The setting is a sophisticated restaurant in a Melbourne laneway.
Around the table sit six middle-aged women, from different walks of life, to raise a glass for International Women’s Day.
The first subject for discussion is not the Minister Assisting the Minister for Women, Michaelia Cash, refusing to call herself a feminist. Nor is it Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann calling the number of women in parliament a “side issue”. It’s not even the Prime Minister saying Australia has smashed “just about every glass ceiling”. That all comes later.
First up, we’re talking about who we want to shag.
Our sexual fantasies, from the worlds of politics, business, and entertainment, are served up, alongside the amuse-bouche. This is far from the scene we’re treated to in the mainstream media and popular culture. It’s all about the man who’s “not getting enough”, the girlfriend who’s “not putting out”, or the dichotomy of the slut/stud. Older women are wedged into the roles of mother hen, corporate ice queen, or bored housewife.
Where do we see reflections of our sexual selves?
I’ve got news for advertisers, TV programmers, and film producers: Women want it just as much as men.
This is borne out by a new book by American author Daniel Bergner.
”One of our most comforting assumptions … that female eros is much better made for monogamy than the male libido, is scarcely more than a fairy tale,” Bergner argues in What Do Women Want? Adventures in the Science of Female Desire.
It’s based on the work of Canadian psychologist Meredith Chivers, who conducted a series of experiments using a miniature light bulb and sensor inside the vagina to measure blood flow, as her female subjects watched a variety of pornography.
The results reveal there’s no difference between the “innate selves of men and women, their sexual desires, their promiscuous desires, their visualisation desires”. Instead, it’s all about our culture of holding men and women to “different sexual standards” for thousands of years.
The Madonna/Whore complex is still embedded in our psyche. Because of shame, we’re not honest about our desires. This would explain the phenomenal success of the 50 Shades series (it’s certainly not for the writing…)
As a young woman, I enjoyed experimenting sexually. I was fortunate to have a mother who gave me the pill, instead of a lecture. But I’d never talk about the number of men I’d slept with, lest I be labelled a “slut”.
Twenty years later, it’s disappointing to hear young women speak in these terms.
“I don’t want to have sex with him the first time, because I’m not that kind of girl,” a 20-something confided last week.
What kind of girl? The type that enjoys sex? Heaven forbid!
One of the marvellous things about ageing is caring less about what people think. And so, as the second bottle of wine is brought out, we lay our desires bare. About masturbation (“I do it all the time! Best free entertainment ever”), younger men (“Great body, but no idea what to do”), and banana dicks (“Truly, it was bent 90 degrees. I had no idea what to do with it!”).
But my favourite story about women and sex surrounds a conversation one Christmas (for a while there, we were quite libertarian….). One of the neighbours, 90-year-old Ivy, had popped over for a sherry while we were going around the group asking about “fantasy fucks”.
We thought it impolite to exclude her.
Thinking long and hard, she said this: “I quite like Brad Pitt but, if I was 50 years younger, I’d give that Kylie Minogue a go. She’s a hot little lady!”
Yep. Let’s talk about sex…