The fifth episode of the "Sex and the City" reboot "And Just Like That..." finally showed a main character having sex. It also showed a reality viewers are rarely exposed to in media — moms over 50 having the best orgasms of their lives.
Warning: spoilers ahead.
In the episode, Miranda Hobbs (Cynthia Nixon) has sex with Che Diaz (Sara Ramirez), who is a comedian, podcast host, and Carrie Bradshaw's (Sarah Jessica Parker) boss. The pair hook up in Carrie's kitchen while she recovered from hip surgery — a steamy scene that lead to Miranda both orgasming and admitting that she is unhappy in her marriage to Steve Brady (David Eigenberg).
In the following and latest episode, Miranda admits that she is fantasizing about Che during a mid-day picnic with friends Carrie and Charlotte York-Goldenblatt (Kristin Davis.) The threesome are drinking non-alcoholic beverages after Miranda comes clean about her drinking problem and quits cold-turkey.
"I seem to have replaced too much drinking with obsessive masturbation. Is it menopause you think, or is it just my compulsive personality?" Miranda jokes. She goes on to say the encounter with Che was "the most alive" she had felt in years.
Dr. Lucy Hutner, a New York City-based reproductive psychiatrist and specialist in women’s mental health, says fictional depictions of moms over 50 openly expressing and enjoying their sexuality are invaluable, and can actually benefit moms' mental health.
"So much of what we see and hear makes it seem as though any mother, especially a mother over 50, can’t embrace and enjoy their sexual lives," Hutner tells TODAY Parents. "It shows us that all women, no matter what their age, no matter if they are mothers are not, can enjoy sex, can feel desirable, and can be desired." Hunter says that women over 50 being sexual on screen can also emphasize the fact that "enjoyment of sexual pleasure is not about whether you have a youthful body or not," and gets to the core of what it means to have a sexual life — intimacy.
Katy Leopard, 53, a mom of three living in Tennessee, says that she has never felt more sexy or sexual than she does now, yet rarely does she see older mothers having sex onscreen.
"I felt a lot of sexual freedom in my late 40s, early 50s," Leopard tells TODAY. "I don't know if it was pent up demand or some rise in testosterone during menopause, but, for me, I feel very free. I'm able and willing to talk about what I want and how I want it, and I'm owning my sexuality in a way that I didn't when I was younger."
Leopard says that even though there are a number of beautiful, talented actors over 50 — Susan Sarandon, Jennifer Lopez, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Helen Mirren, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton — she doesn't think there are enough storylines that show older women, or even just older people, having enjoyable sex.
"I love to see older people, in general, being portrayed as sexual beings," she explains. "I mean, we're all sexual beings — that's part of being human and it's a part of how we are fulfilled and connect with each other. And I think the lack of representation for older people is a result of ageism, yes, but also this lack of just an intrinsic societal value of age and experience."
A March 2021 analysis of representation in media found while women overall account for 38% of onscreen time on television, women over 50 make up just 8%, even though they represent 20% of the population. One 2020 study, released by TENA in partnership with the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media at Mount Saint Mary’s University, found that no women over 50 were cast in leading roles in 2019’s top films. When older women did appear, they were cast as stereotypes — 33% were seen as stubborn, 17% were unattractive, 32% were grumpy, and 18% appeared unfashionable.
"Women over 50, and particularly mothers over 50, can feel totally invisible," Hutner says. "It’s as though to the outside world, their sexual desires and sexual lives shut down once they had children. And approaching peri-menopause, the sense of invisibility just grows."
According to Hutner, this societal erasure can negatively impact women's mental health, especially if they "start to internalize these ideas and, in turn, devalue themselves."
"When women over 50, particularly mothers over 50, reclaim their right to a sexual life, it is deeply empowering," she adds. "It becomes about giving themselves the permission to have pleasure, not just about what the outside world does or does not think. It’s empowering from the inside out."
Leopard says she has always been open with her three children, ages 21, 19, and 17, about sex — including the sex she's having post-divorce. She has no problem letting her children know that, yes, she's having sex, and, no, they can't bug her when the bedroom door is closed.
"I came out of my divorce at 47, and when I started dating I was like, 'I need to have sex right now.' I wanted to have all the sex in the world," she adds. "I'm in a wonderful pandemic romance, he spends the night here at my house, and we're just all very open about it." Leopard adds that she regularly and consistently talks to her kids about the sex they're having, too, and is committed to having open, ongoing, judgment-free discussions about sex, sexuality, and relationships.
"We're beginning to see that we're wired for connection from cradle to grave, and recognizing that people can be sexual even in their 80s and 90s," Dr. Megan Fleming, a clinician specializing in sex and relationships practicing in New York City for over 20 years, tells TODAY. "Some women have the best sex after 50 because they're no longer thinking about getting pregnant. They often have more time on their hands, they might be empty nesters, and they have more financial means to potentially invest either in sex therapy or good exquisite sex education."
TODAY’s 2014 “This is 50” survey found that more than half of men and women participants ages 50 to 59 wished they were having more sex. The survey, which conducted online interviews among a sample of 1,470 online adults ages 45-69, also found that over a third of people in their 50s say they have sex a few times a week or month, and nearly one-quarter of the group weren't having sex at all.
Fleming says that it's important for people to know that when it comes to sexual expression, they're their own expert.
"It's also a choice to not be sexual," she adds. "I don't think people are missing out on levels of expression and experiences that are really pleasurable if they're not having sex. People just don't have role models or the sense of permission to have sex later in life."
Fleming believes that "And Just Like That..." has an opportunity to provide women over 50 with the representation they not only need and deserve — an opportunity she was initially afraid the show's writers passed up after viewing the first few episodes.
"It seemed like the only one who initially was having sex was Brady, and it was striking how uncomfortable Carrie was talking about masturbation. And with Samantha, it was as if sexy sirens in their 60s are only viable in the UK," she explains. "I wasn't seeing that sense of permissiveness, at least in the main characters, in the first few episodes. And 'Sex and the City' is really known for raising the discourse and sort of advancing intersexuality narrative in its prime. I hope it continues to do so."