Article

Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 283-298

Sexuality in aging: A study of 106 cultures

  • Rhonda L. WinnAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University Medical School
  • , Niles NewtonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University Medical School

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Abstract

Human Relations Area Files data relating to sexual activity among older individuals in 106 traditional societies were studied to identify cross-cultural patterns of variability in sexual behavior occurring with age. In 70% of the societies for which data were available relating to the sexual behavior of older males, a continuation of sexual activity of various kinds was found to occur with aging. These groups were seen to have expectations for continued sexual activity for older men that implied little, if any, loss of their sexual powers until very late in life. Among females, reports of continued sexual activity and interest were found to occur in 84% of the files containing data on the sexual behavior of this age group. Reports of expressions of strong sexual interest by older women were common in these societies. In addition, 50% of the references to sexual activity of older females were found to relate to changes in the women's role as procreant. A lessening of inhibition in regard to sexual conversation, sexual humor, and sexual gestures was noted in 22% of these 106 societies. This diminution of restraint in regard to sexual conversation was reported more frequently among older women, 74% of the reports of such behavior referring to females. The continuance of sexuality in many societies during aging and the limitation of sexuality in other societies suggests that cultural as well as biological factors may be key determinants in sexual behavior in the later part of life.

Key words

sexual behavior aging Human Relations Area Files traditional societies sexuality