“Like a sexy knitting bee” The midlife women bringing the world real sex stories

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Sex attitudes

Marie-Louise Cochrane found herself in midlife three years ago when her marriage ended.

“I thought about what I was keeping and what I was letting go of at this time in my life. I find it interesting that adults leave behind parts of themselves to be acceptable. The second part of life is about reintegrating the pieces that you left behind, and finding those that you need.

Cochrane started to search for conversations around sex on dateblocker.com (for dirty roullete. But she found that the type of conversation she wanted, the kind with open, honest stories, was rare. “I had an idea. I wanted to hear women talk about the good stuff in sex. But that didn’t happen so I set up this project. I would tell women whom I met at networking events, at church, at work, that I was collecting happy stories about sex. Either one of the two women would respond with, “Wow, that’s amazing!” or they might back off and be a bit shocked.

She observed that anyone who was interested would have an impressive reaction. “People would start laughing and giggling, and the energy would increase in the room. It was evident that the women were being given permission.

Heidi Docherty, a poet and comedian friend, was one of the first to join her cause.

Docherty recalls she was invited to dinner by Docherty. “I think I was half through a potato, when she said, ‘I have a proposal. It’s all about women’s sexuality. At first, I thought I was coming to dinner.

Docherty, who is a professional storyteller, was no stranger to performing that gives off a frisson. Parma Violence, Mel & Sue-type comedy duo she was part of, included Docherty.

Red Velvet Revelry began to emerge from the stories that Cochrane had been collecting. The Scottish Storytelling Festival commissioned them to create their current show. This includes their own stories and others, and they hope to go further. It is called Ladies Who Like It. It was created by Docherty and features stories from a range of women, including a swinging teacher, a disabled activist, a BDSM advocate, and many others. Cochrane shares her personal story of Ann Summers’ first visit.

Cochrane states that the invitation to listen is not limited to women. It is also open to anyone who cares about women and their stories.

Cochrane has a fascinating background. Cochrane is a former Catholic church secretary and drug counsellor. Over many years she has been telling stories around food for children as Mrs Mash, a well-known children’s storyteller.

Shouldn’t there be more transparency on the subject? Cochrane acknowledged that “maybe someone woman already talks about these things”. However, Cochrane states that “maybe someone women already talk about these things”. It’s a mix of happy stories and slightly funny songs that makes the show so unique. They ask them questions such as, What is wrong with me? How can I ask for what you want?

Their goal was reaching a diverse group and inviting them to tell their stories. “I had some stories of younger women, but most of the happy stories I received were from older women. That is partly due to the fact that I am an older woman.

“I have a lot more beautiful stories from women older than myself. I think it’s because older women feel more comfortable with their sexuality when they reflect on their sexual journeys.”

It’s not about erotic content for her. It’s about sharing and living a life. This site was created to allow women to hear other women’s stories. If these stories are similar to you, that is a confirmation of your own experience. If it’s not, and it’s told in a humane and warm way, it can encourage women to think about it and say, “Oh, I hadn’t thought about that. I’d love to try that.”

Cochrane had been working as a storyteller for 16 years prior to starting the project. She says she never went to a storytelling event with explicit sexual content throughout all that time. “There are many traditional stories with sexual content. However, right now sex in Scottish storytelling is not part the culture.”

Sex storytelling isn’t dead. SmutSlam International, an American phenomenon, holds events around the globe. Cameryn Moon created it as “a global community of dirty-storytelling open mics, events, and events”. It gives audience members the opportunity to fill out a bucket and stand on stage with a real-life story of sex.

Cochrane saw a SmutSlam at the Edinburgh Fringe. The event was hosted in Safari Lounge. Cochrane found it to be “very sex-positive”, but unlike her other events, it is “outrageous”, and has “got more” of an edge.

“This is more Edinburgh… it’s a warm invite to talk about sexuality, a safe space. It’s not full of dirty stories. It’s not telling stories out of school. It’s not being rude to your partner. It’s women being free to look at their own experiences and decide what they like or don’t.

Ladies Who Like It even has a title that suggests a soft-spoken attitude. It is more fur coats and naeknickers than hardcore. Cochrane says that “the context is that I am an Edinburgh-born woman and so for me get up to tell stories with sexual contents has an edge.”

Families break down the taboo about menopause

“We are not so sexually confident we could do this in our sleep. It’s not that simple. This is something we feel is important and we are willing take the risk of being vulnerable. Plus, all of the women who have shared their stories with us were a bit vulnerable.”

Docherty describes it as something akin to a “sexy knit bee”.

If you are going to discuss storytelling about sex, then the Vagina monologues must be mentioned. Eve Ensler’s classic 1996 play is a must. Cochrane remembers that her 82 year-old mother hosted a reading in support of the Southside Community Centre four years ago.

She says that it was a courageous thing she did and she considers herself a role-model. “But the Vagina monologues are very difficult to listen. I don’t know much of the language so it is hard to hear. This is because of the warmth. This is a warm tone.

