Ageing International

, 36:361

Older Women, Marital Relationships, and Sexuality in China


DOI: 10.1007/s12126-011-9114-3

Cite this article as:
Shea, J.L. Ageing Int (2011) 36: 361. doi:10.1007/s12126-011-9114-3


Based upon field research conducted in China in the 1990s and 2000s, this article examines older Chinese women’s views and practices surrounding sexual interaction in later life. In contrast to local clinical depictions of middle-aged and elderly Chinese women as repressed by feudal superstitions concerning sex in later life, this research shows that more middle-aged and elderly Chinese women are sexually active than such clinical sources assume. Furthermore, there is no neat correspondence between sexual attitudes and sexual activity, and Chinese women’s attitudes concerning later life sex are often much more liberal than their behavior. Absence of sexual activity among older Chinese women is more closely related to problems in the marital relationship in general and/or to health problems than it is to attitudes about age and sex. At the same time, many Chinese women challenge the claims of western sexology that presume the marital relationship and sexual interaction to be a top necessity for a good quality of life in the later years. These findings have important implications for public health education, clinical training, and health and social service delivery in China.


Marital relationshipSex or sexualityAgingMiddle ageOld ageChina or Chinese

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Anthropology Department and Asian Studies ProgramUniversity of VermontBurlingtonUSA