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"Dusty Muffins": Senior Women's Performance of Sexuality

By Evleen Nasir


There is a discursive formation of incapability that surrounds senior women's sexuality. Senior women are incapable of reproduction, mastering their bodies, or arousing sexual desire in themselves or others. The senior actresses' I explore in the case studies below insert their performances of self and their everyday lives into the large and complicated discourse of sex, producing a counter-narrative to sexually inactive senior women. Their performances actively embody their sexuality outside the frame of a character. This thesis examines how senior actresses' performances of sexuality extend a discourse of sexuality imposed on older woman by mass media. These women are the public face of senior women's sexual agency. The women I use as case studies are crucial because they perform sexually on screen as well as in their everyday lives. Their personae engage and intervene in the discursive formation of incapability outside traditional modes of performance. The performances of Kirstie Alley, Cloris Leachman Joan Rivers and Betty White transgress the invisible but well documented boundary between bodies that can be sexed and bodies that can't. Transgressing this boundary allows these older actresses to become active agents in their sexual lives. Sexual confessions, performances of personae, and citations of previous senior women performers facilitate senior women's sexual performances. The case studies that follow illustrate how these elements work together to create sexual representations of senior women that are not always accepted by audiences, but are still able to intervene into the larger discourse of senior women's sexual incapability

Topics: Senior Women, Sexuality, Joan Rivers, Betty White, Kirstie Alley, Cloris Leachman, Dancing With The Stars
Year: 2012
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