It is also important to note that few events have been held in similar venues for male sex storytelling. A gathering of men to share honest, vulnerable and open stories about their sex lives, and how they feel about it, is a rare sight. Sex has traditionally been a male industry. Most of the time, it was dominated by women. Many of the most prominent figures in sex-advice are women, such as Esther Perel. Helen Fisher. Tracey Cox. Women are also trying new ways of telling more honest stories on TV, such as Sharon Horgan’s Catastrophe or Michaela Colel’s I May Destroy You.

img alt=”HeraldScotland – Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan” src=”https://www.heraldscotland.com/resources/images/13088109.jpg?type=article-full” title=”HeraldScotland: Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan. “/>

Cochrane notes that, although Ladies Who Like It focuses on positive stories, such as stories about evolution, celebration and transformation, Cochrane has observed that not all of her conversations with women were about “happy stories.” Some of them, she said, were “not as happy”.

She points out that those stories are very important and must be shared. “But if a person is in an abusive relationship, how do they talk about it? If you can’t talk about sex?” That, she believes, should be one of the reasons for promoting sex discussion. “Sex is not something we should be discussing. This is a problem that society faces.

A woman suffering from punk disabilities

Penny Pepper wrote one of the stories for the show. She is an activist and writer. Cochrane said that Pepper was raised as a punk. It’s part her whole identity. She wasn’t just a disabled lady, she was also a punk disabled girl. She was a writer with her own sex life. She is now open to talking about it.

Pepper was interviewed by me for Still Hot!, a book about the menopause. She was strong in her message about representations in erotic literature. “Disabled females having sex are not something you read about and we should do it,” she stated. “It should be visible for all disabled people. It needs to be told as a story. It is a story from the great and contradictory melting pot that is humanity. Every human being has a right to their place in the story.

The most important thing in sexual relationships is how we talk about it. Cochrane says that during the initial stages, she met a man who she has since developed a friendship with. As a “subconscious check”, the first thing she did was to mention what she was working on. “I told her I was working with a project on happy stories of sexuality for women, and the fact he didn’t flinch as we continued to have an informed and interesting conversation was a clear sign that this was a man worth talking to.”

The result, she claims, is that she’s now in “a very conscious adult relation of two people who are capable of talking about it fully”. In her very first days of having sex, she broached even the subject.

Docherty considers that working on the series has changed her life. “Marie Louise has helped me feel more alive. She has been very courageous, and she has found a new sense of sexuality and sensuality. I came up with the idea that motherhood is a transitional period. Also, we lose a little bit of our sexuality as well as our sensuality. However, as grown-ups, we are starting to rewaken. We’re sort of returning to our former selves. We’re reblossoming.”

She and Cochrane remember the messages they received as teenagers – the exhortations for being a “good girl”

Docherty said that her mother had given her only one piece in sex education. The world has changed dramatically since they were teenagers. Docherty and Cochrane both admit that they have tried their best to openly discuss sex with their sons, Docherty having two, while Cochrane three. Docherty notes that the situation is not always rosy with young people. There is still little discussion of female pleasure. “There is an enormous amount of pressure on young girls now to be sexualized, and they are being pressurized by the growing number of pornography available. It is becoming harder and more difficult to find good pornography.”

Cochrane points out that part the problem is that adults who act as parents or guides for the young people, are “grown adults who don’t have permission” to talk about such things.

Her hopes are that people leave the show feeling more comfortable in sex. This would be a positive impact on young people’s lives.

The story collection aims to be diverse. However, the two are, in fact, strikingly, two middle aged women creating a show sex. They do it at a point in their lives when most people think we should stop talking about the subject. Sex in midlife is still taboo even though there are television series like Wanderlust starring Toni Colette and Sex In The City, which continues to explore midlife.

Libido decreases in many women after menopause as well as for many men during midlife. It is not difficult to see that many people would rather not have sex as the center of their universe.

Many can relate to Kristin Scott Thomas’s memorable Fleabag response. “Honestly darling, can’t even be arsed. “I’m going home to have one more Martini.

Research shows there is a strong connection between healthy sex and a better quality of life. According to one study published in the Annals of Family Medicine Communication is key to whether women remain sexually active beyond their mid-life years. TraceyCox, a sex specialist, starts her book Great Sex At 50 with four tips. The final tip is that we “talk sex”. She observed, too, how many couples stop having sexual relations in their mid-life years.

It is important to understand what Docherty, Cochrane and others are doing. They are starting conversations. They are helping to open up dialogue about this complex topic. Cochrane stated, “I’d love it if people went home feeling like, “Oh, I’m going talk to my partner or to my friends more about homosexuality.” She hopes that what they’re doing will help women and their partners (male and female) to open up the conversation. I hope people will start to talk about sexuality.

Ladies Who Love It will be attending the Scottish Storytelling Festival at Edinburgh, October 19

READ MORE

Sex attitudes

Marie-Louise Cochrane found herself in midlife three years ago when her marriage ended.

“I thought about what I was keeping and what I was letting go. I find it interesting that adults leave behind parts of themselves to be acceptable. The second part of life is about reintegrating the pieces that you left behind, and finding those that you need.

Cochrane started to search for conversations about sex. However, she found that the kind Cochrane was looking forward to, which was the kind of honest, open talk, were not very common. “I thought that women should talk about the good stuff in sex. I was not finding that information so I started the project. I would tell women whom I met at networking events, at church, at work, that I was compiling happy stories about sex. Either one of the two women would respond with, “Wow, that’s amazing!” or they might back off and be horrified.

