Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Older Women: Vintage Perfection

Anyone who’s heard a lecture or two of mine knows how I feel about the way male-centered cultures often ignore important distinctions between the real-life experiences of men and women. And if you’ve got any doubts about this, surely, the recent mind-blowing conservative male blather over controlling women’s bodies is proof enough of what I’m saying.

But this isn’t new. As we all know, double standards have had a serious impact on the experiences of women over time. A few centuries after Pythagoras, a Greek woman named Aglaonike mastered the art of predicting the timing of an eclipse. As one might imagine, a woman with such an ability was both celebrated and feared. Women such as Aglaonike, with specialized and esoteric scientific knowledge, were thought by their male contemporaries to be able to “draw down the moon.”

These amazing women were, of course, referred to as “sorceresses” during their lifetimes, and they remained so in subsequent Grecian writings. In fact, women who could forecast lunar eclipses during the 3 centuries before the birth of Christ became known as the famous (or infamous) “Witches of Thessaly.” Odd how such knowledge in the hands of a woman gets referred to as witchcraft rather than science!

On a more positive note, many ancient societies attributed lots of agency and power to women, especially OLD women, wise women, who were thought to have special knowledge of the natural world. In fact, some of those ancient cultures valued the sexual knowledge of old women more than that of other members of society, so much so that often, younger men were encouraged to offer themselves sexually to these older, wiser women, in hopes that they’d be accepted as students - eager learners about the wonder of women’s bodies. They also hoped that the old women would teach the young tutees a thing or two (or three) about making love.

Some agrarian African societies practice this today; contrary to jungle-movie stereotypes, the women in these groups generally dress demurely. However, the older a woman becomes, the more of her naked skin she is allowed to expose in her daily dress. First the ankles are bared, then the knees and finally the thighs. In this way, young men can tell which women are the oldest, and therefore, considered the best, most skilled, most resourceful sexual teachers. In pursuing an “arrangement” with such an old woman, a young man asks with respect, and it’s up to the woman herself whether or not she’ll accommodate his desire to learn.

I can’t forget to mention here that certain European groups practiced similar traditions, wherein careful fathers would turn over their teen-aged sons to trusted, experienced older women for their first sexual encounters. 

So for older women who, through no fault of our own, begin to feel less than, in comparison to our younger counterparts, it helps to focus in on exactly what makes us better, wiser, more knowledgeable lovers/sex partners/intimate companions than we were in our salad days. Start thinking, Ladies…

How has what you've learned about your capacity for giving and receiving pleasure made you a more knowledgeable lover over time? What changes in your body have helped this along?

photo credit: <a href="">Meanest Indian</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

photo credit: <a href="">Fergal of Claddagh</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Same Sex Relationships: Getting It Right

Let's start with a basic premise, shall we? The same bigoted views that were used to criminalize marriage between whites and people of color are the very ones being leveraged in the demonization of gay marriage. And just as biblical texts were used to justify slavery, they continue to be used against the LGBTQ community, sadly, often by groups who experience the gut-churning gnaw of oppression, so old and embedded that we feel it in our bones... and thus, should know better. From talking with so very many of you, I'm sure I'm not the only one who detects a caustic and pernicious irony lurking here.

That being said, every once in a while, as an aggregate people, we tend to get it right. Every once in a while, folks with righteous voices who believe in the sanctity of fundamental human rights step up to the plate and deliver. In such cases, and at such times, it feels pretty damn good to know that wiser, fairer, more rational perspectives sometimes wrest control from the rabid, roiling hatred of conservative activists, and ultimately prevail. 

It seems to me that there's a continued rising affirmation of everyone's human right to choose her or his own spouse, and by extension, the activities they enjoy, in a climate free from the strangleholds of bias and homophobia. This is a good thing, since believe it or not, there are still some jurisdictions in the US wherein oral sex and anal penetration are jailable offenses, even when carried out between straight, consenting husbands and wives. 

According to recent polls, at least 51 percent of US citizens now support marriage for members of the LGBTQ community. To render such matters even more delicious, this past Election Day we re-elected a President who stands up for marriage equality, and saw Maryland and Maine, together with Washington D.C. join the growing list of locales - nine to date - voting in favor of marriage rights for all. Kudos and thank you to the citizens of those jurisdictions, who used the quiet eloquence of the ballot to underscore the obvious, that consenting adults in a democratic society ought to NEVER be denied their inalienable rights to privacy, equality, and indeed, the right to marry any adult they choose.

What'll this mean for senior LGBTQ couples? I hope it means that, at least in those nine states and D.C. many will choose to exercise their new freedom, if marriage is what they want for themselves, and that they'll realize their dream at last. But the truth is this: having the right to do so is way more important than whether or not couples ultimately decide to use it. And in the end, social justice is sweet, don't you know? Even when it's hard won and so very precious little at a time.

How have your own life's challenges sensitized you to the struggles of others whose sexual orientation is different from your own?

photo credit: <a href="">Andy Wilkes</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

photo credit: <a href="">david_shankbone</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pheromones: Scented

Romantic attention, especially the casual, subtle, seductive kind that hints of physical attraction, can do lots to enhance a woman’s well-being at any age. So with that in mind, women often wonder what in the world makes so many of us begin to feel a kind of sexual invisibility set in by the time we reach the age of  50 or so. And while lots of us escape this odd experience entirely, it does seem to me that this feeling of becoming invisible is fairly common among older women. As we go about the natural, beautiful and empowering process of growing into our mature selves, often men seem to look right past us, or worse, right through us, as if our material sexual selves simply no longer exist.

Needless to say, even the most positive self image isn’t always enough to counteract the potentially daunting notions of inadequacy that can accompany this feeling. And so for those of us who wonder why this whole, weird, later-in-life sexual invisibility thing takes place, I mention the fascinating work of some really smart women like Dr.Winnifred Cutler of the Athena Institute for Women’s Wellness. “Sometime after 40, women do report becoming ‘invisible’ to men,” she says. “Although the exact age seems to vary, pheromone changes around menopause seem to increase that sense of invisibility.”

All very compelling, right? But what the heck is a pheromone? I’m glad you asked. An integral part of evolution and species' survival, pheromones are chemical substances excreted by animals and detected by special receptors in the noses of animals of the same species. Whether we’re talking about bugs or birds or people, pheromones are responsible for enhancing physical attraction for the purpose of mating, of course. And wouldn’t you know it? As our pheromone levels naturally decrease with age, some of our ability to activate “desire” in males tends to decrease as well.

So there you have it. Postmenopausal sexual invisibility explained! Interestingly enough, however, researchers have been working for over a decade on all sorts of pheromone replacements for women, some that you can actually dab on like perfume, thereby giving women the option of increasing the levels of attention and affection that they receive from the men around them. Ah, the wonders of science...! 

Have you ever felt sexually invisible? Would you consider trying pheromone enhancement products?

photo credit: <a href="">Neil. Moralee</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">cc</a>