This is a story about an erotic Web site for women in later life. So the warnings need to be right up front.
If you disapprove of erotica, or the subject of erotic literature or the reality that many women 50 and older enjoy sex, turn the page.
If you've gotten this far, read on about the Wiser Lioness.
No. Not anyone can view the site; www.thewiserlioness.com is subscription only. The monthly fee is $6.99. An annual subscription is $60. Launched about a year ago, the site has members around the world.
There are no graphic pictures. G'han Singh, the site's creator and primary writer, believes in leaving much to the imagination.
Nor is there any valorizing of violence or the abuse of women.
What the site does contain, says Singh, is "very explicit language juxtaposed with florid, sometimes baroque imagery. Women who are offended by explicit sexual language probably won't be among our membership base."
All that said, the site did not spring out of prurient interest but from scholarly research that Singh conducted about 10 years ago while working on her doctorate in communications at the University of South Florida.
"I launched (the site) as a response to the concerns I heard senior women voicing about the nature of their sexuality," says Singh.
"I've spoken with women in their 60s and 70s who were embarrassed by their interest in sex and actually felt that they had to apologize for it, as if interest in sex after a certain age represents some innate perversity, some existential sort of moral failure.
"This is particularly true of women in this age group whose partners had died. In a culture that seems to pride itself on ignoring, erasing, objectifying and/or caricaturing the sexuality of older women, the central goal of the site is to use intelligently crafted erotica, written by, for and about senior women, to push back against those views."
Singh shares much of her background and research from an office on the second floor of the pleasant townhome in New Tampa's Hunter's Green that she shares with her mother.
Art by her 3-year-old grandson hangs on the wall and photos of her three adult daughters —all happily married professional women — crowd tabletops and bookshelves.
Singh is in her mid 50s and has a master's degree in education from Tufts University as well as her doctorate from USF. She is an adjunct professor of Human Services at Springfield College in Massachusetts.
She's twice married and twice divorced with an eclectic background. A former dairy goat farmer, she moved from New York to Florida because her widowed mother wanted to garden all year long.
Conversations with Singh include sex, of course, but also parenthood, grandparenthood, politics and public policy. She smiles wide and laughs often. But she speaks and writes about female sexuality in a solemn, scholarly way.
Sex, she points out, is studied by universities and mainstream organizations such as the AARP, the Guttmacher Institute and the Kinsey Institute. Many popular newspapers and magazines feature scholarly stories about sex.
She understands, however, that not everyone is comfortable with topics such as masturbation, sexual orientation, sexual fantasies, sexual longings, even when the discussion is medical in nature and even though sex saturates popular culture.
As a society, Singh says, Americans — particularly women — are uneasy with exploring sexuality in general.
Sad, she adds, because sex is regenerative and life affirming. It's also good for you — physically, emotionally and psychologically.
She created the Lioness to provide a private, virtual and safe world in which older women of any sexual orientation can indulge their sexual fantasies without fear.
The Internet, she says, is paradoxical but vital to the Lioness:
"In a culture that remains judgmental, rigid and uncomfortable in dealing with the sexuality of its mothers, grandmothers and even great-grandmothers, prudent use of the Internet through a site like the Lioness lets senior women take charge of their own sexuality in relative privacy with a level of anonymity that's both liberating and unprecedented."
How does her family view her work?
Her daughters, she says, understand "the complex nature of what I'm trying to achieve. . . . They understand my purpose and goals for the Lioness. . . . They understand that I'm writing for informed adults — an underserved population of grown women who are fully capable of deciding for themselves whether or not the Wiser Lioness might be useful in enhancing their lives."
As for her mother, Singh says, "(she) is a blessing to us all, and with a master's degree from Columbia University, she regularly assists with the research and production of the Lioness' monthly newsletter."
Freelance writer Judy Hill lives in St. Petersburg. She can be reached at email@example.com.