She noticed that anyone who was interested would have an immediate reaction. “The energy would increase in the room, and people would start giggling or laughing. I felt that the room was allowing women permission.

Heidi Docherty, a friend, poet, and comedian was one of the many people she recruited to her cause. Heidi now visits her Edinburgh home for a rainy-day chat.

Docherty says that Docherty invited her for dinner. “And I think I was just halfway through a potato, when she said, ‘I have a proposal. It’s all about women’s sexuality. At first, I thought I was coming to dinner.

Docherty, who is a professional storyteller, was no stranger to performing that gives off a frisson. Parma Violence, Mel & Sue’s comedy duo that she was part of, has been her previous experience.

Red Velvet Revelry began to emerge from the stories that Cochrane was collecting. Their current show has been commissioned to them by the Scottish Storytelling Festival. It incorporates both their own stories and those from other women. The aim is to go further. It is called Ladies Who Like It. It was created by Docherty and features stories from a range of women, including a swinging teacher, a disabled activist, a BDSM advocate, and many others. Cochrane tells her story about Ann Summers, her first visit.

Cochrane states that the invitation to listen is not only to women, but to all people who care about them and their stories.

Cochrane has a fascinating background. Cochrane has served as a Catholic priest secretary and a counselor on drugs. She is also a well-known storyteller for children, Mrs Mash.

Shouldn’t there be more transparency on the issue? Cochrane admits to Cochrane that “maybe someone else women already talk about such things”. However, Cochrane states that “maybe someone women already talk about these things”. It’s a mix of happy stories and slightly funny songs that makes the show so unique. They ask them questions such as, What is wrong with me? How can I ask for what you want?”

Their goal was reaching a wide range of women to invite them to share their stories. “I had some stories to share from younger women, but most of those who were willing and able to tell me happy stories were older women. That is partly because I am an older woman.

“I have many beautiful stories of women much older than me. I think it’s because older women feel more comfortable in their sexuality, and are more open to reflecting on their sexual journeys.”

It’s not about erotic content for her. “It’s about living experience and sharing – it’s made for women to listen to other women’s stories. If these stories are similar to you, that is a confirmation of your own experience. If it’s not and it’s told warmly and with humanity, it can encourage a woman to say, “Oh! I hadn’t thought that – that would be great!

Cochrane had been working as a storyteller for 16 years prior to starting the project. She was a professional storyteller for 16 years when she started the project. However, she says she had never been to an event featuring sexual content. “There are many stories with sexual content that were told in the past. However, sex is not a part of Scottish storytelling at the moment.”

Sex storytelling does exist, but it’s not the case that it isn’t. SmutSlam International, an American phenomenon, holds events all around the world. Cameryn Moon created it as “a global community of dirty-storytelling open mics, events, and events”. It gives audience members the opportunity to fill out a bucket and stand on stage with a real-life story of sex.

Cochrane saw a Smut Sham when it was presented at the Edinburgh Fringe. The event was held in Safari Lounge. Cochrane found it to be “very sexy positive”, but unlike her previous events, it is “outrageous”, and has “got more” of an edge.

“This is more Edinburgh…it’s warmly inviting to talk about sexuality, a safe environment. It’s not full of dirty stories. It is not telling stories at school. It’s not being disrespectful to your partner. It’s about women being free to look at their own experience and decide what they like or don’t.

Ladies Who Like It even has a title that suggests a soft-mannered attitude. It’s more fur coat, nae jeans, than hardcore. Cochrane states, “The context of the book is that I am a Scottish-born woman and it gives me an edge to tell stories about sexual content.”

Families Breaking the Menopause Taboo

“We’re not sexually confident enough to be able to do it in the comfort of our own beds. It’s not that simple. This is something we believe is important, so we’re willing take the risk and be a little vulnerable. A lot of the women who have shared their stories with us were a bit vulnerable.”

Docherty describes it as something akin to a “sexy knit bee”.

If you are going to discuss storytelling about sex, then the Vagina monologues must be mentioned. Eve Ensler’s classic 1996 play is a must. Cochrane remembers that her 82 year-old mother hosted a reading in support of the Southside Community Centre four years ago.

She says that it was a courageous thing she did and she considers herself a role-model. “But the Vagina Monologues is difficult to listen. Even the language can be difficult for me because it is unfamiliar. This is because of the warmth. This is a warm tone.

It is also important to note that few events have been held in similar venues for male sex storytelling. A gathering of men to tell their honest, vulnerable and open stories about their sex lives, and how they feel about it, seems more rare than usual. Sex has traditionally been a female-dominated field. Many of the most prominent figures in sex-advice are women, such as Esther Perel. Helen Fisher. Tracey Cox. Women are also trying new ways of telling more honest stories on TV, such as Sharon Horgan’s Catastrophe and Michaela Cooper’s I May Destroy You.

img alt=”HeraldScotland – Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan.” src=”https://www.heraldscotland.com/resources/images/13088109.jpg?type=article-full” title=”HeraldScotland: Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan. “/>

Cochrane notes that, although Ladies Who Like It focuses on positive stories, such as stories about evolution, celebration and transformation, Cochrane has observed that not all conversations she’s had with women were about “happy stories.” Some of them, she said, were “not as happy”.

