There is a mental barrier when we think of old people having sex. Perhaps because in our collective imagination we feel that at the end of life, just like at its beginning, we are all are going to be asexual.
One of the most devastating scenes from the film Titanic (1997) happens when an older couple is faced with the tragic catastrophe on board; it becomes apparent they will not survive through the night, so they decide to stay in their room and accept death lying down. In this final embrace, they receive the cold water that suffocates them. Rose’s tragedy is that she loses her lover and her future will be one that is socially acceptable: have children and live life to the fullest without the company of her one true love.
At the end of the elderly couple’s lives, the cycle of a sexual life is closed, which is apparently a lesser tragedy than that of Rose, who will be unable to spend her “best years” with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Yet why do we feel discomfited when we see elderly people engage in a scene of pleasure or basic instincts?
From birth to death, sex defines us, as it is an evolving and continuing process.
While sex itself may not take center stage in the later stages of life, this doesn’t mean the impulses related to pleasure cease to exist. In our elders, as in newborns, this latent drive does exist.
So why is it difficult to imagine an older couple touching each other, undressing one another, panting, and having orgasms?
Dutch photographer Annabel Oosteweeghel does not only imagine it; she photographs it.
Old Love pays homage to couples doing what has been natural since before mankind evolved opposable thumbs. This unfortunate perception that physical love beyond youth is perverse comes from a societal pressure that grants priority to the allure of young bodies. We are deluded by this synthetic eternal beauty and forget that with each passing moment our bodies and minds change, and with them, our desires and needs.
We’ll all be 70 years old some day…
So, none of this should come as strange to us: young bodies tangled with older bodies, silvered manes among the gray hairs between a woman’s legs, tender and carefree; wrinkled mouths around the member of an elder Adonis with a lengthy experience in sex.
The series consists of six couples enjoying their bodies in houses architecturally belonging to the 1960s. These scenes are reminiscent of an era of sexual freedom and also carry an association to the grandparents of our generation, who opened the doors of love, free from the limits of age or gender.
The photographic work of Annabel Oosteweeghel is highly stylized. She has collaborated for various commercial brands, which is apparent in her work. Her photographs, especially in this series, have that air of glossy commercial production and the plastic falsehoods we avidly consume in modern society, including sexual content.
In some thirty or forty years years, if we are lucky enough to be seventy years old, we will be in this same physical scenario and neither of us will want to be judged. There is no point in waiting for science to find a way to perpetuate a super sexualized body, because we know beauty and pleasure can be found elsewhere.
Haven’t gotten enough of Freud’s broad ranging influence yet? Analyze these films inspired by his work and theory.
Translated by Joseph Reiter