It is also possible to consider the way in which older women who do express sexual desire are positioned as ‘sexual predators’. Characters such as Mrs Robinson, for instance, from The Graduate (1967) or Joanna Lumley’s role as ‘Patsy’ in Absolutely Fabulous (1992-) are positioned as predatory and aggressive in terms of their sexual desire. Often shame and disgust (much like the emotions used in SF-horror fi lms) are used to move desire from the older subject to her younger counterpart. In the case of The Graduate, Mrs Robinson’s fi nal Munch-like scream at her daughter’s escape from a boring marriage positions her as the one with bitter regret, not the one who is preferred and coveted. Again, the text foregrounds youth and young love, while simultaneously punishing the older desiring woman, relegating her to her ‘rightly’ position as ‘mother’. Shame is used here to return the desiring older woman to her place within the home and to foreground choice as a privilege of the next generation. While the ideas cited above are useful ways to approach the representation of older women’s sexuality, the central tension I have found is between care and desire; and while this is fi gured in many different ways, it primarily is encountered through the fi gure of the mother, her relationship to the concept of ‘home’
and through the emotional register of shame and regret. While the struggle between care and desire is not solely a female experience,2 I argue that it is used more frequently to frame representations of older women’s sexuality than older men’s sexuality. As Susan Sontag writes in the “Double Standard of Aging”: “Growing older is mainly an ordeal of the imagination-a moral disease, a social pathology-intrinsic to which is the fact that it affl icts women much more than men. It is particularly women who experience growing older with distaste and even shame” (qtd. in Sobchack 37). As Sontag suggests, growing older, while a concern shared by men and women, is predominantly experienced as shameful by women.