working.”
– John, 38.
“An older woman doesn’t turn around afterwards and say ‘Was
it good for you?’ she knows. Heh, heh, no need to ask if it was
good for her either…man, you just feel that explosion. You’re
always on target!” - Mark, 26.
I remember my dear departed mother reached 39 and stubbornly stayed there…for
years and years. Eventually my eldest sister reached 39 and poor old Mum
reluctantly had to move on into that detestable fifth decade (which she
was actually well past anyway). This year, I’ll be turning 39. It
certainly feels odd, but it doesn’t feel old. Not these days. Besides,
it’s official - the Big Four Oh doesn’t have to mean I’ll
have gone past my use by date. No way baby. Women don’t ‘go
off’, they totally go off!