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Older Women and Sexuality: Experiences in Marital Relationships across the Life Course*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 March 2010

Laura Hurd Clarke
Affiliation:
The University of British Columbia
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

Rates of sexual activity have been found to decline over the life course, as individuals experience marital transitions and the loss of partners, health problems, and decreased sexual interest. This article compares and contrasts earlier- and later-life sexual experiences and examines the changing meanings that older women ascribe to sexuality over the life course. Qualitative data from a study involving 24 women aged 52 to 90 who were remarried after age 50 illuminate a shift, as individuals age, from an emphasis on the importance of sexual intercourse and passion to a greater valuing of companionship, cuddling, affection, and intimacy. Situating the discussion in the context of changing cultural norms and sexual scripts, the article investigates the impact of health conditions on the women's sexual relationships as well as the women's tendency to have later-life sexual experiences more positive than were their earlier sexual experiences.

Résumé

On sait que l'activité sexuelle tend à diminuer au fil des ans en raison des transitions maritales, de la perte de partenaires et d'éventuels problèmes de santé. Cet article compare et oppose les expériences sexuelles vécues à différentes étapes de la vie et analyse l'évolution des signifiés que les femmes plus âgées attribuent à la sexualité au cours de leur vie. Les données qualitatives provenant d'une étude à laquelle ont participé 24 femmes de 52 à 90 ans qui se sont remariées après l'âge de 50 ans, illustrent un changement d'attention au fil des ans, attention qui passe d'une grande importance accordée aux relations sexuelles et passionnelles, à une valorisation de la compagnie, des câlins, de l'affection et de l'intimité en général. Cet article se penche sur l'impact des conditions de santé sur les relations sexuelles des femmes, et sur le fait qu'en général les femmes ont eu un plus grand nombre d'expériences sexuelles tardives positives comparativement à leurs expériences de jeunesse, en raison de changements dans les normes culturelles et sexuelles.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Canadian Association on Gerontology 2006

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Footnotes

*

This research was made possible by a Canadian Institutes of Health Research Postdoctoral Fellowship. I would like to thank the women who participated in the study as well as the three anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions.

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