Getting Intimate : A Feminist Analysis of Old Age, Masculinity and Sexuality
Abstract: This thesis focuses on the intersections of masculinity, old age and sexuality from the perspectives of old men themselves, how they understand and experience sex and sexuality in later life. The study uses qualitative in-depth interviews and body diaries, an exploratory method that asked men write about their bodies in everyday life. Twenty-two men, born between 1922 and 1942, participated in the study. The aim of the thesis is two-fold: firstly, to study sexual subjectivities of old men, how old men articulate and make meaning around sexuality in later life. Secondly, the study aims to explore theoretically what a male body may become in relation to ageing; in what ways the ageing male body could be a site for rethinking masculinity and the male body. This aim was inspired by feminist theories in dialogue with the deleuzian concept becoming. Similarly to gender, age is understood to take shape and become intelligible in social and cultural contexts. Furthermore, the thesis stresses the significance of the specificities of the ageing body to the shaping of masculinity, sexuality and subjectivity. The body is therefore discussed as an “open materiality”, beyond the binaries of culture and nature/materiality.This thesis discusses the concepts intimacy and touch as central to how old men’s sexual subjectivities take shape, allowing for alternative conceptualisations of sexuality beyond erection and intercourse. Intimacy and touch are understood and discussed in several different ways. By orienting themselves to touch and intimacy the old men emerged as more mature, unselfish and with more serene sexual desires. This also involved them distancing themselves from the younger man/other men, whom they perceived as more selfish, inconsiderate and with stronger sexual desires. Intimacy and touch could in this respect be understood as resources for shaping desirable heterosexual masculinity. An orientation to intimacy and touch enabled old men to appear as neither asexual nor as “dirty” old men. But the study also suggests that a turn to intimacy and touch may open up possibilities for rethinking and reconfiguring sexuality, masculinity and the male body. The ageing body then need not be understood as an obstacle but as an enabling site that provides opportunities for intimacy and touch. Moreover, the thesis presents affirmative old age as an alternative conceptualisation of old age, beyond both the discourses of successful ageing and the discourses of old age as negativity and decline. As a theory of difference and bodily specificity, affirmative old age may be of interest for further feminist theorising.
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