never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: sensuality


From Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality by Hanne Blank, pp. 118-119:

What was love then? How did it work? What did it mean? Was it voluntary or involuntary, strategic or spontaneous? Was it universal, paying no heed to silly things like gender and sex, or was it rooted in biology? Did it obligate certain behaviors– like marriage and children– or was it complete in and of itself?

As a culture, we are fairly sure that heterosexuality is natural, normal, and desirable, and that heterosexual love is among life’s most validating and positive experiences. We organize heterosexuality around the principle of love now more than we have at any time in the past– the experience of romantic love is what legitimizes not only marriage, but separately legitimizes sexual activity and the having of children as well. Yet this love experience, this inherent part of heterosexual existence, it seems, can also be as anarchic, as fleeting, and as prone to slip out of our control as our ancestors warned us it would be. Perhaps this, as much as anything, explains the enduring fantasy allure of the happily-ever-afters of the Wonderful World of Disney, the moody sparkly-vampire love and angst of the blockbuster Twilight novels, and the shelves upon shelves of romance novels in every bookstore. Only in fiction and fantasy is the heterosexual “love adventure” something we can genuinely control, and therefore trust, regardless of how hard we try to make our real-life heterosexuality in its image.

And, p. 146:

But old habits, and old doxa, endure. It is not surprising that our present landscape of heterosexual pleasure is a mixed bag of libidinous experiment and anxious rules-lawyering: the border between freedom and control is an uneasy, highly political place… What it seems we really want is a heterosexuality in which we can enjoy all the thrills of riding the tiger of the libido while simultaneously being kept safe from its teeth and claws.


jack of hearts

The institution of marriage is possibly itself past its sell-by date: why, therefore, at this point in its evolution are gay activists demanding to be included and are states prepared to listen? Marriage is mostly about tax advantages and benefits.

Why are such elements of state prescription focussed on this one institution? Most local societies would benefit more if individuals were able to share the benefits they were entitled to around the community, rather than such benefits being restricted to immediate family.


Once upon a time, we died young: now we have increasingly elongated lifespans, and there is a social myth being promulgated – particularly around lesbian parenting – that “sticking it out” is virtuous. That even if the natural span of a relationship is no more than a few years, there is much pressure to put up with all the badness and down side that is there. Putting up and shutting up – a stoical acceptance of the down side of relationships – is seen as a good thing.


The majority of women over 40 are not in a relationship with anyone, not least because men of that age are tending to date women much younger. So what is now “normal” in regards of relationships. The truth is that although around half women of menopausal age identify as heterosexual, that is not reality on the ground.

We are failing to ask questions about what women want: sexual research is often based on what men think are valid questions about what women want. Deconstructing existing research suggests increasingly that women are far more flexible in their orientation and desires than men. However, this is not much researched. This means that academics are ignoring an entire new world.

At the end of the day, there are different sorts of power and not all power is embodied in the male. There are different sorts of power embodied in the female, in the Queen – and this is what Gaga feminism is about accessing.

the best things

Yeah, why is just making love and having fun such a chore sometimes?

Like, why can’t people just hang out and enjoy each other and not let
all their baggage get in the way? 

Like, we could probably be doing that
right now, but, you know, it’s so much of a commitment, and it would
then “mean something,” and there would be all kinds of “expectation”…

And why is everybody so busy all the time that they don’t have time in
life for the “best things in life that are free”?

Really, i think all these “issues” around “relationship” are just
another way that “they” can control us and ruin all of the fun we could
be having. It’s just another way, now that sex before marriage is no
longer a big taboo, to turn the most precious things in life into yet
another commodity that can be controlled and manipulated and people can
make a profit from.

All worthwhile spiritual issues to consider, as long as you’re on that

the darker recesses

So excited that Alain de Botton is coming out with a new book:

Internet Porn

The rise in internet porn has damaged a lot of sex lives. People may find, to their alarm, that their partner’s libido has mysteriously sex vanished. It hasn’t, it’s just been given over to the computer. An unwitting alliance between the IT industry on the one hand and thousands of pornographic content providers on the other has exploited a design flaw of the human mind. A mind originally designed to cope with little more sexually tempting than the occasional sight of a tribeswoman across the savannah is rendered helpless when bombarded by continual invitations to participate in erotic scenarios far exceeding any dreamt up by the diseased mind of the Marquis de Sade. There is nothing robust enough in our psychological make-up to compensate for developments in our technological capacities, nothing to arrest our passionate desire to renounce all other priorities for the sake of a few more minutes (which might turn out to be four hours) in the darker recesses of the web. Porn is so immediate and intense, it destroys our capacity to engage in the far more human and low-key business of actual sex. The best solution may simply be to lock away the computer, and to discuss the temptations with honesty. Porn shouldn’t be spoken of as simply ‘revolting’, it’s nice for some, but in a way that destroys things that are more than simply nice; that are essential to life.


