Julie Burchill On Gerontophilia

Julie Burchill On Gerontophilia

I'm not easily shocked but I did have a slightly pop-eyed moment when I saw a photograph of the 71-year-old John Cleese apparently biting his beautiful blonde 40-year-old girlfriend's bum. It wasn't the age difference that shocked me. It was the fact that they got together only two years ago, when she was in her 30s and he in his 60s.

I'm a whopping thirteen years older than my husband, but we got together when I was a fine(ish) young(ish) thing (definitely a THING) of 35 and he was 23. We've grown up together, sort of, so that now, on holiday, when people mistake me for his mum, it not only makes me laugh but makes me mischievous to the extent that I'll say that I am, and then put on a very little bit of a PDA by the swimming pool in front of the sticky-beaks after a nice lunch. Should see the faces on 'em!

But getting together with someone when they're already a senior citizen? Is that weird, or just kind? Is it gerontophilia - a fetish we rarely hear of, even in today's sexy-talk-crazed society? Of course, I'm not suggesting for a moment that Jennifer Wade is a gerontophile - John Cleese is rich, famous and funny and if that's not loveable, I don't know what is. But when you see these teenagers in the True Life magazines I adore, sitting in their school uniforms on the knee of a poverty-line pensioner with no teeth - THAT'S gerontophilia, surely?

Interestingly, the advent of Viagra may spell the demise of the dirty old rich man/gorgeous gold-digger combo rather than the ascent of it. In the old days a young girl who hooked up with an old man could rely on the fact that his withered old manhood wasn't really going to come into the equation - let alone anything else - and that she could probably just get whatever she wanted from him, be that a father figure or a sugar daddy, simply by letting him paw her around and show her off a bit. But when actual sex with a septuagenarian is on the menu, it would surely test the gag reflex of all but the most devoted volunteers for Help The Aged. See Crystal Harris, 24, who had sex with her fiance Hugh Hefner, 85, just once before fleeing.

There will always be hardcore gerontophiles, of course, but only in the way that there are people who like to have sex with cars and cattle - surely not enough to make it anything but a very minority perve. Women love wealth and power, men love looks, goes the old line - but that's a hangover from the time when women had no wealth or power, and if they were to achieve any position in the world they had to marry it. This is changing now. And I couldn't help noticing that even as her pensioner boyfriend bit her bum, Jennifer Wade's sexy bod sported a T-shirt bearing an image of James Dean, forever frozen in youthful beauty. It may be better to be an old man's darling than a young man's fool - but there's no fool like an old fool, either.


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