Aging “Hot”: Images and Narratives of Sexual Desirability on Television

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As women age, their sexual desirability is likely to diverge from what is presented as most coveted in American society: youthful, slim but curvy, firm, and fit. Media rarely feature actresses over the age of 50 as leading characters and when they do, they are usually relegated to caretaker or partner roles and they usually conform to gender traditional stereotypes. However, more recently, there have been a few television programs that focus specifically on older women’s sexualities and feature plotlines that center on their desire and desirability. The premise of the program Hot in Cleveland is that desirability is in the eye of the beholder. Using a comedic format, the show highlights the tensions between media and celebrity fueled standards for desirability and “real life” desirability. In this paper, based on a close analysis of five seasons of Hot in Cleveland, we explore these competing messages about midlife and older women’s appearance and sexualities and the way comic framing both challenges and reinforces dominant narratives of aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)462-478
Number of pages17
JournalSexuality and Culture
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Cultural Studies


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