Getting Older as a Woman and the Myth of Sexual Market Value

Getting Older as a Woman and the Myth of Sexual Market Value

A younger female friend of mine who had recently gone through a breakup was being very anxious about getting older and worrying about what this would do to her ability to find a partner one day.

I was thinking about this and the responses she was getting to her concerns on Twitter all day yesterday and trying to decide what the real subjective impact of getting older is really going to be on my life in general. Some of the responses were... grim. A lot of discussion of sexual market value (or SMV).

And I don’t really want to get into a debate about SMV or whatever because obviously it’s pretty self evident that when women are viewed through a very narrow romantic/reproductive male-oriented lens focused on reproduction without caveats, it’s linear.

But so much of the negative response to the real and normal fears of getting older and still finding a satisfying partner (that we all have) is along the lines of “women, marry quickly, because your value is rapidly declining and you’ll regret missing a kids/husband window.”

And while this might be true if you have a very personal and specific goal to create a nuclear family situation with kids, you may also... not.

And it’s far from a guarantee that you’ll be happier married with children.

I know lots of people who are married with children and kind of miserable and jealous of the people who are single/partnered without kids in their 30s and 40s. To be clear, kids are a big sacrifice that you should REALLY know you want. Don’t just roll the dice on that.

Which is not to judge or condemn anyone for wanting that! That’s also really awesome and special and cool. It’s just not the only option. You’re not doomed to a life of misery, becoming more and more invisible, just because you didn’t get married and have kids in your 20s.

I’m not wish-casting for myself here. I’m specifically thinking of cool, older women I know who are interesting and fun and attractive and doing awesome things with their lives and (most importantly) having a BLAST doing it.

My friend Tracey, my aunt, my grandma.

And when I think about their lives, I feel like the overwhelming takeaway that makes me think they’re awesome is that they just define the terms of their own happiness and are really satisfied with their friendships and activities.

Not one of those women would complain about “becoming less visible” or “men treating them less well than when they were 22”. I mean, they probably noticed it, but also they were just like “okay that’s a little different and I’m still happy to live my life.” 🤷‍♀️

And like yeah it’s fun and nice to have people be nice to you and buy you a drink once in a while and whatever.

But if this is what your whole life is about to the point where you’re devastated when people stop trying to constantly fuck you maybe you should rethink your life.

I think for most women this isn’t the case anyway.

That trope about expiration is a scary thing people strawman around that makes single people feel scared when they’re down a little.

But you get to determine the bounds of your own goals and happiness! In fact, women in their 40s and 50s that I meet tend to be some of the most well-adjusted, happiest people I run into.

Their lives do not seem to be, at least externally, curses of unending unlovable misery.

Probably because by the time you’re 40 or 50 you’ve been around long enough to reject some of the more harmful messages about women that society throws at you and you’ve learned how to live your life in a way that you’re happy with, surrounding yourself with friends/lovers.

I think about my grandma specifically a lot when this topic comes up. She married young (17), had three kids, and is now in her 70s. When my grandpa was 54 and she was 50, he died of pancreatic cancer.

Her kids at that point were all grown and off living their own lives, most of them several states away from her. She lived by herself in the country farmhouse she bought with my grandpa. The normal narrative would say she should be lonely and sad, maybe propped by family.

But actually this was just the start of a new chapter for my grandma. She moved to Florida and made awesome new friends and got a job in a jewelry store and volunteered for the VA and met a new husband and started a prom dress sewing business.

And yeah she also had her family around her down there but not like every minute of every day. It wasn’t her sole source of joy in life. She had to learn to recreate that after the death of her husband for herself, which she did admirably.

And she did this all in her 60s! What do you think your SMV is in your 60s folks? Perhaps we should take this to mean that maybe one’s “SMV” is a very negative and silly designation that ignores a whole range of things that make relationships rich and fun and rewarding.

All this to say that when people go “I am annoyed and upset that people keep telling me I expire at 30” and the response is “well you do” I just want to very strongly point out that this is only true through one very narrow and specific lens.

And the idea that if you don’t partner up and have kids before 30 that you are doomed to some kind of miserable invisible existence where everyone is an asshole to you is just... not true. ❤️