[UPDATE: An anonymoius guest left a comment on 29 August advising that Alina Cho was substituting for Betty Nguyen on this news report. Since trying to verify this has proved difficult, I am taking the guest's word for it and have edited the text accordingly.]
CNN was a distant drone in the kitchen as I changed beds Saturday morning with the help of Ollie the cat. We were having a good game of it and then, something on TV about the first extensive study on late life sexuality grabbed me.
What followed from CNN Saturday Morning anchors
Betty Nguyen Alina Cho and T.J. Holmes, labeled “Frisky Seniors” at the bottom of the screen, was a real rib-tickler report about elder sexual activity. Punctuating their remarks with smirking asides and rolling of eyes, the anchors didn't even try to control their guffaws.
Much was made of how the poor old dears might hurt themselves - pull a muscle or bruise their skin - in their silly attempt to continue an activity they should have given up years ago. Pillows is the answer. Pillows, advised the correspondent, to more faux-suppressed laughter from the anchors.
It is not possible to overstate the crude, lewd tone of the CNN story, more suitable to Saturday Night Live in the days of John Belushi than a news program. Little information was transmitted among all this hilarity.
At the end of the 90-second piece Mr. Holmes, pretending to have lost control of his laughter, walked off the set leaving Ms.
Nguyen Cho, her disgust at the idea of elders and sex on full, loutish display, to finish the segment with this knee-slapper of a punchline to the correspondent: “You bring this to us as we’re just waking up and having our coffee?”
Riiiight - elder sex is a smutty howler, isn't it, on the order of schoolyard jokes about farting in church.
Although continued sexual activity into old age is not news to elders, the study is important to healthcare professionals who are only somewhat more likely than CNN anchors to be informed about it. Physicians do not commonly ask elders about their sex lives.
No one watching CNN on Saturday morning could guess that the study is a “goldmine” of data, as one of the authors noted when it was published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine. It was conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Toronto, and partially funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
3005 Americans (1550 women; 1455 men) age 57 to 85 gave detailed descriptions of their sexual activities. Among the findings, according to CNN.com’s more rational, online print report are:
“Sex with a partner in the previous year was reported by 73 percent of people ages 57 to 64; 53 percent of those ages 64 to 75; and 26 percent of people 75 to 85. Of those who were active, most said they had sex two or three times a month or more.”
“More than half of men and a quarter of women said they had masturbated during the previous year, a figure that remained constant whether they were sexually active or not.”
“Half of people having sex reported at least one related problem. Most common in men was erection trouble (37 percent); in women, low desire (43 percent), vaginal dryness (39 percent) and inability to have an orgasm (34 percent).”
- CNN.com, 22 August 2007
This is the first study to be conducted nationally in the U.S. with older people from the general population.
“’There’s a large perception out there that sex somehow does not occur in the later years, and this study demonstrates authoritatively that for many people sexual activity does not diminish much at all,’ said Robert N. Butler, president of the International Longevity Center in New York who, with his late wife, Myrna I. Lewis, wrote Love and Sex After 60.
“’Human relationships are important to the very end,’ said Butler, who was not involved in the study.”
- The New York Times via The Orlando Sentinel, 23 August 2007
Obviously, CNN does not see it that way.
Media ageism is common but rarely as blatant as this mockery of journalism from CNN's
Betty Nguyen Alina Cho and T.J. Holmes. And it is worse than just two blow-dried anchors whose prejudice against elders is showing. Their employers, the producers, executives and owners of CNN, apparently share their anchors' bias; they thought the NguyenCho/Holmes report was so good, they repeated it on Saturday evening so even more people could share every crude snigger and jeer.
Isn’t it hilarious that elders have the need and desire for sex - along with the love and comfort that accompany it - just like people at every other age in life.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, an update on its growth and development during its first five months.]