By Penney Kome
Stepping up to the line to throw my three darts, I sank into my sideways stance and studied the score and the dartboard. From the corner of my eye, I saw an older man squirming appreciatively in his bentwood chair, his hand around a pint of bitters. He was giving me the eye. That hasn’t happened much since I let my hair go gray. I stood up and looked around, confused. Then I sank again, and not only did the first guy squirm, so did the fellow at the next table. I wondered if my husband was watching.
Bob, my husband of 25 years, has long nursed a dream of playing darts in London. His father had regaled him with stories of all the friends he met around dartboards in wartime England. Bob brought along four sets of darts in February 2012 when we went to visit our younger son — who was training as a chef in a London hotel at Marble Arch – to celebrate his 21st birthday. But we couldn’t find a dartboard anywhere.
In vain, we went from pub to pub in the Kensington area. Our son asked among all his friends and finally found the William the Fourth in an East End Cockney neighbourhood. We arrived on a busy Saturday. Football fans clogged the front, cheering and booing at a huge TV set anchored above the side door, while a back room was filled with fellows hefting fly fishing rods for a serious fishers’ meeting.
Bob determinedly carved out darts-playing space right there near the entrance, where TV watchers craned their necks to look over our heads. Bedlam was all-pervasive; focusing on the dartboard took real concentration. Then the football game ended, and the crowd thinned out a bit.
That’s when I noticed that we had an audience – and they weren’t all looking at the board. I remembered how my mother still attracted men’s attention in her sixties, although I tended to see her as “cute” rather than sexy. Here I was, at 63, caught off-guard to realize that several men were (bashfully, politely) sizing me up. Such male attention wasn’t unusual in my 20s or 30s, even my post-pregnancy 40s sometimes. But now?
Highly unlikely! I thought, sitting down and flipping through the Daily Mail tabloid that someone had left on the table. Bam! The answer leapt out at me. The last page was full of phone sex ads, including prominent ads for “Granny sex.”
“She’s 74 years old!” crowed one ad. And another: “She’s in her 60s and waiting for your call!” The women in the ads did indeed look quite mature, with sagging breasts and drooping bellies. Could the photos have been doctored to exaggerate their frailities? What a reversal from the North American standards.
Confirmation came later. Googling “Granny sex” turned up almost twelve million hits – although the number varies with Google’s alogorithms – mainly in the U.K. Most sites offer amateur or semi-professional hard core porn videos, starring women who may well answer to “Granny” in different circumstances.
“Women over 70 are having the best sex of their lives,” writes Iris Krasnow in her book, Sex After. After spending two years asking 120 women about their sex lives, her biggest surprise was how active and passionate older women are. She quoted Joanna, a Florida woman: “Don’t listen to anyone who tells you that after menopause or after seventy your sex life will be horrible. I’m here to tell you the other side; sex is more of the mind than of the body. And as you get older comes the confidence to really let loose and enjoy everything about the sexual experience.”
“Seventy percent of Canadian men and women over 75 agree that you’re never too old for love and romance,” according to Revera Retirement Services, in what appears to be a position paper on encouraging sexuality in their residences. Their very sizeable random survey found that slightly more seniors (56 percent) had romantic partners than Gen Yers (51 percent). Among seniors, more men (83 percent) than women (56) place a high importance on love and romance.
“We’re still having sex!” bragged the May cover of Zoomer Magazine for Canadians over 45 years old. Their survey found that nearly four in ten women (37 percent) compared to 30 percent of men said their “sex life was more satisfying than it was in their youth.” The big difference between women and men is that the majority of women (61 percent) would choose “better sex” over “more sex” (39 percent), whereas with men, the figures are practically reversed (73 percent to 37 percent).
Still, concludes Zoomer, “With maturity, comes comfort with sexuality, fewer inhibitions, and more confidence to ask for what they want and to satisfy their partner. For some, it means a better sex life.”
Jane Juska is one woman who asked for what she wanted. She advertised on Craigslist that she had just turned 67 and wanted to have lots of sex with men before her next birthday. The ad brought dozens of responses, and led to several sexual encounters, not to mention a New York Times bestselling book and a West End London stage play called, A Round Heeled Woman..
