‘Thinking the Unthinkable: Older Lesbians, Sex and Violence’

Todd, Megan orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-4274-8469 (2021) ‘Thinking the Unthinkable: Older Lesbians, Sex and Violence’. In: Sex and Diversity in Later Life: Critical Perspectives (Sex and Intimacy in Later Life). Sex and Intimacy in Later Life, 1 . Policy Press, Bristol University. ISBN 1447355407

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Dominant discourses about intimate lives, as Jamieson (1998) suggested, have a significant impact on both public and private lives. Current generations of older lesbians have experienced profound social changes over the course of their lives. Many were at the forefront of cultural and social sexual change (Giddens 1992), witnessing or being actively engaged in the transformation of what it means to experience ageing and sexuality. Despite such social shifts, ageism, heterosexism and sexism impact on their lives in various and complex ways, frequently rendering them invisible culturally and socially (Traies 2012). Thus, older lesbians experience an unfortunate paradox, in that they live in a time of an increasingly sexualised society, and at a time when arguably it is easier to be gay. Yet, they also live in a society where they are told that their sexuality is distasteful. In addition, as older members of the LGBT ‘community’ – arguably a commercialised, youth-orientated community - many older lesbians feel marginalised, reeling from the impact of homonormativity (Duggan 2002). Based on interviews from ESRC-funded research into community responses to lesbian domestic violence, and data from a survey into LGBT lives in Lancashire, I argue that cultural stereotypes about women, sexuality and age have a significant impact on whose sexual story is listened to and the types of stories heard.

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