Cougars, Aunties and MILFs: The sexualisation of older women

Idly flicking through the stats for Village Aunties, a multi-author feminist blog, I write for from time to time, I came across something strange.  Despite this being a Scottish blog, the majority of its readers would appear to be from India.  I was a bit puzzled by this and explored a bit more.  The most popular search term that people find their way there through is “aunties” – nothing all that surprising about that, but looking down the list and what aunties is combined with is eye-opening   At no 4 there was “village aunties sex“, at no 6 “aunties ass” with “nude aunties“, “sexual aunties“, “aunties sex” and “sex with aunties” all featuring prominently.  In fact looking down the list, I would reckon that over half the people who have found the blog through a search engine did so through some combination of “auntie” with sexual terminology.

In Indian society, auntie is used as a term of respect by a young person for an older woman of social aquaintance.  A more formal equivalent in the UK would probably be “madam”, a term which is also sexualised through its association with brothel keepers. The sexualisation of older women is not entirely new – most teen boys develop a crush on a particularly attractive teacher with the assertions of Miss Jean Brodie and latent sensuality of Mrs Robinson exploring it in popular culture, but the recent popularity of the terms “Cougar” annd “MILF” (Mother I’d Like to Fuck) tell of an increased sexualisation.

The traditional three ages of woman are that of maiden, matron and crone.

The maiden, associated with the waxing moon and springtime, speaks of awakenings, new beginnings and fresh ideas and but also of nievity and a lack of knowledge. Traditionally revered as the virgin, she is not only valued by her male age-mates, but also older men seeking to reclaim their lost youth. A common theme in literature, particularly of the renaissance era is that of the “rake” – an older man who seduces a young girl, leaving her “ruined”. The matron, associated with the full moon and summer, is fertility and fulfillment. Middle age sees a respect being given to women as they fulfill their roles of childbearing and rearing and are usually seen as sexually off-limits as offspring denote sexual experience. The desire expressed in “Mother I’d like to Fuck” suggests an unavailability, and an appreciation that its probably not reciprocated. Older women, the crones, who pass through the autumn of life before ending at its winter, are associated with barrenness, but also wisdom and independence. A common theme in Celtic literature is that of the crone who seduces a young prince sometimes then transforming into a maiden. The modern day “Cougar” echos this implied predatory approach and sexual confidence..

Traditionally women over thirty have not been seen as particularly sexually attractive, with the maiden being the archetype of sexual attractiveness. In ye olden days, most women married in their twenties, stayed married until widowhood, with the remainder classified as the Kate Dalrymples of the sexual sphere. But recent increases in divorce rates, trends towards later marriage, serial monogamy and increased childlessness have seen more older women become sexually available. The attraction of the older woman previously relegated to fantasy has become accessible.

In India, sex selection procedures including gendered abortion and female infanticide have led to deep gender imbalances, with only 91 girls being born to every hundred boys. Faced with a decreased choice of mate, particularly in a society which practices polygamy, young men struggle to find a partner their own age. Futhermore young women within Indian society are expected to defer to older women within the home, frequently exploited and abused. The auntie then, within a strongly patriarchial culture speaks of female power and confidence.

Pornography featuring young desi women is not particularly popular within India, its primary production is for the West to cater for a demand of “exoticism” and a playing into racist cultural narratives of third world women as playthings for Western men. While porn featuring western women is popular, indigenous porn tends to feature “desi aunties” – older women from the Indian sub-continent. Older women also have a special place within Indian Hindu culture with Radha, the lover of Krishna. Identified as many years older than the young Krishna which she first seduces in a wood when asked to accompany him safely home, Radha provides an liberatory icon for older women in a society where women are owned and widowhood is shameful, while lauding the man whose primary union is with an older woman as the quintessential devine lover.

What then to make of this trend. In the West, “raunch culture” has seen both a new sexual assertiveness in young women, but also an increased vulnerability to sexual pressure and demand. In India the patriarchial codes strip young women of autonomy while many older women take out their frustrations at the repression of their youth on the young wives their sons bring to live with them. At one level it can been seen as an attempt to diminish the values that older women are usually revered for, replacing it with worth based on their sexuality; alternatively it can be seen as a rejection of the superficiality of raunch culture and the cult of the virgin.

First published on Village Aunties on 19th April 2012

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