Body of the Year: Helen Mirren

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If you hear about a celebrity best-body survey and roll your eyes thinking “It’s just going to be a bunch of cookie-cutter 20-somethings, so who cares?” think again. 

At 66, Dame Helen Mirren was named Body of the Year in a survey survey by international fitness chain LA Fitness. The UK’s Daily Mail reports that Helen beat out Elle McPherson, Jennifer Lopez and Pippa Middleton in the eyes of 2,000 gym-go-ers. McPherson, who is 48, placed second. 

First of all, thank you Helen and Elle for proving that getting old doesn’t mean surrendering to some inevitable, invisible sexlessness, and that others don’t see age before beauty. 

Second, Helen’s victory isn’t an isolated homage to maturity. It seems like every day another story pops up celebrating the sexiness of growing older, like Bio’s Hot, Famous and Forty, episode featuring foxes like Rob Lowe and Halle Berry. Likewise the ‘cougar’ phenomenon doesn’t seem to be a phenomenon but a settled-in part of culture, with a third of American women dating younger men according to MSN New Zealand, reporting on a BBC survey. MSN says younger men seek out older women not just to fulfill some “Stiffler’s mom” fantasy, but for their “depth, maturity and spirit,” according to psychologist an “expert on cougar relationships” Fayr Barkley. (If it’s getting more common, I personally hope one day the ‘cougar’ label – and it’s predatory implications – will get dropped).

Finally older people are putting their health and attractiveness to good use: it’s widely acknowledged now that sex not only doesn’t disappear with age, but it gets better. Author Jayme Waxman, writing on The Stir, enumerates the reasons why via a Kinsey Institute study. We get more comfortable and expressive with age, Waxman writes in a piece called “Your Mom Has a Better Sex Life Than You Do.” Also men’s testosterone levels drop, making them more “cuddly” so that “we can take our time to get off.” Menopause also helps a lot: freedom from periods and potential pregnancy is evidently a major aphrodisiac. 

Another incredibly encouraging find: this video, “Never Too Old,” from SexSmart Films about a sex ed class at the Senior Summer School on the University of Wisconsin, Madison campus. The class is an explicit discussion of sexual facts, techniques and issues and when it was almost cut from the curriculum there was a gray uprising to bring it back. The  interest and participation is evident as the camera takes us to sit in on a class. Watch for the 81 year-old lady who jokes about starting a bordello so older women can pay to enjoy the attention of young guys…in their 50’s. 

That young whippersnapper Helen Mirren has plenty to look forward to.

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