At Noon we feel strongly that love, sex and relationships in midlife and later life are an integral part of our existence.
Noon women are in their prime – it’s not just Rosie Millard who feels sexier in her mid fifties than she did in her twenties. Just read Kiki’s account of going to a sex club after her divorce and the joy of finally having the confidence to ask for exactly what she wanted. Since we launched Noon, I have had so many conversations with women in their forties and fifties bemoaning the disjunct between how sexy they feel and yet how invisible they and their relationships are in the wider culture.
More depressing, however, were the screeds of comments on the websites of the newspapers that published the pictures saying yuck and ugh – the shock and disgust that older people might be sexy too just shows how many taboos there are still to be busted. A telling two-thirds of 65-year-olds polled for the Relate research said they rarely or never saw themselves in the media as sexual beings. At Noon, we think that has to change.
The shock and disgust that older people might be sexy too just shows how many taboos there are still to be busted
I love Rankin’s new photographs for Relate, showing as they do couples in their late 60s and beyond obviously still in love and attracted to each other; it makes me think us Noon-ers have got so much to look forward to.
You don’t have to be ‘perfect’ to be intimate
As the Relate spokeswoman said: “It may seem as though it’s only young people with ‘perfect’ bodies having sex and being intimate, but of course this isn’t true! In reality, ‘sex and intimacy in later life’ means different things to different people: for some it’s about exploring new and different sexual experiences, and for others it’s simply about feeling able to express emotion through a gentle touch or kiss on the cheek.
“What we’re trying to do today is open up a society-wide conversation about the fact that sex and intimacy – whatever that might mean – can be as important for older people as it is for anyone else. We see every day in our Sex Therapy services how not feeling able to talk openly about needs and desires can lead to a lack of fulfilment and be damaging for individuals’ self-confidence and couples’ relationships. This is what we want to change.”
Rankin and sex in later life
Internationally acclaimed British photographer Rankin, who shot the campaign for free, added: “We all need intimacy now more than ever – and age, of course, really is just a number. The greatness of love and affection doesn’t need to change as we find our later years. This campaign sets out to break convention, and that’s what it did, both before and behind the camera.”
Here at Noon we say bravo to that – and it makes us think, what about all those other areas of life which are never acknowledged? For instance, the possibility of sexual charge and desire in long-term relationships, even marriages well into their third decades, or how many younger men are dating older women, or just how frisky some oldies are in their care homes.
My favourite story is of my cousin Stella, who had had three husbands but always said that John, the man she married at 84, only two years before her death, was the love of her life – and they were definitely NOT just holding hands. If many of us are going to live to be 100 – like the Duke of Edinburgh, or Major Tom, or indeed the Queen – why should sex and intimacy stop only half way through our lives? At Noon we are encouraging members of our community to date, fall in love, re-marry and enjoy their lives…and that includes sex in later life.
Here’s to fun and frolics right to the end. As the poet Andrew Marvell put it: “The grave’s a fine and silent place, but none I think do there embrace…”
– Eleanor Mills
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