The Hey, Boomer guest today is Stella Fosse, writer, advocate for older women's empowerment and workshop leader.
Our topic today was Sexy Stories for and about Women Over Sixty. Stella reinvented herself from a technical writer, to a writer of erotica for and about older women. Her first book, Aphrodite's Pen: The Power of Writing Erotica after Midlife, includes lots of how to's and prompts to get your started. Her latest book, "Brilliant Charming Bastard" was released this year.
We talked about claiming our narrative at this stage of our lives.
We discussed the difference between Elderotica and Seasoned Romance Stories.
When I asked about being objectified as sexual beings, Stella turned that around to finding the freedom of being able to walk down the street without being harassed, and the freedom to be more playful in our relationships.
We talked about the benefit of finding supportive writers groups, both in person and online.
It was a fun discussion. I think you will enjoy it.
1. Read books, and watch movies that show possibilities of this part of life.
2. Find ways to build creativity into this part of your life.
3. Enjoy your body.
4. Learning and sex until rigor mortis.
Thanks so much for listening.
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You can email me with questions or comments at email@example.com
– Wendy Green is a Certified Life Coach, working with people going through the sometimes uncomfortable life transition from full-time work to “what’s next.” Find out more about Wendy’s 6-week “What’s Next Transition” Coaching workshop
– You can find Stella at stellafosse.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Other resources mentioned
Writing Open the Mind by Andy Couturier
Fifty First Dates After Fifty by Carolyn Lee Arnold
Fear of Dying by Erica Jong
Naked at our Age by Joan Price
Forever 51 by Pamela Skjolsvik
And welcome to the Hey Boomer Show, which is live every Monday at 1:00 Eastern on Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. My name is Wendy Green and I am your host for Hey Boomer. And hey, Boomer is a show for those of us who believe we are never too old to set another goal or dream, a new dream. It is for lifelong learners who want to find meaning and purpose in their lives and live the best part of their life in this next chapter. Every year I put together an Alzheimer's walk team and every year I get a bunch of people that come and walk with me and we raise money. Last year, we hit the championship level. We raised over 1000. So this year I am asking you to join our team. There's a couple of ways you can do this. You can join the local team here in Greenville, South Carolina, and walk with us and help raise money for that. Or you can join our our hey boomer team and walk in your community. So for now, I have a Greenville team. I have a hey boomer team in California and I have a Hey Boomer team in Maryland. And anybody that joins our team, I'm going to give them this cute, hey, boomer hat so that you can wear that when you walk and you can wear it afterwards proudly as a member of Hey, Boomer. So all you have to do is go to act.Alz.org/goto/HeyBoomer, join our team and support the hopeful end of Alzheimer's.
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Now to talk about what's coming up. Kathleen, A Berry PhD and coeditor of "Unmasked: Women write about sex and intimacy after 50" said, "When we think of erotica, we don't usually link it together with middle aged women."
In fact, it is middle aged women who are finally liberated to fully experience the sensuous delight of erotica. They have reached the point in their lives when they are no longer encumbered by the risk of pregnancy, nor zapped by the physical ramifications of menopause.
And there's another aspect to this topic. Ageist thinking says that older women become matronly and we lose our beauty. And the idea of older women having sex seems almost unappealing in our society. There are a few examples of women over 50 being sexual in the media. I'm sure that or I hope that you all have seen Grace and Frankie with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda. And there's a new movie out with Emma Thompson called Good Luck to You, Leo Grande. And in this movie, Emma Thompson plays a widow who has never had a satisfying sex life. She is curious and she's nervous. She hires a sex worker. This movie explores her journey to becoming comfortable with her own sexuality. It is available on Hulu. Good luck to you, Leo Grande. So today we're going to talk about the idea that we are all sensual beings into our sixties, seventies, eighties and beyond, and that we can all make our own decisions about what is right for us regarding sex at this stage of our life, really at any stage of our life. So let me bring Stella on and introduce you. Hello, Stella.
I want to thank. Thanks for having.
Me. Oh, I've been looking forward to this. And so is the audience. I've heard a lot of people say, Oh, I'm going to watch.
I'm going to watch.
So brief bio. Stella is a former biotechnology writer who advocates for the creative power of older women. Her books include "Aphrodite's Pen: The Power of Writing Erotica After Midlife", "The Erotic Pandemic Ball,"
And ooh, did you hear the Thunder? And her debut novel at age 68, "Brilliant, Charming Bastard." She is currently teaching romance writing to seniors and writing a book about creative retirement. Stella lives with her partner in North Carolina. You can follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram, and she blogs on her website, which we will get to, and I'll share all of her contact information later. So, Stella.
