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I’m nearly 60. I’m still interested in sex. Is that a problem?

In defence of 'dirty old men'

15 February 2014

9:00 AM

15 February 2014

9:00 AM

The other day I casually remarked to my ex-wife that our son’s new teacher is ‘really hot’. She gave me a look of disgust, shook her head and said, ‘You dirty old man!’

It’s not the first time I’ve been called that, and usually I just keep smiling and stay silent. But this time I bridled. Recently, in two separate courtrooms, both Dave Lee Travis and Bill Roache had been denounced as ’dirty old men’. OK, I confess: maybe I did emit a ‘phwhoar!’ or two too many for my ex’s taste — but did I deserve to be branded a dirty old man?

I hope not. When I was a teenager I always swore that I would never grow up to be a dirty old man — like my dad. Whenever I found him with his arm around some woman I used to say to him, mimicking the voice of Harold Steptoe, ‘You dirty old man!’

My dad was still at it in his seventies. I remember the horror of seeing him on the floor of the Groucho Club after he made a puckered-lipped lunge at a woman — and missed and fell off his bar stool. At 80 he would wobble along on his walking frame and go up to women at bus stops and say: ‘Hello beautiful, want to have lunch with me?’ No, I would never be like that!

The Film Society Of Lincoln Center's 40th Chaplin Award Gala Supported By Grey Goose Vodka - Inside
Catherine Zeta Jones with Michael Douglas 26 years his junior Photo: Getty

And yet here I am, nearly 60 and still on the pull. It’s a feeling that a growing number of men will experience, too. Demographically we are becoming an older society, and baby-boomer men like me have rejected the traditional idea that growing older means giving up certain passions and pleasures of one’s youth. We keep wearing jeans, listening to rock music and expecting an active sex life. As for those men who look forward to the day when age shall unchain them from that lunatic down below — many of them will be shocked when they discover that it refuses to grow up, shut up and behave.


But the problem for us ageing baby-boomer blokes is this: what makes a mature man a dirty old man? That used to be an easy question to answer: a dirty old man was defined by his sexual interest in girls. To the tabloid press of the 1970s, he was a drooling letch in a dirty brown mac, lingering outside the school gates; to feminists he was that bottom-pinching, girl-chasing cretin who Benny Hill played on TV.

But now dirty old man no longer refers to an older man’s singular sexual interest in much younger women — it’s become shorthand for any mature man who is still interested in sex: men who think and talk about sex or just have sex — and not with young women either.

The Collins online dictionary defines the informal usage of dirty old man as ‘an expression some people use to describe an old man who they think shows an unnatural interest in sex’. Merriam-Webster defines it as ‘an old man who is too interested in sex’. But who defines ‘unnatural’? And what’s ‘too interested’?

Given the current concern — some would say overreaction — about sexual harassment, it’s not easy being over 50 and having the demanding libido and the dirty mind of a pimply 18-year-old boy. If I talk about sex in a candid way, my women friends groan and give me that look that says: ‘Shut up, Mr Perv!’

Consequently, when I’m in the company of young women I’ve become a cautious paranoid. I would never pay a twentysomething girl a compliment on her appearance, even something as innocuous as, ‘That’s a lovely outfit.’ (The last time I told a 20-year-old she looked terrific she replied: ‘That’s so gross!’) In the presence of young women I keep my gaze averted; I do not kiss or hug them as a form of social greeting: I just nod and grunt — and all because I don’t want to be seen as a dirty old man.

There’s an obvious gender-based double standard at work here. An older man who chases young women is denounced as a dirty old man, but an older woman who chases young men for sex or love — think of Demi Moore — are called cougars. Such women are said to be ‘empowered’; we men who do it are merely pathetic. At least we men who aren’t rich and famous — they are ‘lads’, ‘lotharios’, ‘wild men’ and ‘bad boys’ who are admired by women and men. Funny how saggy flesh doesn’t look so saggy when it’s worth millions.

"The Joneses" Screening - 2009 Toronto International Film Festival
Ashton Kutcher with ‘cougar’ Demi Moore Photo: Getty

Nobody said that Michael Douglas was a dirty old man when he married Catherine Zeta-Jones — a woman 25 years younger than himself. Was Sean Penn called a dirty old man when he dated Scarlett Johansson, who was 29 years younger? Was Picasso a dirty old man because he was 40 years older than his lover Françoise Gilot?