She says that these stories are important and must be shared. She says, “But if your abusive relationship isn’t allowed to talk about sexuality, how can you talk about it?” This, she believes to be one of the reasons to encourage all discussion about sex. “If we are unable to talk about sex, then we have all the other things that we can’t discuss.” This is a problem that society faces.

A woman who is a bit of a punk addict

Penny Pepper wrote one of the stories for the show. She is an activist and writer. Cochrane says, “She was raised a punk,” and that’s part her whole identity. She wasn’t a blind woman. She was a writer with her own sex life. She is now open to talking about it.

Pepper was interviewed by me for Still Hot!, a book about the menopause. She was strong in her message about representations in erotic literature. “Disabled females having sex are not something you read about and we should do it,” she stated. It needs to be visible for others with disabilities, and it should be told as a story. It’s a story of the great, but contradictory melting pot humanity. And each human being deserves to be included in it.”

The most important thing in sexual relationships is how we talk about it. Cochrane says that she first met a man while working on the project. She has since developed a friendship with him. As a “subconscious check”, the first thing she did was to mention what she was working on. “I told her I was doing a project on happy stories of sexuality for women, and the fact he didn’t flinch as we continued to have an interesting conversation was a clear sign that he was worth my time.”

She claims that the result is that she’s now in a “very conscious adult relation of two people who can fully discuss it”. In those early days she even brought up the issue of having sex during her period.

Docherty considers that working on the series has changed her life. “Marie Louise has helped me feel more alive. She’s brave and has discovered new sexuality. I came up with the idea that motherhood is a transitional period. Also, we lose a little bit of our sexuality as well as our sensuality. However, as grown-ups, we are starting to rewaken. We are kind of returning to our former selves. We’re reblossoming.”

Both Cochrane, she and Sheila recall the messages they received as teenagers – the exhortations for being a “good girl”.

Docherty said that her mother had given her only one piece in sex education. The world has changed dramatically since they were teenagers. Docherty and Cochrane both admit that they have tried their best to openly discuss sex with their sons, Docherty having two and Cochrane three. Docherty notes that the situation is not always rosy with young people. There is still little discussion about female pleasure. “There is an enormous amount of pressure on young girls now to be sexualized, and they are being pressurized by the pornography that has become increasingly accessible and more extreme.”

Cochrane points out that part the problem is that adults who act as parents or guides to their young children are “grown adults, who still don’t have permission for this stuff to be discussed.”

Her hopes are that viewers feel more confident in their sexuality and this would help them to speak to young people.

Although they are trying to tell a variety of stories, the two women are strikingly middle-aged and creating sex shows. They do it at the age when people think we should be quieter about the topic. Sex in midlife is still taboo even though there are television series like Wanderlust (starring Toni Colette) or Sex In The City (which continues its journey into middle life), which attempt to bring it to the public’s attention.

Women’s libido decreases with age, just as it does for men. It is not difficult to see that many people would rather not have sex as the centre of their universe.

Many can relate to Kristin-Thomas’s memorable Fleabag rebuff. “Honestly darling, can’t even be arsed. I’m going home to have one more Martini.

Research shows there is a strong connection between a healthy sexual life and a better quality of life. According to one study published in the Annals of Family Medicine Communication is key to whether women remain sexually active beyond their mid-life years. TraceyCox, a sex expert and author of Great Sex starts at 50, shares four top tips. The last tip is that we “talk sex.” She observed, too, how many couples stop having sexual relations in their mid-life years.

It is important to understand what Docherty, Cochrane and others are doing. They are beginning a conversation. They are helping to open up dialogue about this complex topic. Cochrane stated, “I’d love it if people went home feeling like, ‘Oh. I’m going to talk to my partner or to my friends more about homosexuality.'” I believe what we’re doing can open up that conversation for both men and women, nonbinary and gender-neutral. I’m hopeful that people will start to talk about sexuality.

Ladies Who Love It will be in Edinburgh at the Scottish Storytelling Festival on October 19

READ MORE

Atitudes towards sex

WHEN, three years ago, Marie-Louise Cochrane came to the end of her marriage, she found herself in midlife, reflecting on all her beliefs, including her attitudes towards sex.

“I thought, what am I keeping and what am I letting go of at this stage of life? I’m interested in this idea that in adulthood you leave parts of yourself behind to be acceptable, and that the second half of life is about reintegrating them, about finding those bits that you left behind.”

Cochrane started to seek out conversations around sex – and found that the kind of talk she was looking for, the kind of frank, open stories, were rare and few. “I had this idea that I would like to hear women talking about the happy stuff around sex. But I wasn’t coming across that so I started this project. I would tell women that I met at networking events, or at church, or through work that I was collecting happy stories around sex. Either women would respond with, ‘wow that’s amazing’ and often they would go on and tell a story or they would back off and be a bit horrified.”

Those that were interested, she observed, would have quite a striking reaction. “The energy would go up in the room and people would start giggling and laughing. I had a real sense that there’s something here about giving women permission.”

Among the people she enlisted to her cause was friend, poet and comedian, Heidi Docherty, in whose Edinburgh home she now sits for a rainy afternoon chat.

