I’ve spoken before about how uncomfortable most people are when it comes to viewing their parents and other people from previous generations as sexual beings, and the numerous societal problems that stem from that taboo. Well, here’s one more to add to the list.
The bias against kinky old people is not one that’s commonly talked about, but as social services and even home-care providers become part of the mix for the elderly (but still active!) population, it’s an important one to understand. Amy Marsh from Carnal Nation writes:
“A Citizen’s Guide to Preventing and Reporting Elder Abuse” …presents the warning signs of elder abuse, including those which are physical: “physical assault,” “unexplained bruises or welts,” “injuries that are incompatible with explanations,” and “any injuries that reflect the outline of an object, for example a belt, cord, or hand.”
For a kinky elder, all of the above might simply be the traces of a fabulous night of play. But for a social worker or other mandated reporter, such signs will indicate severe abuse and the necessity to report immediately to Adult Protective Services. That is unless the kinky elder feels comfortable enough explaining these “signs” to a (possibly tight-lipped and judgmental) social worker. And are there any guarantees that the worker will buy this explanation? Not necessarily. The results will not be pretty.”
Don’t think it’s that big of an issue, because “older people aren’t generally kinky?” Think again. The over 50 community is increasingly getting involved in the BDSM scene, either as they reinvent themselves after a partner dies or a long-term relationship ends, and/or as the internet opens up new opportunities to seek like-minded individuals. One of my new favorite bloggers, Rachel Rabbit White, wrote this awesome article called “The Old Masters,” which takes a look at how the older generations are enjoying the freedom and experimentation of BDSM, and considers both the peaks and pitfalls of age in this “erotic version of high-impact sports:”
“When I ask Master Z if the aging bodies makes him nervous he replies, “Hell no.” In his opinion, it’s the kids that get into trouble with hurting themselves, the newbies. The older people tend to know what they are doing, they are the ones who will stop a dangerous scene, and show you how to do it.
But she also touches on the troubles associated with seniors who attempt to “come out” to their children and grandchildren, who, more often than not, want nothing to do with such confessions:
“Both Peaches and Master R have tried coming out to their adult kids. Peaches’ kids didn’t want to hear about it, shutting her up with a quick, “Mom, if you are happy, we are happy.” Master R opened up to one of his children, who did not approve. “I know if one of them knows, then they all know, but no one mentions it,” he says.”
This problem compounds upon itself. The less we talk about elder sexuality in general, the more awkward these conversations with care providers get for older kinky people, and the more awkward the conversations get, the less we have them, and thus, the less we talk about elder sexuality in general.
Personally, I think it’s a huge shame on two fronts: first that we, as the generation that thinks we invented sex, are too cowed by our own personal prejudice against the elder generations to talk openly and without judgment about their sexuality; and second, that the medical establishment has such a huge blind spot in terms of care for the aging population (and if we’re really being honest, for people of all ages- when’s the last time you told your doctor about how much you like piercing play?).
To remedy this, my homework for you all is to start following Joan and her lovely blog, Naked at Our Age/Better than I Ever Expected. Her writing is humorous, honest, and beautifully emotionally open as she looks at all aspects of sexuality in the aging population. READ IT! And get comfortable with it, because someday, you’ll be the raunchy grandparent that makes your kids feel awkward.