What really lies behind the current usage of dirty old man is a form of pure ageism: mature male sexuality is something that makes people — both young men and young women — squeamish. Ordinary men after a certain age are expected to be sweet, sexless eunuchs; not lusty lads with liver spots and wobbly necks, receding hairlines and — the horror! The horror! — erections. And yes, I concede that older women face this on a far worse level (unless they too are rich and famous).

My point is that it’s time to get rid of the term dirty old man. We who are in our fifties, sixties, seventies and beyond are not going into that good night silently and without a struggle. And is it any better to have your bottom pinched or your breasts squeezed by a dirty young man than a dirty old man? I hope not.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

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Show comments
  • terence patrick hewett

    Sexy Senior Citizen, please.

  • CraigStrachan

    Is your interest purely theoretical?

  • Fergus Pickering

    I think the problem, as described by Kigsley Amis, is the older you get the younger they get. Do you find that, Cosmo? Money helps. You got money?

    • Rainbow

      I think your summation in the final sentence kind of sums up the whole “dirty” thing fairly well – there’s nothing wrong with any man, of any age, having an interest in sex. The interest in sex is not abnormal, or “gross” – but having my ass pinched or my tits squeezed by anyone unwelcome, is dirty, and annoying, and greatly unwelcome.

      So, by all means, foster your sexual impulses, but don’t be an asshole about it. Treat a woman well, nurture a relationship, and if sex happens, then think yourself lucky (… unless of course, harlots are your thang.)

      Happy humping!

  • The sadder thing is that there can be no ‘dirty old women’. Nature cuts us off at the knees when men are still considered eligible bachelors (or not bachelors but up for affairs). I have long thought that men had all the advantages, and this is just another of them. To be born female is to draw the short straw.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Not at all, Swanky. Old men are eligible because they are rich. Old men without money are just wrinkled old prunes reduced to flashing at schoolgirls. Except me of course. I am the exception that proves the rule. You know, I’ve often wondered what that means.

      • Kitty MLB

        Old men with money are still wrinkled old prunes,
        they can just afford to buy new toys to play
        with in their older years.
        I suppose older gay men have the same issue.
        When all else fails there is always intellectual prowess,
        less grubby.

        • Fergus Pickering

          Old men need to stop acting as if they were young men. They make themselves ridiculous.

          • Kitty MLB

            Some men do make themselves look ridiculous,
            they can be vain, shallow, empty headed and afraid of growing old, and I suppose there has always been such men.
            Some women are also the same- but they do not grab men I assume-( not the type I mix with) a lack of respect also, and
            dignity.
            Its slightly worse now Fergus because we have an obsession
            with youth, even our embarrassing politicians ‘ hang around
            with young pop stars. Ageing gracefully is clearly not for some.
            Might I just add, young men can also be ridiculous
            have you any idea how uncomfortable it is to have
            a 23 year old boy ( young enough to be a son) with
            a little crush on you, sending poetry and all sorts.
            Husband finds it amusing and says its because of
            the strong resemblance to Audrey Hepburn,pointed
            out that young boy would not have known who she even was. Anyone can be foolish regardless of age,
            but we forgive the young, I suppose.

          • Fergus Pickering

            I would have thought that was not entirely unpleasant, Kitty. No sweet young thing is sending me poetry.

          • Kitty MLB

            I am trying to pursuade him in the direction
            of women his own age, but it just makes him
            worse, I suppose he is sweet.
            I shall find someone suitable to send you poetry.

          • Kitty MLB

            I have decided, the person to do that can only be your
            wife who must be very sweet ( who should also be given a sainthood)
            Not only does she put up with your antediluvian age,
            you are also a Cameroon ( so is my husband, its like belonging to a secret society)
            Also, the colonel mentioned to you yesterday, the fact that
            Fergus suffers from an, how can I put it, begins with the letter
            S, Robert the Bruce had the same issue.
            What den of depravity and debauchment have I wandered
            into 3 weeks ago 😉
            To top it all the Colonel ( who is clearly the font of all knowledge in this place) informs me that
            David Lindsey ( who I know from Conservative home)
            he also posts here, and telemuchus are the same person.
            I shall plague telemuchus/ David Lindsey until
            he reveals himself- unfortunate wording considering
            the nature of this article.

          • Fergus Pickering

            Robert the Bruce suffered from Leprosy.He also killed his enemy in a church. Then there was the spider.