“She invited me for dinner,” Docherty recalls, “and I think I was about halfway through a potato when she said, ‘I’ve got a proposal. It’s about women’s sexuality.’ I thought I was just coming for dinner.”

Docherty, a professional storyteller, wasn’t a newcomer to performance that delivers a frisson. She had been part of Mel and Sue-type comedy duo, Parma Violence.

The two soon formed Red Velvet Revelry, a series of storytelling and music events around women and sex, based on the tales that Cochrane was collecting. Their current show, which has been commissioned by the Scottish Storytelling Festival, incorporates their own stories and those of other women, and aims to reach further. Titled Ladies Who Like It, it is, says Docherty, “the permission slip to talk about sex”, and includes stories from a diverse range of women including a swinging schoolteacher, a disabled activist, a BDSM advocate and others. Cochrane tells her own story about her first visit to Ann Summers.

“The invitation to listen,” adds Cochrane, “is not just to women, but to those who care about women and their stories.”

What’s fascinating, partly, is Cochrane’s background. She has been a Catholic church secretary and a drugs counsellor, and for many years she has told stories, for kids, around food, as the popular children’s storyteller, Mrs Mash.

Aren’t we all more open about the issue already? Cochrane acknowledges that “maybe someone women do already talk about these things”. But, she says, “There are whole subsections of women who are not talking about it for various reasons. One of the things about the show is we’ve got these happy stories and some slightly humorous songs. They ask questions like, Is there something wrong with me? How do I ask for what I want?”

Their aim was to reach a diverse group of women and invite them to tell their stories. “I had some stories from younger women but most of the people who were willing to tell me their happy stories were older women, partly because of the age that I am.

“I have a lot of beautiful stories from women who are a lot older than me and I think there’s something around older women being more comfortable with their sexuality, in reflecting on their sexual journeys.”

For her, this isn’t about erotic content. “It’s about lived experience and sharing – it’s created for women to hear other women’s stories. If those stories are similar to your own then that confirms your own experience and if it’s different to yours and it’s told with a humanity and warmth, it can allow a woman to think, ‘Oh, I hadn’t thought about that – I’d like to try that.’”

Cochrane had been a professional storyteller for 16 years when she started the project. In all that time, she observes, she had never been to a storytelling event that had sexual content. “There are lots of traditional stories where there must have been sexual content in the past, but right now sex is just not part of the culture in Scottish storytelling.”

It’s not that sex storytelling doesn’t exist at all globally. The North American phenomenon Smut Slam International, for instance, runs events around the world and describes itself as is “a global network of community dirty-storytelling open mics and events, created by Cameryn Moore”. It provides a space in which audience members can put their name in a bucket and have the chance to stand up and tell a real-life sex story on stage.

Cochrane attended a Smut Slam when the event came to the Edinburgh Fringe, and was hosted in the Safari Lounge and found it “very sex positive”, but that unlike her own events it is “outrageous” and has “got more of an edge”.

“This is a more Edinburgh version…it’s a warm invitation to talk about sex, a safe space. It’s not dirty stories. It’s not telling tales out of school. It’s not being disloyal to your partner. It’s women being able to reflect on their own experience, what they like and what they don’t like.”

Even its title, Ladies Who Like It, suggests a mild-mannered attitude that’s more fur coat, nae knickers than explicit hardcore. “The context is that I am a woman who has been born and brought up in Edinburgh and so for me to get up and tell stories with sexual content has an edge,” says Cochrane.

Families busting menopause taboo

“We’re not so sexually confident that we could do it in our sleep. It’s not like that. This is something that we think is important so we’re willing to take the risk of doing that and being a bit vulnerable. Plus all the women who have told us their stories have been a bit vulnerable.”

Docherty describes it as a bit like “a sexy knitting bee”.

Any discussion of storytelling about sex, of course, has to include the 1996 classic play by Eve Ensler, the Vagina Monologues. Cochrane recalls that four years ago her 82-year-old mother organised a reading as a fundraiser for women’s groups at the Southside Community Centre.

“That was quite a brave thing to do, so she’s a bit of a role model,” she says. “But the thing about the Vagina Monologues is it’s quite hard to listen to. Even some of the language is difficult because I’m not used to it. This is different because of the warmth. This is a warm tone.”

It’s also worth noting that there are few similar events around male sex storytelling. A bunch of men gathering to tell frank, vulnerable, honest stories about their sex life and how they feel about it seems like even more of a rarity. Talking honestly, rather than boasting, about sex has mostly been a female field. The vast majority of high-profile figures in the sex advice world are women: Esther Perel, Helen Fisher, Tracey Cox. Women are also finding new ways to tell ever more frank stories on TV, from Sharon Horgan’s Catastrophe to Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You.

HeraldScotland: Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan.

Though Ladies Who Like It is mostly an upbeat show, with stories on themes like transformation, evolution and celebration, Cochrane observes that not all of the conversations she has had with women have been about “happy stories”. Some, she says, have been “not so happy”.

“Those stories are important and need to be witnessed,” she notes. “But if you’re in an abusive relationship how do you then talk about it if you’re not allowed to talk about sex?” This, she believes, is one of the reasons to encourage all conversation about sex. “If we can’t talk about sex then here are all these other things we can’t talk about. That’s a problem for society.”

