Recently retired from the post-secondary classroom, I've spent over twenty years researching, writing and teaching about a wide variety of interest areas in the performance of human sexuality. Most of that time was spent with adult learners, the vast majority of whom were women between the ages of thirty and sixty-five.
In keeping with that history, I’m given to focusing the Home Page of this space on topics that leverage discussion on the myriad performative aspects of human sexuality, particularly as they pertain to the experiences of women. Embedded in that is a continuing emphasis on the ways we engage with our sexual selves in everyday life. Retirement from formal teaching notwithstanding, dispelling sexualized myths and silences, exploring cultural taboos, and encouraging critical perspectives on lifelong sexuality are priorities that remain vibrantly alive in my DNA.
Since then, as a sex-positive feminist who regularly teaches and lectures about all aspects of human sexuality, particularly the performative aspects of it, the scope of my work has evolved in exciting ways.
Feminist Erotica for Postmenopausal Women
Feminist Erotica for Postmenopausal Women
With respect to my writing, two of the questions I get asked most often relate to the descriptor near the top of this page… “feminist erotica for postmenopausal women…”
“What the hell is that?” I’m asked. “And why on earth do you write it?”
Of course, those are perfectly understandable queries, it seems to me, given what problematic notions the term erotica in general tends to conjure in the public consciousness. So let’s talk about the word itself for a moment. Ironically, for some people it’s a word whose meaning is amorphously vague - fluid, contextually nuanced, and deliciously ephemeral.
In contrast, however, some perceive it as quite distinctively cut and dry. For them, it describes only material that’s sexually explicit, graphically titillating, reflecting a narrow, objectifying, stereotypically male point of view. For them, it may connote a single monolithic conglomeration of words and/or images focused solely on the erasure of female personhood - words and images that privilege perfectly proportioned, eternally youthful bodies, and in the case of women, bodies that usually exist only for the wholesale gratification of men.
Often, the terms feminist and erotica seem mutually exclusive, as if one can’t identify as a feminist and a lover of erotica at the same time. While patently false, this notion is understandable, as well. After all, the sex industry itself has been notoriously responsible for this view, due in large part to its pornographic propensity for violence, degradation, objectification and victimization of adults and - most appallingly – of children as well. And let’s be unambiguous here: feminists as a group, among which I certainly include myself, stand four square and vocally resolute in actively opposing that sort of withering, dehumanizing predation.
Alternatively, though, there’s this: As we celebrate the sexual energy that is the lifelong birthright of our species, we’re obligated to be bound by the moral imperative that consenting adults be the sole subjects of our erotically charged, sexually explicit work and that the narratives we convey are inhabited by freely consenting adults who retain power, agency and ultimate control over what they allow themselves to experience. Whether we’re talking about straight sex, LGBTQ sex, vanilla, a.k.a. traditional sex, polyamory, sadomasochism, bondage, - whatever - if there’s a line to be drawn between erotica and pornography, as I believe there absolutely is, then it’s here.
But the question still exists, I suppose: why engage with erotica at all? The truth is, there’s serious political, social, and cultural importance in recognizing, exploring, indeed, celebrating the sexual activities, lives, desires, and behaviors of our fellow human beings, so long as what we write, and otherwise depict in popular culture, honors the sacred personhood and inviolable sexual agency of every human being.
Aside from its historical function across cultures as a celebratory lens through which we experience our sexuality, feminist erotica in particular can be a site of sexual empowerment for women. It can provide a critically substantive space for women to take a stand in honoring our sexual energies, on our own terms, throughout our lives.
For sex-positive feminists like me, there’s inimitable value in foregrounding the complicated landscape of sexual desire and the universe-driven energy that resides in our sexual selves, that keeps us resilient and in cosmic harmony with the worlds around us and at our core. There’s serious political power in that, and in giving clear and elegant, full-throated voice to the act of reclaiming our magnificent erotic selves - in poetry, prose, images, and music - in all forms of art - well past the age that the culture deems it appropriate.
For me, in particular, as a storyteller enthralled by the multifaceted warp and weft of mature female sexuality, I’m ineluctably drawn to that narrative less spoken. It’s the power-filled desire of older women that engages me, the desire of women past menopause whose lifetimes of sexual discovery and experience render them body-wise and regally self-possessed; in sync with the complexity of their maturing sexual agency. In my mind’s eye, and in my storyteller’s heart, these are older, seasoned, at-home-in-the-wild-world women, gloriously past the ages of childbearing and mealy-mouthed apology. Strong, soulful, yet marvelously imperfect, the women who co-opt my imaginary spaces are vintage women who know precisely what they want and have both the sexual wisdom and the steeliness of spine to set their own explicit, erotically-charged agendas.
In the realm of erotic fiction, though, the women I’m describing are far and few between. And that’s not surprising either, in light of Western culture’s sad preoccupation with the dewy post-pubescent blush of youth, wherein firm, well-endowed perky female bodies are pretty much the standard fare and situated mostly as the reactionary objects of dominant male pursuit.
Though not on a par, of course, with climate change or global hunger, it’s a travesty, nonetheless, a politically expedient erasure, especially given the fact that women over sixty-five are the fastest growing population segment in the
At the very least, it’s society’s selective blindness about a ludic,
imaginative, empowered postmenopausal sexuality that effectively obscures it,
and us, from view.
Left for us to ponder, then, is the hollowed-out stereotype of older, sexless, desiccated, empty women; it’s a stereotype born of a perniciously wishful ignorance that effectively condemns us to our own invisibility.
And in the end there’s something patently unfair about postmenopausal women having to settle for erotic narratives that speak only to our naïve and nubile younger selves of the past, while speaking nothing about the women we’ve managed to become. Growing older, better, wiser is no perfunctory task; but it's a journey worth its weight in what we learn along the way. At the end of the proverbial day, we’re still here; we still love. We still desire and are fiercely desired in return. And how much more satisfying is it, in many ways, to discover some new, creative, outrageously talented lover when you’ve got a lifetime of experience in your lovemaking skill-set and you’re standing toe to toe on equal discursive ground?
In sum, then, from a vantage point that privileges smart, complex, sex-positive women over the age of 55, I maintain a fierce, ongoing attachment to creating steamy erotic plotlines featuring the vibrant, vivid and unapologetic resource that is postmenopausal women’s sexuality.
Come join me.
photo credit: <a