Over the past 24 hours, social media has been abuzz with interpretations of the infamous Madonna/ Drake kiss which took place at Coachella on Sunday evening. The on-stage lip-locking, which is not a first for Madonna (Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, anyone?) has resulted in a fair amount of public backlash, mainly due to the repulsed reaction of Canadian rapper, Drake. The 28-year-old, who was on the receiving end of the intimate moment, appears noticeably disgusted by the 56-year-old’s actions, and seemingly caught by much surprise.
In witnessing the various memes and responses that have circulated in the media following the incident, I can’t help but notice the sexism and ageism underpinning these reactions. Despite the age difference between Drake and Madonna, what has become perceptible in much of the public reaction to the kiss is the underlying disgust surrounding older women’s sexuality more generally. As a 56-year-old woman engaging in an overtly sexual act with a younger man, Madonna has received much criticism. In this case one must ask: at what point does the display of women’s sexuality become taboo, or, moreover, at what age do women become asexual beings? One only has to look at men such as Hugh Hefner, who is lauded for his accumulation of younger, beautiful women, to see the inconsistencies inherent in this attitude.
For decades, Madonna has built upon and exploited her image as a prominent sex symbol in popular culture, one for which she can attribute a degree of her success. So at what stage did Madonna become ‘too old’ for this sexualisation and worthy of condemnation for ‘not acting her age’? The interconnection of sexuality and age here is a curious thing, with older, self-sexualising women often labelled rather derogatorily as ‘cougars’ or ‘MILFs’. Are we able to draw a line in the sand, a universal ‘cut-off’ point for sexual behaviour in women’s lives? If so, what age is most suitable and how do we, as a society, determine such an age?
While there have been great gains for women regarding their sexuality since the second-wave feminist movement, this rather candid on-stage moment (and blatant publicity stunt) brings to the fore the remaining gaps in our society’s acceptance and understanding of female sexuality. Although I pray for Drake’s full recovery after such an onslaught of impromptu intimacy, I can’t help but applaud Madonna for challenging the lingering traces of sexism that continue to overshadow older women’s sexuality. After all, sex and ageing are natural facets of the human condition. If a 54-year-old Kim Kardashian decides to do a 20 year anniversary photo shoot of her renowned ‘champagne glass on ass balancing act’, I’ll be the first to support it, on principle alone.