A punk disabled woman

One of the stories in the show is from Penny Pepper, an activist and writer of explicit fiction, including the collection Desires Reborn. “She was brought up a punk,” says Cochrane, “and that’s part of her whole identity. She wasn’t just a disabled woman, she was a punk disabled woman. She was a writer with a sex life and she is willing to talk about her sex life and she’s written a book of erotic stories with characters who are disabled.”

I have interviewed Pepper myself, for my book about the menopause, Still Hot! and was struck by the strength of her message about representation in erotic literature. “Disabled women having sex is not a thing you read about and it’s time that we did,” she said. “It needs to be there for other disabled people, it needs to be there as a story, needs to be shown for endless reasons. It’s a story from the great, contrary melting pot of humanity. And every human being deserves their place in it.”

How we talk about sex is of most importance within our sexual relationships. Cochrane recalls that during the early stages of the project she met a man with whom she has since forged a relationship. The first thing she did, as a “subconscious test” was mention what she was working on. “I told him I was doing this project about women’s happy stories of sexuality, and the fact that he didn’t flinch and we went on to have an interesting and informed conversation was a real sign to me that here was a man who was worth speaking to.”

The result is, she says, she is now in “a very conscious adult relationship of two people who are able to talk about it fully”. She even, in those very early days, broached the subject of having sex during her period.

Docherty feels that working on the show has been life-changing. “Marie-Louise has reawakened a sense of blossoming for me because she’s been very brave and she’s found a new sexuality and sensuality in her life. I had this idea that other day that when we become mothers we become mums. And we lose a bit of our sensuality and our sexuality. But we are reawakening now with having grown up children. So we’re kind of going back a little bit to our former selves. We’re reblossoming.”

Both she and Cochrane recall the messages they absorbed in their childhood and teenage years – the exhortations to be a “good girl”.

“Just be careful,” observes Docherty, was the one piece of sex education her mother gave her. Things obviously have moved on since their teenage years and they both talk about having done their best to be frank about sex with their now adult sons – Docherty has two, Cochrane has three. But, Docherty observes, things are not exactly rosy for young people either. There is still relatively little talk of female pleasure. “There is quite a lot of pressure now to be over-sexualised and for young girls to be pressurised by the large amount of pornography that has become so accessible and is becoming more hardcore.”

Cochrane observes part of the problem is that even now the adults who are parents or guides to the young people are “grown adults who still don’t have permission to talk about this stuff.”

Among her hopes is that people will leave the show feeling more comfortable about sex and themselves, and that would have an impact on speaking to young people in their lives.

Though their story-collecting aims to be diverse, the duo are of course, strikingly, two middle-aged women creating a show about sex – and doing it at the point in life when, according to popular view, we’re supposed to quieten down about the subject. Sex in midlife and older is still a relative taboo, even in spite of attempts by television series like Wanderlust, starring Toni Colette, or Sex In The City on its continuing journey into midlife, to bring it to our screens.

HeraldScotland: CHANNEL FOUR TELEVISION.124 HORSEFERRY ROAD.LONDON SW1P 2TX.0171 306 8685..C4 - .Sex in the City..FREE OF CHARGE FOR CHANNEL FOUR PROGRAMME PUBLICITY ONLY..

Libido does, of course, lessen for many women during the menopause, as it does for many men in midlife. There’s no denying that many people are quite happy not to make sex the centre of their universe.

Many would relate, for instance, to the memorable rebuff a menopausal Kristin Scott-Thomas delivers in Fleabag. “Honestly, can’t be arsed, darling. I’m going to go back to my room and have one more Martini.”

But research has shown that there’s a strong link between a healthy sex life and higher quality of life as individuals age. Communication, according to one study from the Annals of Family Medicine, has been found to be a key factor influencing whether women keep sexually active after midlife. In her book, Great Sex Starts At 50, sex expert Tracey Cox begins with four ultimate tips, the last of them being that we “talk about sex”. She observes too, that in midlife, many couples stop having sex without even talking about it.

What Docherty and Cochrane are doing in other words is key. They are starting a conversation. They are helping us talk about this, for many, difficult subject. “I would love it,” Cochrane says, “if people went away feeling, ‘Oh, I’m going to speak to my partner or my friends more about sexuality.’ I’m hoping what we’re doing will open that conversation for women and their partners, male and female, and nonbinary. I’m hoping this will help people talk about sex.”

Ladies Who Like It is at the Scottish Storytelling Festival in Edinburgh on October 19

READ MORE: “There is still a silence around the menopause… We need to get rid of that.”

Atitudes towards sex

WHEN, three years ago, Marie-Louise Cochrane came to the end of her marriage, she found herself in midlife, reflecting on all her beliefs, including her attitudes towards sex.

“I thought, what am I keeping and what am I letting go of at this stage of life? I’m interested in this idea that in adulthood you leave parts of yourself behind to be acceptable, and that the second half of life is about reintegrating them, about finding those bits that you left behind.”