            My wife is indeed a Saint but actually as antediluvian as I am. My daughters are young and beamish however, and far better than I deserve. None of them are likely to write my poetry. I write all the poetry the family needs.

            The Colonel is an all round good egg and will see you right.

          • Kitty MLB

            I know Robert the Bruce suffered from Leprosy,
            and indeed died from it, quite nasty.
            I am a little knowledgeable in regards to history.
            All wives are saints, we need to be, chaps come from a different planet.
            Continue writing poetry, it tends to improve with age,
            although becomes more dark.
            indeed the Colonel is an excellent chap and very informative.
            I have a obscure sense of humour, and if I have just offended
            you I apologise! you just are so very very similar in character
            and style of writing to someone at Con Home-
            who I have known for years- good at getting people mixed up.

          • Fergus Pickering

            Offended? By you, Kitty? Never! You are charm itself.

          • Kitty MLB

            Very gracious of you to say so.
            I do not have the common sense gene,
            and I get myself in the most awful lot of trouble very easily.

      • Sam Martini

        ‘The exception that proves the rule’ uses ‘prove’ in the old sense of ‘test’. This use is still sort of current in the testing of alcoholic drinks which are labelled ‘proof’. It means that a rule work as long as nothing comes along which seems to render it useless, i.e. an exception which tests it.

        • Kitty MLB

          Its also from the Latin ‘Casibus non exceptis’
          ( apologies if slightly wrong)
          ‘ The exception proves the rule not in all cases excepted’
          I suppose that means, there are always unique
          circumstances, and people are unique themselves
          so therefore the rule does not apply to everyone.
          Thank Heavens, not every old chap flashes though-
          it would frighten the horses.

        • Fergus Pickering

          Thank you, Sam. One is never too old to learn.

          • Sam Martini

            You’re welcome. I like to keep this sort of information alive.
            Now, if we could only smack everyone who says, ‘the proof will be in the pudding’ until they stop saying it, I’d be a happy man.

        • Proving yeast before baking is another example.

        • Alexsandr

          they prove guns. There is still a proof house in Birmingham for testing guns. It by the railway as you come into new street from Coventry

  • Kitty MLB

    Men they say improve with age like a decent claret,
    whilst women turn to vinegar .
    I am 48 years of age myself and hope that never will be the case.
    I must also say that Women who live in warmer climates
    perhaps improve better -the sun helps I suppose.
    Also generally women usually prefer the older man,
    They become more interesting when older-even the
    ones we are married too.
    What is quite vile, happens to be the LIb Dem,
    type octopus- yuk.
    Men will also always prefer younger women,
    there is a saying, men always hope they will
    be a womens first love and women always hope
    they will be a mans last love.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Men may improve in many ways with age but:

      I’d never marry an old man. I’ll tell you the reason why.
      His lips are all tobacco juice and his chin is never dry.

      I’ve forgottenn who sang that.

      • Kitty MLB

        I do not know who sang that, Fergus.
        Everything does depend on the age of the older man a
        woman marries- I am 48 and my husband is in his 50s-the right gap!
        The problem I suppose for men is, younger women
        might see them as father figures and the older women
        want to mother them.
        For both sexes, when much older, and looks as well as other
        things have gone, they must hope their inner beauty shines through.
        The hubby finds it amusing that I adore the combination
        of Oscar Wilde ( adore that man), Cicero, Wodehouse, John Redwood, Shelley,
        Alfred the Great, and Galileo- What poor chaps
        have to put up with- no wonder he and others go grey early,
        assuming they have hair.

      • paulvew

        Frank Crummit.

        • Fergus Pickering

          That’s the fellow. On an old 78 with (I think) Abdul Abulbul Ameer on the other side.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Men may improve in many ways with age but:

      I’d never marry an old man. I’ll tell you the reason why.
      His lips are all tobacco juice and his chin is never dry.

      I’ve forgottenn who sang that.

    • Guest

      “you bring your looks to the party and I bring my money. Fine, simple. But here’s the rub, your looks will fade and my money will likely continue into perpetuity…in fact, it is very likely that my income increases but it is an absolute certainty that you won’t be getting any more beautiful!
      So, in economic terms you are a depreciating asset and I am an earning asset.” ~anonymous

    • mik keely

      I prefer the older women to be honest, 50+ is ok with me.
      How can ANYONE ever say that you maybe like a vineager Kitty, grrr, you put them right!