So, you know, in my coaching practice, I always talk to people about reinvention. And many people have a really hard time thinking about what they're going to do next. They had their career and That was that was who they defined themselves as they didn't have an idea of what was next. So I'm curious about your reinvention journey from tech writer to writer of erotica and the ups and downs of that.
Oh Well, I always wanted to be a writer. In fact, my childhood goal was to write my first novel by the time I was 25. So I missed that by 50 years. As you said, it's never too late. So I went to college in the early seventies when there was a total double standard about writing anything sexual. Philip Roth's novels were literature. Erica Jong's novels were trash. And so that's that's what it was like when I came up. And I certainly never thought about writing erotica back then after college, after I got my degree in creative writing, which when I moved to New York, I was told would get me. If I had that plus $0.25, I could get a ride in the subway. So I went back to school, got a master's in biology, and had a career writing FDA submissions, which are about as asexual as you can get. And when I was starting to think about graduating from that career, if we don't like the word retirement, maybe we can. Graduation. I happened to read an article in the New York Times Book Review section by a romance author who was also in her late fifties, who was advising her sister writers that if they wanted to get published, they should write romance characters in their twenties. And I thought, that's pretty outrageous. Why should women of a certain age have to closet themselves when they write? And around that time, a friend of mine Linx Cannon started a reading series at an Oakland bookstore called Dirty Old Women, and she invited all her friends to write erotic stories and come and read them before an audience. And I thought, Well, why not? So that's that's how this started.
So I mean, I think if you asked me to come to a book reading and writing erotic stuff called Dirty Old Women, I would probably be pretty nervous. Were you nervous at first?
Yeah, I sure was. But, you know, we had a great crowd every time, and it was really a mixed age crowd. There were a lot of younger women in the audience who would come up to us afterwards and thank us and say, you know, we we thought that part of life ended around age 40. So thank you for showing us that that's not the case. I've come to think of this kind of writing as a political act, really, as part of our part of liberating ourselves.
So a political act and an educational act in a sense, for the young people that there is. You can continue to look forward to this.
That's right. This doesn't just there's not a not a cutoff date.
Right. Right. So in Aphrodite's pen, you talk about the power of writing erotica. As older women, what do you mean by that power?
I think I think there are a couple of kinds of power involved. One is the power to claim back our narrative for ourselves. You mentioned earlier that there's this there's this idea in the culture. There's this sexist age trope that older women have outlived their own sexuality. And when we write, even if even if a woman writes a story and saves it for herself, she's reclaiming her own agency because, you know, sexuality isn't something society gives us or something society can take away. It's innate in us. And when we write, we reclaim that for ourselves. And if we decide to publish a story, then we're pushing back on this big cultural narrative. I think of. I think of culture as sort of like an ocean liner. You know, it's going in one direction. It's big, has a lot of there's a lot of inertia. But if if everybody gets out their teaspoon, writes their story and starts, you know, pushing the water, we can we can start turning the culture in a better direction if a lot of us are writing our stories.
Well, if you've never written anything like that before. Yeah, how would you even get started?
Well, I think, you know, if you're not in a community that has a dirty old women reading series, you can still you can certainly get a copy of Aphrodite's Pen, which has exercise, writing exercises, writing prompts, all kinds of ideas for how to create characters, how to mine your own life experience. Because by now all of us have lots and lots of experience that we can draw from in creating plots and creating characters. And then the book also has interviews with women, older women who write erotica, talking about their experience and examples of stories that they've written. So you can really get a sense of of this what I think of as a developing crone culture.
Hmm. Hmm. So I, I have to tell you, I mean, I was so a naive, I guess is the right word about all of this. You know, I was I was thinking, well, there's not really going to be much of a plot. It's just going to be one sexual act after another. And and when I read your book, Brilliant, Charming Bastard, there was quite an involved plot there and not nearly as much sex as I expected there to be. And it was tastefully managed. So it was a big surprise to me. And you called this form of this genre of writing. Like, what did you call it?
Elderotica. And and the way they categorize it.
