An ethnographic study of older men’s sex lives #workproposal #sexuality #men #oldermen

I have had many web domains in my time.  The majority never amounted to anything.  The one I am most proud of was – in hindsight, sad hindsight, miserable hindsight – an indiscreet and unethical blog in the extreme, and thus had to be recently removed and fully destroyed.

One of the main interests and drivers of that website was, however, honourable in its desire to tell truths about an age group most of society treats disparagingly – at least with respect to its feelings, emotional interior and sexual wants.  I am talking about late-middle-aged men: men who remember their youths from rather way back, and who still want to be reminded of their wonder.

Or maybe in my case, as it turns out, never the former; rather, for the first time.  As the blogsite I am most proud of revealed over the two years it operated, my own life has been a sexual wilderness – nothing to be proud of at all.  Hardly ever hugged, never kissed with real desire, tolerated as a man with coldly unwanted needs … that is the life I have lived for around thirty years.

Some things have been pretty cool.  Three fabulous children, now all adults of real promise in their chosen fields of endeavour.  Being there for them, and enabling intellectual and emotional growth.  Understanding and learning about a new society through their young eyes and sharp visions.

But in both sex and work, my life has been a dreadful failure: something I would never want another soul to suffer.

So.  Where does this take us?  What might we do?

The thought surely then arises: have others suffered the same?  Are they doing so right now?  And if so, in what proportion?  Can we maybe reach usefully into the reality of older men’s sex lives, using research tools I learnt about last year at Liverpool John Moores University?  Is, perhaps, an ethnographic approach a way forwards for an ageing society bombarded at all levels with certain mores – almost righteous expectations – around sex-related behaviours?  An ethnographic approach which goes far beyond my own auto-ethnography – primitively and sometimes grossly carried out in the last twenty-four months – and which hopefully serves to deliver a much more universal comprehension of the potential for sadness and loneliness which older men may currently be suffering from, at least in the matter of their aforementioned sexual needs and wants.

What happens when you have no access to physical love?  What happens when your family practically conspire to keep you locked into unsatisfactory relationships?  Where do you turn when all the people who form your familial environment prefer to cover your reality up in cold-survival mode – never contemplating change and truth?  And when you do turn to porn or sex chat or casual relationships, how does that make men – who all their lives attempted to do what is right – feel about their selves for the rest of the life they’ve been assigned to?

It’s a project worth contemplating, for sure.  But this time round, I would be far tougher with respect to the ethical side.  I would still have the urge to communicate via auto-ethnography, for I am a writer and writers must write about the human condition from the perspective of their own humanity.  That, at least, in my confessional case, is my experience to date.  Perhaps if I was a writer of a different bent, I might be able to avoid all the pain.  But right now, unless I abandon auto-ethnography altogether, I honestly am finding it difficult to see how.

I must, however, strive to for sure, if only to avoid pain to others.  If I choose to suffer, I choose.  If simultaneously I make others suffer in parallel, whatever their blame or otherwise with respect to my ontological and emotional universe, then I am hardly going to ever cover myself in glory.

Either way, of course, it is true that I am much more fearless than I used to be: my recent MA at LJMU changed me forever in this, and serious attempts to intimidate me in matters of cyber-security, web- and Internet-related crimes on my individual person, the hacking of my digital and offline landscapes, and other – many other – aspects of my recent experience, have only pushed me further in my resolve to resist and fight back.  A life of investigative observation and writing was never going to be easy: but I never asked for an easy life, just a fulfilling one.

So let’s say today’s work proposal has legs which need to be run.  I have a spare web domain – fit, I think, for purpose.  At the moment it uses a theme by WordPress itself, which allowed me in 2015, via its highly interactive behaviours, to set up a potential competitor to Facebook.  Yes.  My hubris knows no bounds.

Neither my curiosity!

🙂

The domain is wonder.wtf.  The initial work proposal is beginning to take shape.  If it happens – and subject to consultation, input and amendment by interested others – it will be an environment, already duly recorded and marked by WordPress as mature, for older men to begin to build an organic and separate space to discuss their feelings around sexual desire, activity, sadness, loneliness – and then, even, a happiness of sorts, where this too may gently become a given.

A place, in truth, which a Paulo Freire might feel truly proud of.

A place of growing self-awareness and political person.  A place to recognise needs and wants which a commercialised society is cruelly choosing to fulfil through the exchange of money and favour.  There may, equally, exist notable exceptions: commercial doesn’t have to mean cruel; and profit can drive sustainable dynamics and kindnesses too.  But my sense, from my experiences over the past two years, is that there must be so many older men whose sexuality is utterly ignored; who are made to feel ashamed of their emotions in these respects; and who become so unnecessarily bitter about their lives, as they resort to quite unsatisfactory means and tools which – in their rapacious consumerism – make them feel taken advantage of over and over again, in places and spaces where they are at their most vulnerable.

One thing I am unsure about: how to give it the legs it needs.  Should I try and get university-level funding for this project, or would a kind of hybrid approach – using charities with existing community-outreach experience – be a better, more efficient, more viable and more accessible way forwards?

What do you think?

What do you really think?  Am I the only older man – unembraced, unhugged, unloved as he would prefer, untouched to the point of tears during years that amount to almost three decades – who occupies this rock in these ways?  Or are there more of you out there – more of you experiencing the same?

What do you think?

What do you really think?

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