Cochrane started to seek out conversations around sex – and found that the kind of talk she was looking for, the kind of frank, open stories, were rare and few. “I had this idea that I would like to hear women talking about the happy stuff around sex. But I wasn’t coming across that so I started this project. I would tell women that I met at networking events, or at church, or through work that I was collecting happy stories around sex. Either women would respond with, ‘wow that’s amazing’ and often they would go on and tell a story or they would back off and be a bit horrified.”

Those that were interested, she observed, would have quite a striking reaction. “The energy would go up in the room and people would start giggling and laughing. I had a real sense that there’s something here about giving women permission.”

Among the people she enlisted to her cause was friend, poet and comedian, Heidi Docherty, in whose Edinburgh home she now sits for a rainy afternoon chat.

“She invited me for dinner,” Docherty recalls, “and I think I was about halfway through a potato when she said, ‘I’ve got a proposal. It’s about women’s sexuality.’ I thought I was just coming for dinner.”

Docherty, a professional storyteller, wasn’t a newcomer to performance that delivers a frisson. She had been part of Mel and Sue-type comedy duo, Parma Violence.

The two soon formed Red Velvet Revelry, a series of storytelling and music events around women and sex, based on the tales that Cochrane was collecting. Their current show, which has been commissioned by the Scottish Storytelling Festival, incorporates their own stories and those of other women, and aims to reach further. Titled Ladies Who Like It, it is, says Docherty, “the permission slip to talk about sex”, and includes stories from a diverse range of women including a swinging schoolteacher, a disabled activist, a BDSM advocate and others. Cochrane tells her own story about her first visit to Ann Summers.

 

“The invitation to listen,” adds Cochrane, “is not just to women, but to those who care about women and their stories.”

What’s fascinating, partly, is Cochrane’s background. She has been a Catholic church secretary and a drugs counsellor, and for many years she has told stories, for kids, around food, as the popular children’s storyteller, Mrs Mash.

Aren’t we all more open about the issue already? Cochrane acknowledges that “maybe someone women do already talk about these things”. But, she says, “There are whole subsections of women who are not talking about it for various reasons. One of the things about the show is we’ve got these happy stories and some slightly humorous songs. They ask questions like, Is there something wrong with me? How do I ask for what I want?”

Their aim was to reach a diverse group of women and invite them to tell their stories. “I had some stories from younger women but most of the people who were willing to tell me their happy stories were older women, partly because of the age that I am.

“I have a lot of beautiful stories from women who are a lot older than me and I think there’s something around older women being more comfortable with their sexuality, in reflecting on their sexual journeys.”

For her, this isn’t about erotic content. “It’s about lived experience and sharing – it’s created for women to hear other women’s stories. If those stories are similar to your own then that confirms your own experience and if it’s different to yours and it’s told with a humanity and warmth, it can allow a woman to think, ‘Oh, I hadn’t thought about that – I’d like to try that.’”

Cochrane had been a professional storyteller for 16 years when she started the project. In all that time, she observes, she had never been to a storytelling event that had sexual content. “There are lots of traditional stories where there must have been sexual content in the past, but right now sex is just not part of the culture in Scottish storytelling.”

It’s not that sex storytelling doesn’t exist at all globally. The North American phenomenon Smut Slam International, for instance, runs events around the world and describes itself as is “a global network of community dirty-storytelling open mics and events, created by Cameryn Moore”. It provides a space in which audience members can put their name in a bucket and have the chance to stand up and tell a real-life sex story on stage.

Cochrane attended a Smut Slam when the event came to the Edinburgh Fringe, and was hosted in the Safari Lounge and found it “very sex positive”, but that unlike her own events it is “outrageous” and has “got more of an edge”.

“This is a more Edinburgh version…it’s a warm invitation to talk about sex, a safe space. It’s not dirty stories. It’s not telling tales out of school. It’s not being disloyal to your partner. It’s women being able to reflect on their own experience, what they like and what they don’t like.”

Even its title, Ladies Who Like It, suggests a mild-mannered attitude that’s more fur coat, nae knickers than explicit hardcore. “The context is that I am a woman who has been born and brought up in Edinburgh and so for me to get up and tell stories with sexual content has an edge,” says Cochrane.

 

Families busting menopause taboo

“We’re not so sexually confident that we could do it in our sleep. It’s not like that. This is something that we think is important so we’re willing to take the risk of doing that and being a bit vulnerable. Plus all the women who have told us their stories have been a bit vulnerable.”

Docherty describes it as a bit like “a sexy knitting bee”.

Any discussion of storytelling about sex, of course, has to include the 1996 classic play by Eve Ensler, the Vagina Monologues. Cochrane recalls that four years ago her 82-year-old mother organised a reading as a fundraiser for women’s groups at the Southside Community Centre.

“That was quite a brave thing to do, so she’s a bit of a role model,” she says. “But the thing about the Vagina Monologues is it’s quite hard to listen to. Even some of the language is difficult because I’m not used to it. This is different because of the warmth. This is a warm tone.”

It’s also worth noting that there are few similar events around male sex storytelling. A bunch of men gathering to tell frank, vulnerable, honest stories about their sex life and how they feel about it seems like even more of a rarity. Talking honestly, rather than boasting, about sex has mostly been a female field. The vast majority of high-profile figures in the sex advice world are women: Esther Perel, Helen Fisher, Tracey Cox. Women are also finding new ways to tell ever more frank stories on TV, from Sharon Horgan’s Catastrophe to Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You.