I did manage to see Bachelorette today but was only mildly amused.  I didn’t find any of the characters likable (although Isla Fisher was great in her role) and think the movie should have ended with the three single females sitting on the bench, wondering if they were going to be okay.  Instead, in the final scene, two of the three seemingly have found partners and the third has found someone, albeit a cad, with potential.  God forbid a movie doesn’t end with the message that everyone, no matter how far they go astray, will get partnered up eventually (but then, I am the bitter babe).

It seemed to me that these characters, all in their early thirties, were being ushered off the “single lady” stage at the age in which the Sex and the City women were just getting started.  That’s how I read it, anyway, although from this interview it sounds as if the director meant to leave the characters’ lives in a far more uncertain place:  

There was one scene that made an impression though.  It was a scene in which the characters played by Lizzy Caplan and Scott Adams finally kiss, and it was one of those movie kisses that slays me.

This year I’ve had flashes of feeling so– I’ll just come out and say it– middle-aged.  Foregoing the raising of children, visiting the gym daily, and eating well, I’m realizing, doesn’t stop the onslaught of time, and having a chronic health condition doesn’t help.  I have started to consider whether it’s all over for me, romantically speaking.

In a lot of ways, putting romance on the back burner has been beneficial, in that I’ve focused on relishing other things in life, things I have some control over, such as cooking, going for a swim on a sunny day, catching a show at an art museum, or buying new music for my car.  I’m lucky to have had some cinema-worthy kisses in my past and think it’s healthier to view them as the icing on the cake rather than the whole damn dessert.

Less healthy, though, is the way I’ve stomped down my romantic desires out of the fear that there’s no longer any way to satisfy them.  I see a kissing scene done well, and they rise back up.

It seems I’m not ready to forego the icing just yet.

the possible

A controversial columnist on a controversial icon:

Perhaps her most famous quote is this one: ‘Don’t use men to get what you want in life; get it yourself.’ This has resulted in the legacy that most of us who grew up on Cosmo have inherited: loneliness. 

Maybe my mum’s generation didn’t have mind-blowing sex, but they had lifelong companionship. Loneliness is not what Helen Gurley Brown meant for us at all.

Read more:


Take sex first. Kaufmann argues that in the new world of speed dating, online dating and social networking, the overwhelming idea is to have short, sharp engagements that involve minimal commitment and maximal pleasure. In this, he follows the Leeds-based sociologist Zygmunt Bauman, who proposed the metaphor of “liquid love” to characterise how we form connections in the digital age. It’s easier to break with a Facebook friend than a real friend; the work of a split second to delete a mobile-phone contact.

In his 2003 book Liquid Love, Bauman wrote that we “liquid moderns” cannot commit to relationships and have few kinship ties. We incessantly have to use our skills, wits and dedication to create provisional bonds that are loose enough to stop suffocation, but tight enough to give a needed sense of security now that the traditional sources of solace (family, career, loving relationships) are less reliable than ever. And online dating offers just such chances for us to have fast and furious sexual relationships in which commitment is a no-no and yet quantity and quality can be positively rather than inversely related.

After a while, Kaufmann has found, those who use online dating sites become disillusioned. “The game can be fun for a while. But all-pervasive cynicism and utilitarianism eventually sicken anyone who has any sense of human decency. When the players become too cold and detached, nothing good can come of it.” Everywhere on dating sites, Kaufmann finds people upset by the unsatisfactorily chilly sex dates that they have brokered. He also comes across online addicts who can’t move from digital flirting to real dates and others shocked that websites, which they had sought out as refuges from the judgmental cattle-market of real-life interactions, are just as cruel and unforgiving – perhaps more so.


In my attempts at getting out and about in 2012, I will say that men have approached me.  Although everything has fizzled out (sometimes on their end, sometimes on mine, often in a murky middle-ground), it’s nice to know I still hold some appeal.

