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 public: down under with Rose:      The Roaring 40s
To the casual observer, an older woman’s sex appeal isn’t something that, um, sticks out  

  The Roaring 40s
By Rose Cooper
down under with Rose main pagedown under with Rose  
  Guess 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. Woo hoo!

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 it!

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.

Experience Necessary

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 sexuality.

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?

“This 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 to them.”

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…

How 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 shelf life.

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.

  The 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!

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