HeraldScotland: Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan.

Though Ladies Who Like It is mostly an upbeat show, with stories on themes like transformation, evolution and celebration, Cochrane observes that not all of the conversations she has had with women have been about “happy stories”. Some, she says, have been “not so happy”.

“Those stories are important and need to be witnessed,” she notes. “But if you’re in an abusive relationship how do you then talk about it if you’re not allowed to talk about sex?” This, she believes, is one of the reasons to encourage all conversation about sex. “If we can’t talk about sex then here are all these other things we can’t talk about. That’s a problem for society.”

A punk disabled woman

One of the stories in the show is from Penny Pepper, an activist and writer of explicit fiction, including the collection Desires Reborn. “She was brought up a punk,” says Cochrane, “and that’s part of her whole identity. She wasn’t just a disabled woman, she was a punk disabled woman. She was a writer with a sex life and she is willing to talk about her sex life and she’s written a book of erotic stories with characters who are disabled.”

I have interviewed Pepper myself, for my book about the menopause, Still Hot! and was struck by the strength of her message about representation in erotic literature. “Disabled women having sex is not a thing you read about and it’s time that we did,” she said. “It needs to be there for other disabled people, it needs to be there as a story, needs to be shown for endless reasons. It’s a story from the great, contrary melting pot of humanity. And every human being deserves their place in it.”

How we talk about sex is of most importance within our sexual relationships. Cochrane recalls that during the early stages of the project she met a man with whom she has since forged a relationship. The first thing she did, as a “subconscious test” was mention what she was working on. “I told him I was doing this project about women’s happy stories of sexuality, and the fact that he didn’t flinch and we went on to have an interesting and informed conversation was a real sign to me that here was a man who was worth speaking to.”

The result is, she says, she is now in “a very conscious adult relationship of two people who are able to talk about it fully”. She even, in those very early days, broached the subject of having sex during her period.

Docherty feels that working on the show has been life-changing. “Marie-Louise has reawakened a sense of blossoming for me because she’s been very brave and she’s found a new sexuality and sensuality in her life. I had this idea that other day that when we become mothers we become mums. And we lose a bit of our sensuality and our sexuality. But we are reawakening now with having grown up children. So we’re kind of going back a little bit to our former selves. We’re reblossoming.”

Both she and Cochrane recall the messages they absorbed in their childhood and teenage years – the exhortations to be a “good girl”.

“Just be careful,” observes Docherty, was the one piece of sex education her mother gave her. Things obviously have moved on since their teenage years and they both talk about having done their best to be frank about sex with their now adult sons – Docherty has two, Cochrane has three. But, Docherty observes, things are not exactly rosy for young people either. There is still relatively little talk of female pleasure. “There is quite a lot of pressure now to be over-sexualised and for young girls to be pressurised by the large amount of pornography that has become so accessible and is becoming more hardcore.”

Cochrane observes part of the problem is that even now the adults who are parents or guides to the young people are “grown adults who still don’t have permission to talk about this stuff.”

Among her hopes is that people will leave the show feeling more comfortable about sex and themselves, and that would have an impact on speaking to young people in their lives.

Though their story-collecting aims to be diverse, the duo are of course, strikingly, two middle-aged women creating a show about sex – and doing it at the point in life when, according to popular view, we’re supposed to quieten down about the subject. Sex in midlife and older is still a relative taboo, even in spite of attempts by television series like Wanderlust, starring Toni Colette, or Sex In The City on its continuing journey into midlife, to bring it to our screens.

HeraldScotland: CHANNEL FOUR TELEVISION.124 HORSEFERRY ROAD.LONDON SW1P 2TX.0171 306 8685..C4 - .Sex in the City..FREE OF CHARGE FOR CHANNEL FOUR PROGRAMME PUBLICITY ONLY..

Libido does, of course, lessen for many women during the menopause, as it does for many men in midlife. There’s no denying that many people are quite happy not to make sex the centre of their universe.

Many would relate, for instance, to the memorable rebuff a menopausal Kristin Scott-Thomas delivers in Fleabag. “Honestly, can’t be arsed, darling. I’m going to go back to my room and have one more Martini.”

But research has shown that there’s a strong link between a healthy sex life and higher quality of life as individuals age. Communication, according to one study from the Annals of Family Medicine, has been found to be a key factor influencing whether women keep sexually active after midlife. In her book, Great Sex Starts At 50, sex expert Tracey Cox begins with four ultimate tips, the last of them being that we “talk about sex”. She observes too, that in midlife, many couples stop having sex without even talking about it.

What Docherty and Cochrane are doing in other words is key. They are starting a conversation. They are helping us talk about this, for many, difficult subject. “I would love it,” Cochrane says, “if people went away feeling, ‘Oh, I’m going to speak to my partner or my friends more about sexuality.’ I’m hoping what we’re doing will open that conversation for women and their partners, male and female, and nonbinary. I’m hoping this will help people talk about sex.”

Ladies Who Like It is at the Scottish Storytelling Festival in Edinburgh on October 19

 

READ MORE: “There is still a silence around the menopause… We need to get rid of that.”

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