Perhaps I’m being paranoid, but it does appear that the men I know in their forties, men who in the past have held average appeal, now seem to have a bevy of women surrounding them at bars and parties.  On the other hand, solo stragglers do approach me; those men may feel like they have anything but a circle of admirers.  Hard to say definitively.  I will say that it’s only been a few weeks since I broke things off with the late-forties non-relationship dude and he’s already sleeping with someone new.

One of my divorced friends, nearing forty, who was hoping to have some fun said to me recently, “It’s a lot harder than I thought it would be.”  She looks around at bars and restaurants and sees clusters of women but fewer numbers of men.  On the other hand, the two of us went out recently and were set upon by two men.

Will all these single women in Generation X blaze a new romantic trail?  We’ll see.

But the grim outlook for middle-aged single women may change in the future as younger Baby Boomers age and Generation X enters middle age. “We will probably see an increase in mass media and other market-driven institutions catering to this sizable group so new cultural images of middle-aged and older women and men may emerge, which could have an impact on younger generations’ views on sexual desire and activity in later life,” Carpenter said. “Baby Boomers and Generation X typically have more liberal sexual attitudes and behaviors – so we may see a decline in the number of women, and men, who do not seek sexual partners because of conservative views regarding sex outside of marriage,” she concluded.


heading south

In my earlier posts about the dearth of films concerning single women over forty, I forgot about the film Heading South with Charlotte Rampling.  It is about a trio of middle-aged women who journey to Haiti in search of younger sex partners.  I wish the film had been better, but it does address not only issues of exploitation but issues of older women feeling “left on the shelf.”

Review by Andrew L. Urban:

There is nothing exotic about the Haiti depicted in Laurent Cantet’s adaptation of Dany Laferriere’s stories about middle aged American women whose role reversal in the sex tourism trade is a refined and complex version of what many Australian men find enticing in Asia. The sky is forever overcast like an omen, and the atmosphere bristles with the socio-political clash of touristic bonhomie and resident oppression.

The women are older than the teenagers they seduce with money and/or gifts, so they can once again touch youth – both metaphorically and physically. But the film’s tone is more robust than that sounds, with Charlotte Rampling energising her scenes and Menothy Cesar adding a complexity to his character of Legba that helps define the film’s dramatic throughline. Karen Young is terrific as the strangely naïve yet determined divorcee coming to rekindle a special holiday romance, and Lys Ambroise is a melancholy presence representing the indigenous Haitians who have seen all the foreigners come and go, didn’t like any of them and now have to suffer the ignominy of oppression under their own people.

Sex and politics is a heady mix, and Cantet uses these elements to great advantage; the script stumbles in its oblique treatment of a pivotal dramatic incident in the final act, but even so, the film makes for an engaging and haunting experience. The mise en scene is powerfully evocative and the demons revealed by the key characters ride rampant through our imaginations.

Review by Louise Keller:

Hot sex in the Haitian sun is the main thrust of Laurent Cantet’s Heading South, but melancholy and loneliness are the film’s key emotions. Women over 40 flock to the palm tree lined idyllic beaches where hunky and attentive Haitian men are sex toys for the taking. The film is a mix of fascinating voyeurism as we glean an insight into the lives of three women who escape their everyday lives to ‘have fun’ in the sun. Cantet’s exploration of love, lust and loneliness is at its best when we watch the women on the beach expose their emotions, but his attempt at including more (such as a documentary-like revelations about each of the women, and a clumsy head-on encounter with political voodoo) is less successful.

‘You didn’t come here for a tan,’ says Charlotte Rampling’s Ellen to Karen Young’s Brenda, who has just found her feet in the sand. But it is clear that nobody comes to Haiti for a tan. The attraction is sex on legs, and the price tag is flexible – dollars or gifts. Rampling portrays a lonely and somewhat desperate 55 year old woman who tries to give ‘a free reign’ to the charming Legba (Menothy Cesar), but her outwardly free-spirited attitude is caught up by the combination lock of her heart. She is relaxed but cannot help reveal her jealousy when Ellen arrives. Ellen makes no pretence about her notions of romantic love; after all it was while holidaying here with her then husband, that she met Legba in a life-changing encounter.

Politics crash into cupid’s euphoria, and suddenly there is ugliness in the lovers’ tropical paradise. The final act is long and tedious, and the climactic twist confusing. There is much, however, that is enticing about this glimpse of life where sex is a commodity for women in search of a little attention. The performances are so real, we can almost feel their shame.