Embracing Sensuality in Midlife: A Journey of Liberation and Self-Expression

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Rachel Peru

Rachel Peru is a silver-haired curve model, body confidence advocate, influencer and host of the Liberté—Free to Be podcast. She has three adult children and lives in North Yorkshire, UK, with her husband Mark. She is passionate about showing other women, particularly those in midlife, that they are not invisible. Rachel broke barriers when she appeared in the ground-breaking “Swimsuits for All” campaign with Ashley Graham, and her career was launched. At 53, Rachel is passionate about being able to represent older women in the fashion industry and can regularly be seen in leading lingerie brand campaigns. We can’t be what we can’t see!

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Embracing Sensuality in Midlife: A Journey of Liberation and Self-Expression

If you would have asked me in my twenties and thirties to show up on social media and modeling campaigns in my bra and knickers, I would have run a mile! I wasn’t comfortable looking at myself in the mirror, never mind letting a total stranger see me. So how did I end up becoming a lingerie model in my forties?

As for so many other women, divorce at 40 was a catalyst for change. I slowly started to unravel the layers and find out who I really was. I stepped out of my comfort zone, from jumping out of airplanes doing tandem skydives, volunteering to work in orphanages in Uganda and India, and finally going to university, gaining a degree in Education Studies at 42. Every time I took on these challenges, I realized i was caring less about the number on the scales and dress size. I liked myself for the first time in my adult life. What I saw in the mirror was a woman who was blossoming and growing, and i liked her.

Sensuality in Midlife

When the opportunity to start a new career as a model came around at 46, I was ready for it. I admit I had no idea what to expect and assumed work would be based around lifestyle and fashion. Lingerie and swimwear modeling never crossed my mind. As with starting any new job, it takes time for your confidence to grow. For the first six months I learnt so much and my confidence in front of the camera grew immeasurably. Within my first year I found myself working in the Bahamas alongside Ashley Graham for the SwimSuitsForAll brand. That shoot lit my fire to get out there and represent older women in swimwear and lingerie campaigns. I felt empowered, but most of all it was the feedback from other women that made me more determined. We all need to see bodies that we can relate to in marketing and advertising, and women over 40 are so often left out of this conversation. I’m a silver haired, UK size 16 model (US size 12) and I have never felt more comfortable in my body.

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I’m now 53 and modeling lingerie has become my favorite type of work. I have found it liberating and it has allowed me to connect and express my sensuality in a way I’ve never done before. One of the most common responses from other women is the phrase, “Aren’t you brave?” In a world that still imposes restrictive standards on women’s behavior and appearance, the journey of reclaiming our bodies and our sensuality in midlife stands out as a courageous act of self-discovery and empowerment.

Embracing Sensuality

Midlife marks a period of profound transformation – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s a time when women confront societal expectations head-on, challenging preconceived notions about beauty, desirability, and sensuality. The narrative of women reclaiming their sensuality is not only about embracing their changing bodies but also about breaking free from the shackles of societal expectations that have lingered for far too long. I have recently started giving talks about how we can ditch the shame that society has placed on our bodies, handed down from to generation to generation. I present these talks in my bra and knickers to help break down these barriers and to highlight our fears about seeing an older woman’s “imperfectly perfect” body. I’ve had some amazing heartfelt conversations with women who are slowly starting to be kinder to their bodies later in life.

Sadly, there are still those who find this difficult to see, those who leave unkind messages on social media telling me I’m too old to be showing any flesh and that it’s distasteful. One might wonder why, in an era that champions individuality and inclusivity, the journey of women embracing sensuality in midlife is met with resistance. The truth is there’s an inherent threat perceived by those still clinging to outdated views. The patriarchal structures that have dictated women’s roles and behaviors for centuries are deeply ingrained. As women defy these norms, it disrupts the status quo, posing a challenge to those who benefit from maintaining the existing power dynamics, who are usually men.

Body shaming, a weapon employed by society to control women’s autonomy, becomes a barrier to embracing sensuality in midlife. The societal gaze, often perpetuated by media and reinforced by unrealistic beauty standards, dictates what is considered desirable. When a woman in midlife reclaims her sensuality, she challenges the notion that only youth equates to attractiveness. This challenge is perceived as a threat by those who fear losing control over defining and commodifying female beauty.

Liberation and Self-Expression

It’s essential to recognize that this journey is not about seeking approval or validation from others. Instead, it’s a personal quest for self-acceptance and authenticity. The ability to express sensuality without fear of judgment is a powerful reclaiming of agency and a celebration of individuality.

For women in midlife and beyond, embracing sensuality is often intertwined with rediscovering their own desires, preferences, and passions. It’s about reconnecting with one’s body, understanding its changes, and celebrating the wisdom that comes with age. This self-awareness disrupts the narrative that suggests a woman’s value diminishes as she ages.

A man recently asked me what example I was giving to my children (who are 25, 23, and 21). I would like to think I am showing them that aging is a blessing, and our bodies are amazing vessels at every stage of life. We don’t have to hand over parts of our personality when we reach a certain age. I am showing my children that there is nothing to be ashamed of in owning our bodies, and that we have a right to be represented in society in the same way as the younger generation, to be included in these important conversations.

Will I still be modeling lingerie in my 70s? Who knows, but I certainly hope so!


Rachel Peru



6 Responses

  1. You are fabulous! I’m about to turn 70 and you have me wondering if I could get in front of a camera in my underwear. Thanks for the inspiration.

  2. I have been on a quest for body positivity in my sixties. I was challenged in this process the other day when my granddaughter called me ‘Grandma Jiggly’ when she noticed that that flesh on my upper arms was jiggly. At first I was taken aback and felt some shame that my body wasn’t toned there. Then I decided that it was instead a chance to acknowledge that my older body is just different from hers – and that I am privileged to have grown old enough to have grandchildren! So I answered her by saying “And I hope someday you are old enough to have jiggly arms too!”

    1. Becki, that is a fantastic reframe! Exactly what we need to be doing: Appreciating our bodies as they are, and modeling that for younger women coming up. Yay you!

  3. “When a woman in midlife reclaims her sensuality, she challenges the notion that only youth equates to attractiveness. This challenge is perceived as a threat by those who fear losing control over defining and commodifying female beauty.” Such an important message on many levels!

    Sure, why shouldn’t you model lingerie in your 70s? I did!

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