Actor Sally Phillips on sex after 50: ‘We’re not supposed to be sexual after a certain age’
Sally Phillips is probably best known for her work on the brilliant nighties/noughties sketch comedy show Smack The Pony, or for playing the iconic Shazza in Bridget Jones's Diary but she’s now she’s back in a starring role in her new film How To Please A Woman.
In the promotion for the film, Philips has been refreshingly honest and open about women over 50, sex and female pleasure, speaking about how for many women sex is still a taboo.
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Speaking on BBC 4’s Woman’s Hour today, the actor said she was drawn to the story of two unlikely Australian housewives “who decided they had enough of cleaning the house and not having enough sex”.
Based on a true story, the movie centres around Gina, a 50-something woman who stumbles upon an ingenious entrepreneurial idea. After being taken by surprise when her friends send her an unusual birthday gift (in the form a male sex worker), Gina – with a hot man at her disposal for two hours – asks him to clean her house. Then, after losing her job (working in liquidation), she realises male house cleaners with benefits is an untapped market and sets up a firm offering exactly those two services in tandem.
“We aren’t supposed to articulate our pleasure, nice girls don’t” Phillips said. “Certainly [not] my generation,” she continued, saying the fact that she is “enormously repressed” is one of the things that attracted her to the role.
Aussies, Phillips feels, are much more open than the British when it comes to talking about bodies and sex, admitting she turned down a part in the world-famous play The Vagina Monologues because she “couldn't say the word vagina”.
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“You have much more skills that you realise”, Phillips told presenter Anita Rani on Women’s Hour, speaking about the power and agency women over 50 have, despite often being made to feel invisible.
“It felt very beautiful,” Phllips said, speaking about some of the ocean swimming scenes and her experience making the movie in general.
She went on to explain that unusually, first time feature film maker Renée Webster had a no nudity policy for the sex scenes in the film. “We all felt quite moved realising how much of our lives we spend hating our bodies,” Phillips said about women and their complex relationship with their own physical form. “We should just get on with it really.”
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Replying to one commenter who said the movie was an example of a terrible reverse sexism and double standards, Philips answered carefully saying: “We aren’t supposed to be sexual after a certain age… I’m not the right person to talk about the pros and cons of prostitution but it’s a more complex question than it might first appear. If it’s entirely consensual, what do you say then?
"There are five or sex scenes that wouldn't have been there 10 years ago, adding that the movie is out now and available for viewers to make their own decisions."
Watch: Sally Phillips AKA Shazzer takes the ultimate Bridget Jones' Diary quiz