2 November 2011

Gender, sex and aging: What do we owe our spouses?

A trio of stories on the Huffington Post drew my interest recently, all related matters, to do with gender, sex, and aging. Sex was the drawing card in D A Wolf's 'Do We Owe Our Spouses Sex?', and is an inviting resource for anyone wanting to know what other readers think about sex between two people in a relationship. The comments section attracted an enthusiastic crowd, each one either telling their own personal story, or making one up, or simply letting everyone know what they thought about the subject of Wolf's piece.

But in the next piece on sex, the attitude of readers/commenters changed considerably. This one was about sex among the baby boomers, and for that reason, it appears, became the target of jokes and ridicule. Could it be that the approach was wrong, and not simply that older citizens are the target of jokes in this ageist society of ours? In an attempt to persuade the world that baby boomers can have sex just like anyone else, and enjoy it, the writers, whoever they were, may have been just a bit on the defensive. What formed the basis of the piece were myths that were then dispelled by the writers' claims. We don't hear who the writers were, and the format of the piece was awkward to read, being fairly short but, including the comments section, split up over 7 pages.

As with the first piece on the subject of sex, this second piece was also clearly about people within the state of coupledom. Those without partners had no real need to peruse the pieces, let alone comment on them, unless they still had hope, or at least intentions, to become half of a couple sometime in the future. This was my main objection to both these pieces, that single men and women were left out or left hanging on the margins, although in the 'ageless' couples and sex article, at least that was a topic many of us knew something about from previous experience. It doesn't seem to even occur to the writers of the boomers' sex piece that most older people aren't going to have casual sex, just for the fun of it (despite what the quoted lavalifePRIME says).

The final point about these two stories is that, as usual with such stories, there is little or no analysis of the society in which it all takes place. We all take for granted that we live in western society and that both men and women have certain freedoms, but there are still the remnants of traditional marriage present in our ways of thinking, as well as the modern ways of looking at our experiences through the eyes of feminism. Thus, women are seen (and speak) from both the perspective of not being equal with men in ways of dealing with sexual matters, as well as at times acting like men and taking on men's ways of dealing with sexual matters.

And that leads us to the last of the stories, also about the older generation, about women in particular. Once again, this piece incorporates aspects of old-fashioned tradition, of a woman being a homemaker, but about doing so after having had a fulfilling career. I think one aim of it was truly to justify and uphold the legitimate choice of women to be homemakers, but quite a number of readers comments were negative about the choices available to the writer, and particularly about the perceived uselessness of her choice, to stay home. At this point in our society, in which the economy has still not rebounded, if some women express the desire to remain at home to be homemakers and/or raise children, it doesn't help to treat them like pariahs. Just as some homemakers may not take their work seriously, or do a good job, so are there women in the workforce who aren't conscientious, or doing their work to the best of their ability. It isn't work per se that makes one person better than another. It isn't the paycheque that a person brings home, or the taxes they pay, that makes them better than someone else. It might lead them to be seen as different, to be living a lifestyle that's not the norm, in this society where occupation and financial resources are the determinants of a person's identity and worth. It's much easier to do after having a career, than rely on an ex to provide a reference, but it's still good to hear about women living this way, so that society does not forget how things were done in the past.

Do We Owe Our Spouses Sex?
by D A Wolf
Huffington Post Divorce
Oct 15, 2011

Most Common Sex Myths About Baby Boomers
Huffington Post Fifty
Oct 29, 2011

Words With Friends and Back to Home-Ec
by Jamie Lee Curtis
Huffington Post Fifty
Oct 11, 2011

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