Advertisement

Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 48, Issue 3, pp 911–919 | Cite as

A Life Course Perspective on the Ways Older Men and Women Discuss Sexual Issues

  • Liat AyalonEmail author
  • Inbar Levkovich
  • Ateret Gewirtz-Meydan
  • Khaled Karkabi
Original Paper

Abstract

The present study examined how older adults communicate about sexual issues in light of the tremendous societal changes that have taken place with regard to sexuality in the past few decades. We relied on interviews with 47 Israelis 60 years of age and older who were instructed to discuss sexuality in old age and its unique characteristics, using semi-structured interviews. Analysis consisted of repeated comparisons and contrasts to identify common themes. A common thread of “secrets and lies” characterized the discussion of sexual issues throughout the life course of respondents. The findings showed that although older adults have been aware of the limited information provided to them during their upbringing and of the limited room allowed to sexuality in their emerging adulthood years, many have continued to find it difficult to address sexual issues, even in later life. Moreover, many perceived the information currently available about sexuality and the contemporary approach to sexuality brought by the media or their children and grandchildren as being somewhat inadequate. Implications for practice are discussed.

Keywords

Sexuality Stigma Secrecy Self-presentation Old age 

Notes

Acknowledgements

The study was supported by a grant from the Israel National Institute for Health Policy Research.

