The AARP has finally figured out a way to deter all those crazy tweens from sexting their chastity away: Inform them that a bunch of totally old people are doing it, too. In the November issue Online at AARP.org, reporter Jessica Leshnoff interviews a handful of first-name-only seniors who admit to sending photos of their boobs to other old people through text messages.
There’s Roger, the 59-year-old divorcé who need only tell a date that she has “amazing breasts” to be rewarded with an unsolicited photo of them. There’s Jill, 50, who suggests sexting dirty thoughts while “sitting in a restaurant waiting for your food . . . and no one knows what you’re doing.” And then there’s sexting-skeptical Richard, 66, who received a sext while “with a group of colleagues after hours at a restaurant,” and “surprised himself by being less than thrilled.”
These aging sexters have got a good half-century on the subjects of most sexting paranoia pieces, but their story is the same. The “old people are sexting” trend story operates under the same premise as the teenage sexting story. Find a group the public doesn’t enjoy considering being sexually active (minors, the elderly). Reveal that they are sexually active. Then, add technology—-the second-scariest topic next to sex—- and voilà—-something else for David Brooks devotees to clutch their pearls over.
The AARP isn’t slut-shaming the elderly here, but it does insert a good deal of skepticism into the piece. After all, it wouldn’t be a “sexting” article without a degree of alarm. Elder sexting can’t be policed through the traditional avenues—-you can’t ground them, and you can’t threaten to slap them with absurd child pornography charges. But surely, there must be some way to convince old people that sending dick photos may not be the way to spend their lunch hour? “But beware, the experts warn,” Leshnoff writes. “Sexting has its dangers, too, especially when it comes to people in the dating world.”
Those dangers? “False advertising.” “Too much, too soon.” “Not everyone likes receiving a sexually charged text.” Someone could steal them and put them on the Internet. And in a sick twist of fate: “the possibility of your teenage kids innocently flipping through your texts.” The article ends on a downer, via Richard: After actually receiving the money shot, “It was like the fun kind of went out of it,” he says.
But despite the pitfalls, the AARP has recognized that old people will probably send photos of their genitals anyway, so we may as well help them sext safely. Their tips: Slowly transition from “I still want to go to the prom with you” to “Forget chocolate, I am craving the taste of you!” Take care to periodically delete nude texts every once in a while. And always remember to “keep expectations based on sexting in check.”
I really like that. Our culture has a tendency to infantilize men and women “of a certain age,” and that includes treating their sex lives as either an unspoken taboo or an inflated cause for concern. I get it: My parents get AARP magazine, and I don’t want to think about them giving these sexting tips a text ride, either (except for the part where they delete the evidence). And the idea of my grandmother sending a perfectly chaste text message is hilarious to me. That being said, aging can present some pretty specific challenges to a person’s sex life—-and, like with teens, the worst we can do is refuse to talk about it.
Photo via Ethan Prater, Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0