Younger men find older women attractive too, as we’ve learned with the emergence of the term “cougar.” The Ask-A-Cougar website urges cougars to recognize why their partners sought them out. “He’s already compared you with girls his age. They came up silly, slutty, and boring. You came up intriguing, sexy, and exciting. He went with you.” How does she know this? “I interviewed my cub, Michael.”
Continuing to search online for sexuality and aging, I learned that among young men of high school and university age, there’s a variation on “Yummy Mummy” called MILF, short for “Mothers I’d Like to F**k.” After an afternoon of trying keywords, I hit the jackpot with “Mature Babes.” 89 million hits on Google, with endless amateur videos! Talk about a celebration of older women! On that afternoon, Google said that nearly 90 million websites attested there are folks who are turned on by the idea of sex with women their own age or older.
Delighted with this finding, I phoned our older son, who has worked as a sex educator. “Slow down, slow down,” he said. “You Googled WHAT?”
In the U.K., Granny sex ads often carry words like “dirty” and “nasty,” which are obviously meant to titillate. The sites don’t seem to emphasize discipline or corrections. Maybe the shock value of a granny talking dirty is enough. “Do you have a thing for older women?” one site asks. “Granny Sex Chat got [sic] hundreds of horny mature women just waiting for a man to come and chat with them. All women are aged from 40 to 90.”
Back in the early 1980s, I took a Women Against Pornography (WAP) tour of Times Square, then a sleazy crime-ridden area barely safe for tourists, even in groups. We visited the sex emporiums to see the peep shows, displays of sex books, graphic novels and videos, and the private booths for watching porn movies.
Barkers stood outside some doorways, directing slow-moving male pedestrians to “Girls! Girls! Girls!” upstairs. Other doorways sheltered bouncers. When they saw the all-women WAP group coming, they’d click their walky-talkies and warn the office upstairs, “Hey hey, it’s the PTA [Parent Teacher Association].”
I happened to be in Times Square by myself at lunch hour on that trip. I noticed that sometimes these guys tried to recruit new talent, too. “No thank you mister,” said a woman walking ahead of me as she steered clear of a grasping hand, “I already got a job.”
Inside the sex emporium, my personal fear soon turned into curiosity about who was the target market for these services. In the peep shows, teenaged girls skipped around naked, and sometimes rubbed up against each other, like puppies. They looked pretty young to me. In the movie area, a couple staggered giddily out of a booth barely big enough for one; a fellow with a mop sighed and rolled his bucket towards their booth, trailing the smell of disinfectant.
Our guide talked about the physical, sexual and financial abuse used to trap most women who are seen in porn – and most women in other parts of the sex trade. Formerly in the sex trade herself, she emphasized that women in the trade put their lives on the line with every face-to-face (so to speak) transaction, no less than boxers do when they climb into the ring to batter another human being.
As I browsed the merchandise on offer in the Times Square sex emporium, what struck me most was the diversity of the people performing the sex acts: fat women here, short men there, gay sex, transgender sex, inter-racial sex. From what I saw, almost any physical characteristic could be the basis of a fetish, or even just a reasoned appreciation.
Of course, between AIDS and the Internet’s endless supply of free amateur porn, the porn industry has slumped significantly since then – and Times Square has been Disneyfied. Online and off, people are choosing their own sexuality topics to celebrate. I noticed Furries marching in last year’s Calgary Pride Parade.
Little as anyone here wants to promote objectifying women, I did get some satisfaction from finding out there are so many “Mature Babes” websites, confirmation that women as well as men can be attractive at every stage of their adult lives. I still get a chuckle thinking of all those British lads who dream of popping a 20p piece in a pay phone and talking dirty with Granny.
Copyright Penney Kome 2014
Award-winning journalist and author Penney Kome has published six non-fiction books and hundreds of periodical articles, as well as writing a national column for 12 years and a local (Calgary) column for four years. Her books include Somebody Has To Do It: Whose Work Is Housework? (McClelland &Stewart 1982); The Taking of Twenty-Eight: Women Challenge the Constitution (Women’s Educational Press, 1983); and Peace: A Dream Unfolding (Sierra Club Books 1986). She was Editor of Straightgoods.com from 2004 – 2013.
For more information, see Penney Kome’s page at the Writer’s Union of Canada.
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