JOHN CLEESE ON SEX AND AGEING
FRENCH intellectual Yann Moix made international headlines this week when he said women over 50 were “too old” to love.
The 50-year-old multiaward-winning author caused outrage and was labelled misogynistic, antifeminist, sexist and ageist when, in a Q&A with the French edition of Marie Claire magazine, he said it would be impossible to love a woman of his own age.
“I am incapable of loving a woman of 50,” Moix said. “I find that too old. I prefer younger women’s bodies, that’s all. End of. The body of a 25-year-old woman is extraordinary. The body of a woman of 50 is not extraordinary at all.”
In response to the outcry, Moix said he was just “trying to be honest”.
He said: “I do not see it as a pride, but almost as a curse, one is not responsible for one’s tastes, one’s inclinations”.
Now one of the world’s most famous ladies’ men, John Cleese, has become the latest high-profile name to wade into the controversy.
Speaking to the Sunday Independent at Dublin’s Pendulum Summit, he defended the author, saying: “You see, one of the things that nobody ever talks about with men is the fear of not being able to function, which I have had a couple of times — right after my first divorce — and you get very anxious about whether you can function or not. And that, I feel, is why a lot of men go on about boobs and this kind of thing because if they get sexual stimulation they can function — but the sad thing is that no matter how much you like a woman if you are not as sexually attracted to her, there is nothing you can do about it. You see what I mean? You can’t tell your willy to do what it is not naturally doing.”
Asked if this means he thinks younger women make it easier for men to perform, he said: “I just think that the problem is that as people get older and wrinklier and fatter they do become less attractive physically — but not as people — because if I was dating now, normally I would be dating 50-yearolds because they are so much more interesting.”
More interesting than younger women? “Yes.” But younger women have the better bodies?
“That’s right. People don’t realise that there is a fear I think, and its not talked about, for a lot of men that ‘am I going to be able to get it up?’ and the answer is that a better body helps you to get it up.”
The Fawlty Towers and Monty Python actor has been with both older and younger women throughout his lifetime, while his colourful love life has been the subject of countless front pages.
He has had four marriages — walking down the aisle again even after he paid out £25m in divorce settlements to one ex-wife. Although turning 80 this year, he is currently married to a woman who is 31 years his junior.
Speaking about his age-gap relationship with Jennifer Wade, he says it works because “older people, if they have got their lives half way right, become more mellow. And if you have an anxious partner then it’s much better to be with someone who is mellow.”
He said: Jenny wanted more than anything someone who was steady and funny. Someone who wasn’t going to be thrown all over the place by disasters.”
After many failed relationships he says he now understands how to make things work:
“There are two very simple rules: one is try to be calm and the other is try to be kind. I used to feel that I ought to feel angry or that I was letting myself down by not standing up for myself but what I really discovered is to try to stay calm and kind. It works much better. It’s very simple. That is the distillation of all religions.
He added: “It’s very easy to get into arguments. But it doesn’t get you anywhere. You don’t have to respond. This is true of every relationship. People occasionally say things that upset the other person — but if you don’t respond you won’t get upset. Just keep it to yourself. Most people think that to be authenticyou have to start shouting back. It doesn’t work.”
On his own attitude towards sex, as he gets older, he says: “What I’ve noticed now is that it’s just as enjoyable but I’m not as obsessed by it any more. It’s a much better balance. I think it was Sophocles who said that as he got older he felt as though he had been unchained from the lunatic he had been living with.”
‘As Sophocles aged, he said he felt he had been unchained from a lunatic’
AGE GAP: John Cleese, above, and with partner Jennifer Wade, left, who is 31 years younger.