Beyond the heteronormative model
Much of this literature on aging and sexuality assumes a heterosexual model of sexual relations. We get a rare insight into female-female sexual relations from the Japanese maker of pornographic films, Hamano Sachi (Hori 2011: 109), who dislocates the heteronormative model of sexuality in Lily Festival (Yurisai, 2001), her lively film about the sexuality and desire of older persons. Hamano presents a series of episodes about the romantic interactions of residents, ranging in age from 69 to 91, who live in the same apartment building. The film begins by featuring the female residents’ competition to attract the sole male resident and closes with an exploration of an intimate relationship between two women, which develops into a female-to-female sexual experience. The film introduces a wide range of intimate relationships among women, from friendship to lesbianism. Hamano is one of the few commentators on senior sexuality who has called into question the notion that sexual activity necessarily involves a man; her work is a valuable intervention into a field that mostly presumes a heteronormative model of sexual relations (see Hori 2011: 109—36; see also Stickland, in press, on care facilities for gay and lesbian elders).
In his study of older gay men (tongzhi) in Hong Kong, Travis Kong discusses the challenges experienced by older persons who are homosexual. He states that older gay men in Hong Kong find it more difficult to engage in sexual activity than heterosexual men, because often they do not have a private space of their own to engage in sex. Also, they may still not have disclosed their sexuality to family, friends, and neighbours. The decriminalisation of homosexuality in Hong Kong in 1991, and the subsequent emergence of bars, clubs, spas, and bathhouses exclusively for tongzhi (gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered) consumption, has arguably given the tongzhi a stronger and more positive sense of belonging, and has, according to Kong, also led to a transformation in the tongzhi’s public image, from a ‘citizen-pervert’ to a ‘good consumer citizen’ (Kong 2012: 908). Still, this emerging gay world is highly exclusive, and places a high priority on being wealthy and young. Older tonzghi, in their sixties, complain of the obsession with youth that prevails in these spaces; they say these bars and clubs discriminate in terms of age. Few gay saunas welcome older persons; instead they privilege muscular, athletic, and youthful bodies. As a consequence, these older gay men end up abandoning these spaces altogether and retreating into their private lives.