Let’s talk about sex: Couples strip off for billboards celebrating the joy of intimacy in later life

Rankin has photographed real people for Relate charity’s stereotype-challenging campaign

Relate: Roger and Chrissie. Photograph courtesy of Rankin/Relate

Relate: Roger and Chrissie. Photograph courtesy of Rankin/Relate

 

They’re meant to start a conversation about the joy of sex and intimacy in later life. But, as one observer points out, they might stop the traffic instead.

Rankin, the renowned photographer known for his portraits of Kate Moss, Madonna and David Bowie, among others, has photographed five naked couples and a women for billboards across Northern Ireland and Britain for Relate, the relationship-support charity. It hopes its Let’s Talk the Joy of Later Life Sex campaign will challenge stereotypes about older people.

In one of the posters a woman clutches her face in pleasure next to the words “You’re never too old to play with toys.” In another a man kisses his partner’s neck with the caption “Over the hill. And the table. And the sofa.” Two men embracing appear next to the lines “Some men discover they love golf. Some men discover they love men.” And a couple clinched in an embrace are captioned “Things can take longer when you’re older. Brilliant.”

You’re never too old to play with toys: Margaret in one of Rankin’s Relate billboards
‘You’re never too old to play with toys’: Margaret in one of Rankin’s Relate billboards
Some men discover they love golf. Some men discover they love men: Mark and Andrew in one of Rankin’s Relate billboards
‘Some men discover they love golf. Some men discover they love men’: Mark and Andrew in one of Rankin’s Relate billboards
Over the hill. And the table. And the sofa: Arthur and Daphne in one of Rankin’s Relate billboards
‘Over the hill. And the table. And the sofa’: Arthur and Daphne in one of Rankin’s Relate billboards
Things can take longer when you’re older. Brilliant: George and Lynn in one of Rankin’s Relate billboards
‘Things can take longer when you’re older. Brilliant’: George and Lynn in one of Rankin’s Relate billboards

The billboards all feature real people rather than models. Andrew and Mark, for example, have been together for 31 years; Daphne and Arthur say they still hold hands when they walk.

Rankin says: “The simple fact is, we all need intimacy now more than ever – and age really is just a number. The greatness of love and affection – the very things we can’t stop writing books, films and pop songs about – doesn’t need to change as we find our later years.”

Margaret. Photograph courtesy of Rankin/Relate
Margaret. Photograph courtesy of Rankin/Relate
Arthur and Daphne. Photograph courtesy of Rankin/Relate
Arthur and Daphne. Photograph courtesy of Rankin/Relate
Mark and Andrew. Photograph courtesy of Rankin/Relate
Mark and Andrew. Photograph courtesy of Rankin/Relate
Lynn and George. Photograph courtesy of Rankin/Relate
Lynn and George. Photograph courtesy of Rankin/Relate
Billie and Cora. Photograph courtesy of Rankin/Relate
Billie and Cora. Photograph courtesy of Rankin/Relate

“It may seem as though it’s only young people with ‘perfect’ bodies having sex and being intimate, but of course this isn’t true,” says Gail Thorne, a Relate sex therapist. “In reality, ‘sex and intimacy in later life’ means different things to different people: for some it’s about exploring new and different sexual experiences, and for others it’s simply about feeling able to express emotion through a gentle touch or kiss on the cheek.

“What we’re trying to do today is open up a society-wide conversation about the fact that sex and intimacy – whatever that might mean – can be as important for older people as it is for anyone else. We see every day in our sex-therapy services how not feeling able to talk openly about needs and desires can lead to a lack of fulfilment and be damaging for individuals’ self-confidence and couples’ relationships. This is what we want to change.”

Relate Northern Ireland is at 028-90323454 (048-90323454 from the Republic of Ireland)

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