  • Kitty MLB

    Another quick point, what is very disgusting
    happens to be unwanted advances of men
    of any age actually.
    Yet may I say older cougar women are exceptionally
    offputting-you would hope ladies age with grace.
    An interest in sex doesnot disappear with age,
    But you really would not welcome some
    nasty character, male or female thinking they can
    get away with touching you because they are
    quite ancient, so therefore that should be in someway excused.
    Finally, the Bill Roach issue tells us that older men
    can be abused and have their characters destroyed,
    by unspeakable younger women, for whatever reason, and
    sometimes people believe them just because they are young.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Celebrate your sixtieth with a threesome.

    • HFC

      Any suggestions for impending seventieth?

      • tjmac7

        viagra.

        • mik keely

          Cialis, horny goat weed?

  • Liberty

    I am a horny older guy [68] recently separated. I have acquired a gf 20 years younger than me. My female friends are either cool about it, miffed that I haven’t got one my age or wonder why she would be interested in an old guy like me.The guys of my age are either jealous because they have given up on sex [either with young women, their wives or anyone], that I evidently can still perform, get a younger woman and the young ones say good luck to me – as do my children. I have no cues that anyone thinks I’m a dirty old man.

    • Raw England

      Lol : )

    • Sam Martini

      Here’s one for you.

  • Duke Woolworth

    I’m 73 and still like it. My 65YO wife does, too.

    • Sam Martini

      Too much information.

    • Raw England

      Good stuff, old boy.

    • JackBoxall

      Keep it up!!

      • mik keely

        Literally!

  • hoyle

    What on earth is the matter with you spectators?

  • Bonkim

    A little unfair – No problem – same if women in their 70s and 80s take on toy boys.

    Thai-Fraus were popular with older men in Germany and if you have enough dosh you can even send for a mail-order cheese cake.

  • Voton

    You poor bastard. I was never happier than when that obnoxious shouty voice in my head, that had been there since adolescence, finally shut up around my 48th birthday.

    • Whizjet

      I suspect sympathetically that YOU are actually the poor bastard.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    There may be snow on the roof but there’s fire in the cellar.

    • Fergus Pickering

      You are Bollocky Bill the sailor.

    • Julie

      Which is sad, really. I gave up on desire when I realized that no actual human could possibly fulfill it (me not being rich, aristocratic, brilliant etc.).

  • Soxtory

    I never make a move unless the young lass makes the first move; that way I never get rejected. I also don’t close the deal that much.

  • Montesquieu

    With the institutions of freedom, private property, and rule of law in place during the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries, the citizens of the West voluntarily unleashed their abilities and created wealth on a scale never before seen.

  • Bridget

    I know someone in his sixties who is fit and healthy and has sex nearly every day – what is wrong with that? He apparently gets dirty looks when he kisses his lover in public places. Why? Live and let live!

  • rob232

    I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous. People have sexual feelings all their lives. I am 59, married and it has never occured to me that a person of my age should not enjoy an active sex life.
    Women, especially English women tend to be terrible ratbags, and that kind of comment is not entirely out of character. It’s always curious that an older woman who shows interest in sex or has a young boyfriend is made out to be terribly heroic whilst the male equivalent is simply despised.

    • Cyril Sneer

      “t’s always curious that an older woman who shows interest in sex or has a
      young boyfriend is made out to be terribly heroic whilst the male
      equivalent is simply despised.”

      It is the ‘equality’ of feminism apparently.

      It’s ok for women to act like wh0res and break up the family unit… apparently.

  • “I’m nearly 60. I’m still interested in sex. Is that a problem?”

    Well, I’m nearly 54, single, and I think of sex a lot, but I don’t do anything about it, because the human species is not one to USE others for one’s selfish pleasures, otherwise guess what happens to civilization? Take a look around the world, and you’ll see what the decline in Western Civilization has begot the world.

    • Nick Fisher

      Please start taking your medication again

      • “Please start taking your medication again”

        I took the red pill Morpheus offered me, which allows me to see a picture of Lenin’s head and four Soviet nationality emblems next to the masthead of the Russian Ministry of Defense’s official newspaper, which is STILL called “Red Star”. I’m also now capable of seeing the Communist Party of the Soviet Union’s emblem–the distinctive Soviet Red Star–still on Russian military aircraft and naval vessels.

