A French Court Just Made It Official That Sex Matters in Your 50s

Updated 07/28/17
Original Illustration by Stephanie DeAngelis

Despite the common misconception that sex ranks lower on the priority list as women age, it's been scientifically proven that getting it on is not only good for our health in later stages of life, but sexual fulfillment actually increases as we get older, specifically for women 45 and up. And when it comes to society's perception of older women, there's still progress to be made when it comes eradicating discrimination. But a recent ruling in a European human rights court is helping to change that course.

After a 50-year-old Maria Ivone Carvalho Pinto de Sousa Morais—a Portuguese mother of two—suffered a botched gynecological surgery that left her unable to have sex, she sued the Lisbon hospital in 1995, reports The Cut. A court ordered the hospital to pay her €80,000 in compensation, but in 2014, Portugal's Supreme Administrative Court cut that payment by nearly a third. Their explanation? Because of Morais's age, the three judges on the panel (all over 50, and two of whom were men) argued that sex was not as important.

Morais challenged that decision, which was viewed by many as sexist and ageist—and the European Court of Human Rights sided with her. In a 5-2 ruling, the higher court ruled that the Portuguese judges "were guilty of 'prejudice' when they decided to reduce her damages," and the France-based court then ordered Portugal to pay Morais approximately €5500 euros in damages, costs, and expenses. Now 72, she plans to reopen her case and ask for greater damages.

In its majority ruling, the court wrote, "The question at issue here is not considerations of age or sex as such, but rather the assumption that sexuality is not as important for a 50-year-old woman and mother of two children as for someone of a younger age." In finding that Portugal ruled in favor of men in two similar medical malpractice cases, the European court asserted that "that assumption reflects a traditional idea of female sexuality as being essentially linked to childbearing purposes and thus ignores its physical and psychological relevance for the self-fulfillment of women as people.”

Do you agree with the court's findings? Share your thoughts.

Related Stories