VENUS AFTER FORTY: Sexual Myths, Men's Fantasies, and Truths About Middle-Aged Women by Rita M. Ransohoff

VENUS AFTER FORTY: Sexual Myths, Men's Fantasies, and Truths About Middle-Aged Women

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A clinical psychologist details causes for ""the double-standard on aging"" and the deleterious effects it has on both sexes--particularly women. Ransohoff also reveals how male rejection of middle-aged women is reflected in mythology and how it permeates our culture through literature, the media, advertising, and sexist jokes. An infant, Ransohoff says, has ""a double image"" of the mother. Before 18 months, it ""cannot grasp the idea that the image of the loving and giving mother comes from the same person who gets angry and frustrates him."" As a young boy struggles to separate himself from his mother and achieve autonomy, he may fantasize that her ""evil"" persona will encompass him in her vagina or (because she lacks a penis) may castrate him. In middle age, with sexual drive and proficiency slowly ebbing, many men experience a subtle resurfacing of these fantasies. They tend to think of mature women as sexually undesirable, regarding them as ""battle-axes,"" sexually voracious predators, or (conversely) asexual, nurturing types. Ransohoff demonstrates how these fantasies permeate mythology of all cultures--as witches, as repulsive crones who enslave men by becoming beautiful maidens, or as good fairies, etc. She demonstrates how our youth-obsessed culture sends out constant messages that men grow more desirable with age, women less so. She winds up (somewhat lamely) with case histories of couples who have maintained a strong relationship throughout the years and of women, past and present, who have remained vital (with or without men) into middle and old age. A somewhat Jungian amalgam of psychology, mythology, and modern culture that helps illuminate the reasons for our sexual bias toward aging.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1987
Publisher: New Horizon--dist. by Macmillan