        Would you like me to ask Morpheus to contact you, so that you too may take the red pill and disconnect yourself from the Matrix?

  • Nick Fisher

    Good Lord man ! Why on earth are you even talking to girls of 20 when there are fabulously sexy women in their 30s and 40s spilling out of every bar and restaurant in the land ? Leave the babies to each other and get yourself someone who knows what they want, knows how to get it, and most importantly of all – knows how to tell you !!!

    Regards

    50 year-old divorced male having the time of his life 🙂

    • “50 year-old divorced male having the time of his life :-)”

      Using people like commodities, huh? Now what caused you to follow such a philosophy? Divorced too, I see. You’re following the “plan” perfectly, you know?

      • Cyril Sneer

        “Using people like commodities, huh?”

        Wow what an assumption.

        I’ll make another one on your behalf – the OP is a guy so if he says having the time of his life enjoying singledom and dating then he is using people, according to you. If the OP was female then I’m sure you’ll be saying she is exercising her freedom etc etc and ‘you go girl’.

        Someone who is single and dating isn’t necessarily using anyone.

        • “…having the time of his life enjoying singledom and dating…”

          He’s enjoying others as he would enjoy a can of Coke. That’s not the purpose the opposite sex was created for, and civilization will soon collapse since even those who are using others for sex feel contempt for those who use them for sex. This leads to a corrosive/jaded view of the civilization one inhabits, precisely what Moscow & Allies agents in the West want.

  • GUBU

    You’ll know you’ve finally lost interest in sex when you only take Viagra to stop yourself p#ssing on your slippers…

  • David S

    Chasing people sexually is always a bit grubby, whatever age, gender or orientation you are. When your target has parents the same age as yourself then you must expect them to be disgusted, as you will be reminding them of the unpleasant thought of their parents doing it. It also gives them the impression that all you want to do is get their kit off and are not interested in them as people, which is actually pretty rude and insulting.
    Young people are generally cut more slack than older people as they are usually in better nick physically – it is only natural for people to be less revolted by a proposition from someone they find attractive rather than one they find repulsive – and because people make allowances for their inexperience. We oldies might think it is unfair, but it is understandable.

  • Davidh

    The definition of “dirty old man”, being a perjorative term, is an older man who displays offensive sexual desires. So it’s more a question of perception than motivation and somebody seen as attractive will probably not be considered a dirty old man. Unfair perhaps, but that’s the way it works. The next question is: who is offended? If the dirty old man is offending the object of his desires and refuses to back off then offensive he certainly is. If it’s some other busybody who’s offended by relationships of which they do not approve then they should be told to mind their own bl**dy business.

  • Two Bob

    all blokes should defend dirty old men, we are all destined to become one….

  • Brother John

    I just spent a few years in college doing the “going back” thing, and thus hanging around with lots and lots of 18-25 year olds. Frankly, if I spent any longer there, my head would explode. I’m not by any stretch an “old man” – but I’m too old to be messing about with any of my lovely young colleagues. It’s a depressing thing. On one hand, they wear those damn “leggings” all day long, think very little of it, and flirt constantly, but I had to keep quiet and still lest they smack down the “dirty old man.”

    Makes me want to sit in the garage with the car running.

    • CSLifer70

      Dirty o’l men?! What about these dirty young college lovelies, as you said, wear these yoga pants with a shine and shows every crease and fold, camel toe, and shape of everything else they have, flaunting it all? Plus these college males think nothing of asking a girl to F… and the girls accept. No one should ever call me a dirty ol’ man!!!!!!

  • mik keely

    Good on you Duke!

  • Julie Burchill Raven

    Gosh, what TERRIBLE writing! I for one sincerely hope that Mr Landesman *gets some* if it serves to shut him the fuck up!

    • cbinTH

      Wikipedia says he was born in 1979, which means I, at the same age, must be nearly 60 myself.

      Where did all the time go?

  • CSLifer70

    Dirty o’l men?! What about these dirty young college lovelies, wearing these skin tyoe yoga pants with a shine and shows every crease and fold, camel toe, and shape of everything else they have, no imagination needed, flaunting it all? Plus these college males think nothing of asking a girl to F… and the girls accept. No one should ever call me a dirty ol’ man!!!!!!

  • they call me Jane

    All of this is expressed from the strictly western point-of-view. Go East.

  • Rodger Lodger

    There’s no problem if you don’t give a hoot what other people think of you.

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