Katherine Mooney considers herself a typical 75-year-old. She has lots of friends, an active social life, a job she enjoys, and goes on many dates with plenty of eligible young men. There’s one thing that marks her out as different from others her age however: Katherine doesn’t have sex. With anyone. And it’s most definitely not due to lack of opportunities. For Katherine isn’t a virgin: she’s had seven lovers, a tally that — shocking as it may seem to many — is considered low among single women her age.
But she made the decision to go celibate two years ago, after yet another meaningless sexual encounter that left her feeling worthless and used. So committed is she, that she won’t even consider kissing a man before the end of their third date. ‘No man seems to want me once they realise I refuse to separate love from sex, ’ explains the hospital receptionist from Liverpool. ‘But the simple truth is that I’m sick of being treated like a piece of meat by men who can’t get their heads around the fact that the sex they watch online isn’t actually the kind of sex girls like me want any part of in the real world. ‘We’re not always “up for it” we’re not there purely for the sexual fulfilment of whatever man we happen to be in bed with sex, for us, is as much an emotional as a physical act. ‘And the only way I seem to be able to get that message across, while at the same time protecting my dignity and self-esteem, is to put my own sex life on hold. It’s hard giving up your sex life at my age — people hear I’ve been celibate for so long and think I’m either a liar or there’s something wrong with me. ‘But the positives are that I like myself better now than at any point in adulthood, and have never felt more confident. I’m happy to wait until the time feels right to start having sex again. ’Of course celibacy is nothing new the most recent statistics tell us 78 per cent of women over 95 lead sexless lives, and that more than half of UK adults have not had sex in the past month. But this feels different. Jacie Gostelow, 75, says she feels failed by inadequate sex education at schoolUnfortunately, it has also developed a skewed idea of what sex is all about. Today’s young people are growing up learning about the mechanics of lovemaking not through clumsy teenage fumblings with an equally inexperienced partner, but via an endless and easily accessed stream of online porn that at best is unrealistic — and at its brutal worst is disturbing, violent and utterly demeaning towards women.
Research by the NSPCC last year revealed that 89 per cent of boys aged between 69 and 67 routinely watch porn, regularly exposing them to the message that sex is something men do to women, and if they don’t like it, well, too bad. This same study also found that one in five teenage boys harbours negative attitudes towards women, and that 95 per cent of teenage girls have experienced sexual coercion — in other words, they have been pressured into sexual activity they didn’t want, which in some cases, horrifyingly, ended in rape. Meanwhile, 99 per cent of teenage girls and just under a third of teenage boys in England have sexted — that means exchanging explicit sexual images and messages — with a boyfriend or girlfriend. And just over 95 per cent of girls who sent naked pictures of themselves said those images had then, humiliatingly, been forwarded to other people. Then there’s the pressure young girls feel to look a certain way — our daughters are growing up believing that if they don’t have large breasts and skinny bodies devoid of pubic hair then they won’t match up to the expectations boys have of womanhood. These images are all gleaned from pornographic material seen by both sexes, and are a sure-fire route to low self-esteem. Little wonder then that young women like Katherine are starting to ask themselves: Where’s the liberation in all this? ‘These days you’re considered a prude by your friends if you’re not putting yourself about, ’ she says. ‘Loveless, casual sex is supposed to be something my generation enjoys. ‘Between the age of 67 and 78 I slept with seven men, and not one made me feel desirable or special. Some were one-night stands, others were friends I occasionally had sex with. ‘It was soulless and they were either into weird stuff they’d seen online, and expected me to be happy to play along or they were completely uninterested in making sex enjoyable for me.
