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Gender, Desire & the Scandals of Ageing

Publié le 3 décembre 2015 Mis à jour le 29 septembre 2023

3 décembre

Lynne Segal
(Birbeck, University of London)

Salle Henri Janne, Institut de Sociologie (15e étage), Bâtiment S
Avenue Jeanne, 44, 1050 Bruxelles

With the Seminar “Penser les vieillesses”.

‘I don’t feel old’, most elderly informants proclaim. That affirmation tells us much about the stigma surrounding old age, which by and large has increased rather than decreased with the ageing of the population. This includes rising alarm over the so-called ‘demographic time bomb’ presented by an ageing population, worldwide. Disavowals of old age, however, also highlight the sense of temporal vertigo we easily face as we age, when contemplating the multiplicity of continuities and discontinuities we experience reflecting upon who we are over a lifetime. In particular, I will look at some of narcissistic injuries accompanying ageing desire which, though shared by women and men alike, usually have a contrasting gender dynamic. The perils of desire experienced by men tend to follow the phallic faultlines of erectile dysfuntion, with its powerful symbolic weight, but rarely lead men to give up on their desire. In contrast, the distinctive mortifications surrounding ageing female flesh have been more likely to lead women, willingly or not, to evacuate the terrain of sexual passion altogether, or at least to say they have.

Lynne Segal has been engaged in Left & feminist politics since coming to London from Sydney in the early 1970s. She is currently Anniversary Professor at Birkbeck, University of London, in Psychosocial Studies. She has written many books on feminism, gender and politics, including Is the Future Female? Troubled Thoughts on Contemporary Feminism; Slow Motion: Changing Masculinities, Changing Men; Straight Sex: The Politics of Pleasure; Why Feminism? Gender, Psychology & Politics; Making Trouble: Life & Politics. Her latest book is Out of Time: The Pleasures & Perils of Ageing. She is currently thinking about moments of collective joy, what remains after the commodification of happiness and well-being.