So seasoned, well there is a category of seasoned romance. Seasoned romance. So when I was speaking earlier about that article, I read by that the woman advising other women writers to make their characters young. She was writing romance, which is a really structured form. And I sort of thought I was writing romance when I wrote Brilliant Charming Bastard. But now that I'm teaching about romance, I realized that I did not follow the rules. Romance. Romance has a very set structure for how you set up your plot and how your characters interact and what happens at the end. And it's really about a happily ever after ending. And my book is more a lot of people hate the phrase women's literature. But I think mine is more like seasoned women's literature. But there is a whole category now called season romance. Publishers are realizing that we are a big market. There are a lot of people now, more and more people in their fifties, sixties and seventies. And we don't necessarily want to read about people in their twenties.
Right. So what's the difference then between Seasoned Romance and Elderotica?
Oh, that's a good question. So. So if you think about again, if you think about what romance is, it's it's really centered around one relationship between two people and they have to have a happily ever after ending. Erotica is more like how one person develops, one main character develops through her sexual experiences and and becomes a more fully developed person by the end of the story. So it's it's it's a different it's a different genre. And then there's porn, which is a whole different thing.
Right, right, right. So I would say that Good Luck To You, Leo Grande is Elderotica. Have you seen it?
Oh, I love that movie. Yeah, yeah.
Yeah. Because she definitely develops into a more fuller person.
Yes. And she's really developing her relationship with herself.
Not that the other person is objectified because he's not. I think he's he's he's a fully developed character in his own right. But but the the real theme of the story is that she comes into her own, as you said earlier. Yeah. Yeah, I guess it is sort of. It is elder erotica. I hadn't thought of that. Yeah.
Yeah, I loved it. It is. I mean, at first I wasn't sure if I was going to like it, but yeah, it was so brave.
So so talking about objectification. Yeah. Right. So when we're young, you know, society, I mean, sex sells and ads, right? They encourage young women to dress sexy, wear the highest heels, you know. And it is a very objectified way of gaining attention as older women, of course, we still want to look lovely and sexy. And how do we how do we do that so that our minds are not telling us? Yeah, but that's just objectifying yourself.
That's a really interesting question. I think. I think there comes a point in most of our lives where we can walk past a construction site without being harassed. And and, you know, that is, you know, people talk about invisibility of older women. There is that upside. There is that freedom. And in that freedom, I really think there's an opportunity, again, to to look at our own agency, to claim our own sexual being and to not feel like we're always having to fend off unwanted attention. So I like to look at the freedom side of it. And and once we've once we're kind of in that state, once we're in that stage, when we reclaimed our freedom, then I think it gives us room to be more playful in our relationships because because we have freed ourselves of that concern about being objectified. Not that I mean, you can you can play with objectification in a consensual relationship. That's something there's that wonderful book, Mating in Captivity, that talks about talks about that. But but again, I really think that this notion of invisibility has a huge positive aspect for us as a women.
It's a great way to phrase it. Yeah, because we don't have to. We don't have to be harassed walking down the street. No, but we can be free and playful on our own terms when we want to. With whom we want to.
Exactly. Yeah. Yeah.
I know. We've got a big thunderstorm coming up here.
Thor Agrees with you.
That's right. So so talking about the women's movement and the whole discussion about ageism. Now, you and I have both been involved in in those discussions in larger forums and, you know, the societal myth of women losing their sexuality like you talked about with the young people. So I'm curious how you think writing about sexuality or erotica or reading about it even can can help in that, dispelling some of those ageist myths?
Yeah. Yeah. You know, we all grew up with women our age, grew up swimming in this gender age group without even realizing it. I mean, think about, you know, Sleeping Beauty and Maleficent. Think about Cinderella and the wicked stepmother. I mean, we we absorbed a lot of that before. We were old enough to have maybe have clear thinking about the fact that we weren't always going to be Cinderella's age someday. We were going to be the age of the stepmother. And what did that mean for us? So. So when we step back from those myths and start creating our own myths, I think that really gives us a lot of power and it gives us a new voice that's important for us as older women. So I think it's key to seek out as a reader, as a watcher of movies and shows. I mean, you mentioned some really powerful, significant shows. There are a lot of great books out there. I mentioned Erica Jong earlier. She wrote Fear of Flying as a young woman. She wrote Fear of Dying as an older woman, which is a great novel with a lot of sexuality about being in our sixties. These are ways that we can reclaim our our power through reading and writing and kind of we can reprogram ourselves away from all that sexist age stuff that we were exposed to when...