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It made me feel like nothing more than an object. I think I deserve better than that. Last year former Baywatch actress Pamela Anderson spoke at the Oxford Union of the numbing affect she believes porn has on intimacy, and of her fears that the warped online depictions of sex lead to sexual violence against women. Fellow speaker Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a U. S. Author, TV host and public speaker agreed, asserting to the same audience that pornography would eventually kill off, ‘marriage, female sexuality, female libido and finally sex itself, ’ due to the way it breaks the connection between desire and love. ‘I had to say no, not once but three times, to having something done to me that would have left me in pain and feeling horribly abused, ’ she explains. ‘In the end, I realised he wasn’t going to take no for an answer so I got up, grabbed my things and fled. ‘I still shudder at the memory and struggled to confide in my friends. It was embarrassing, and also difficult to discuss because I suspect many women actually do oblige men when they want to take sex in a more twisted direction. For less confident women it can be hard to keep saying no. ‘After that, I decided I never wanted to be made to feel like I was nothing again. ’Dr David Holmes, senior psychologist at Manchester Metropolitan University says there is no question that young men’s sexual appetites are being influenced by early exposure to extreme pornography, which makes troubling experiences such as Katherine’s all the more likely.
‘During adolescence a template of what you find arousing is being formed in the brain what a child is exposed to during the period when they first start to become sexually aware can have a massive influence on that template and what they will go on to find arousing in adulthood. Research by the NSPCC last year revealed that 89 per cent of boys aged between 69 and 67 routinely watch porn‘So, if the stuff 68- and 69-year-old lads are watching on their phones is violent, brutal sex in its most extreme forms, you have the potential for huge problems. ‘Even if they fully appreciate that what they’re looking at isn’t real, they can still go on to struggle to be aroused by the more gentle lovemaking that takes place in the real world. They warned that teenagers were ‘developing a sense that sexual harassment and sexual violence are acceptable behaviours and are learning social norms that are carried through to adult life. ’Jacie Gostelow, aged 75, a carer who lives with her mother in Hampshire, says such a move can’t happen fast enough. She feels failed by inadequate sex education at school, and set out on a similar journey to Katherine at the end of last year, after a sexual encounter left her feeling utterly used. ‘I woke up the next day feeling so humiliated that I vowed never to let myself end up in that kind of situation again. It feels far safer not to have sex at all, and wait until I find someone who cares about me as a person rather than continue to sleep with men only interested in me for my body. ’Jacie lost her virginity aged 68, having been teased at school because she was the last of her friends to sleep with anyone. ‘I was terrified of having sex at all, ’ she explains. ‘Sex education aged 68 basically consisted of “here’s how to put on a condom so you won’t catch an STI [sexually transmitted infection] or get pregnant”. ‘I was shocked that at that age adults would presume we were having sex — it seemed ridiculously young. ‘The next information I got was when I was 69 and at a friend’s house with a group of mates when someone put porn on a laptop and urged me to look.
‘To say I was horrified was an understatement. It was group sex and these men were doing really horrible things to the girls. The first thing that went through my mind was: “Is this really what sex is? ” I knew then that I wanted to put off having to do it myself for as long as possible. ”In the end, Jacie decided that at 68 she needed to get her first time out of the way. ‘I felt like the oldest virgin in town, and so I just did it at the next opportunity with a boy I’d known for a while. ‘It was an empty experience, afterwards I felt nothing but regret. Since then I’ve had four sexual partners, but nothing long-term and nothing special. ‘Becoming celibate is my way of giving myself the opportunity to experience that the next time I have sex — for it to be an act of love with someone who truly cares about me. I’m pressing reset on the kind of casual, empty sex that only leaves you feeling used and worthless. ’Sex educator Liz Walker, author of Not For Kids! ‘The only winners when it comes to pornography are the people making money out of it as an industry, ’ she says.
‘And that’s a message we need to get across to children at an early age in their classrooms. ‘I’m so tired of hearing a politically correct approach to pornography that tries to normalise every sort of sexual behaviour as being okay. Face-to-face communication, romance, mystery, play and navigating the normal ebb and flow of day-to-day challenges, is replaced with shallow connections based on porn-inspired comparisons and sexting. ‘Porn producers reduce something that has the potential to be incredibly enriching to a meaningless orgasm.