chapter  11
11 Pages

Old and desirable: older women’s accounts of ageing bodies in intimate relationships

ByRachel Thorpe, Bianca Fileborn, Gail Hawkes, Marian Pitts, Victor Minichiello

Rachel Thorpea*, Bianca Fileborna, Gail Hawkesb, Marian Pittsa and Victor Minichielloa

aAustralian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia; bSchool of Behavioural and Cognitive Sciences, University of New England, Armidale,


(Received 28 May 2014; accepted 23 August 2014)

Despite the body being central to the experience of ageing, little attention has been paid to how relationships may mediate the experience of ageing bodies. This article considers older Australian women’s accounts of their bodies and of embodied experiences in the context of both long-term and newly formed intimate relationships. Drawn from a broader study of ageing and sexuality, our analyses of semi-structured interviews with 20 women aged 55 to 72 revealed that while women were frequently unhappy with their appearance, this was less important to them in relationships. During sexual intimacy, embodied experience and the capacity for bodies to be sites of pleasure were emphasised. Overall, participants experienced their bodies as sites of negotiation between socially constructed meanings of older bodies and subjectively produced ones, in complex and sometimes contradictory ways that fell outside simple distinctions between social and individual.