References

  1. Adams, M., Oye, J., & Parker, T. (2003). Sexuality of older adults and the Internet: From sex education to cybersex. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 18, 405–415.  https://doi.org/10.1080/1468199031000153991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alexander, M. G., & Fisher, T. D. (2003). Truth and consequences: Using the bogus pipeline to examine sex differences in self-reported sexuality. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 27–35.  https://doi.org/10.1080/00224490309552164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alexander, S. C., Fortenberry, J. D., Pollak, K. I., Bravender, T., Davis, J. K., Østbye, T., et al. (2014). Sexuality talk during adolescent health maintenance visits. JAMA Pediatrics, 168, 163–169.  https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.4338.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Alwin, D. F. (2012). Integrating varieties of life course concepts. The Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 67B, 206–220.  https://doi.org/10.1093/geronb/gbr146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Badr, H., & Carmack Taylor, C. L. (2009). Sexual dysfunction and spousal communication in couples coping with prostate cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 18, 735–746.  https://doi.org/10.1002/pon.1449.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  6. Bauer, M., Haesler, E., & Fetherstonhaugh, D. (2016). Let’s talk about sex: Older people’s views on the recognition of sexuality and sexual health in the health-care setting. Health Expectations, 19, 1237–1250.  https://doi.org/10.1111/hex.12418.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Beckett, M. K., Elliott, M. N., Martino, S., Kanouse, D. E., Corona, R., Klein, D. J., & Schuster, M. A. (2010). Timing of parent and child communication about sexuality relative to children’s sexual behaviors. Pediatrics, 125, 34–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (1990). Grounded theory research: Procedures, canons and evaluative criteria. Zeitschrift für Soziologie, 19, 418–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Crawford, M., & Popp, D. (2003). Sexual double standards: A review and methodological critique of two decades of research. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 13–26.  https://doi.org/10.1080/00224490309552163.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  10. Creswell, J. W., & Miller, D. L. (2000). Determining validity in qualitative inquiry. Theory into Practice, 39, 124–130.  https://doi.org/10.1207/s15430421tip3903_2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Elder, G. H. (1975). Age differentiation and the life course. Annual Review of Sociology, 1, 165–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Elder, G. H. (1998). The life course as developmental theory. Child Development, 69, 1–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Emlet, C. A. (2007). Experiences of stigma in older adults living with HIV/AIDS: A mixed-methods analysis. AIDS Patient Care and STDs, 21, 740–752.  https://doi.org/10.1089/apc.2007.0010.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  14. Fileborn, B., Thorpe, R., Hawkes, G., Minichiello, V., Pitts, M., & Dune, T. (2015). Sex, desire and pleasure: Considering the experiences of older Australian women. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 30, 117–130.  https://doi.org/10.1080/14681994.2014.936722.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  15. Fisher, W. A., Rosen, R. C., Eardley, I., Sand, M., & Goldstein, I. (2005). Sexual experience of female partners of men with erectile dysfunction: The female experience of men’s attitudes to life events and sexuality (FEMALES) study. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 2, 675–684.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2005.00118.x.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  16. Fredriksen-Goldsen, K. I., Cook-Daniels, L., Kim, H.-J., Erosheva, E. A., Emlet, C. A., Hoy-Ellis, C. P., et al. (2013). Physical and mental health of transgender older adults: An at-risk and underserved population. The Gerontologist, 54, 488–500.  https://doi.org/10.1093/geront/gnt021.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  17. Gegenfurtner, A., & Gebhardt, M. (2017). Sexuality education including lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) issues in schools. Educational Research Review, 22, 215–222.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.edurev.2017.10.002.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gelfand, M. M. (2000). Sexuality among older women. Journal of Women’s Health & Gender-Based Medicine, 9, 15–20.  https://doi.org/10.1089/152460900318812.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Gillespie, B. J. (2017). Correlates of sex frequency and sexual satisfaction among partnered older adults. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 43, 403–423.  https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2016.1176608.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  20. Ginsberg, T. B., Pomerantz, S. C., & Kramer-Feeley, V. (2005). Sexuality in older adults: Behaviours and preferences. Age and Ageing, 34, 475–480.  https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afi143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Gott, M., Galena, E., Hinchliff, S., & Elford, H. (2004). “Opening a can of worms”: GP and practice nurse barriers to talking about sexual health in primary care. Family Practice, 21, 528–536.  https://doi.org/10.1093/fampra/cmh509.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gott, M., & Hinchliff, S. (2003). Barriers to seeking treatment for sexual problems in primary care: A qualitative study with older people. Family Practice, 20, 690–695.  https://doi.org/10.1093/fampra/cmg612.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gott, M., Hinchliff, S., & Galena, E. (2004). General practitioner attitudes to discussing sexual health issues with older people. Social Science and Medicine, 58, 2093–2103.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2003.08.025.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hawkins, Y., Ussher, J., Gilbert, E., Perz, J., Sandoval, M., & Sundquist, K. (2009). Changes in sexuality and intimacy after the diagnosis and treatment of cancer: The experience of partners in a sexual relationship with a person with cancer. Cancer Nursing, 32, 271–280.  https://doi.org/10.1097/NCC.0b013e31819b5a93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Huffstetler, B. (2006). Sexuality in older adults: A deconstructionist perspective. Adultspan Journal, 5, 4–14.  https://doi.org/10.1002/j.2161-0029.2006.tb00009.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hyde, K. F. (2000). Recognising deductive processes in qualitative research. Qualitative Market Research, 3, 82–90.  https://doi.org/10.1108/13522750010322089.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Irvine, J. M. (2014). Is sexuality research ‘dirty work’? Institutionalized stigma in the production of sexual knowledge. Sexualities, 17, 632–656.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1363460713516338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jonason, P. K. (2008). A mediation hypothesis to account for the sex difference in reported number of sexual partners: An intrasexual competition approach. International Journal of Sexual Health, 19, 41–49.  https://doi.org/10.1300/J514v19n04_05.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Laan, E., & Lunsen, R. V. (1997). Hormones and sexuality in postmenopausal women: A psychophysiological study. Journal of Psychosomatic Obstetrics & Gynecology, 18, 126–133.  https://doi.org/10.3109/01674829709085579.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Laumann, E. O., & Waite, L. J. (2008). Sexual dysfunction among older adults: Prevalence and risk factors from a nationally representative US probability sample of men and women 57–85 years of age. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 5, 2300–2311.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2008.00974.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lavee, Y., & Katz, R. (2003). The family in Israel: Between tradition and modernity. Marriage & Family Review, 35, 193–217.  https://doi.org/10.1300/J002v35n01_11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Lefkowitz, E. S., Boone, T. L., & Shearer, C. L. (2004). Communication with best friends about sex-related topics during emerging adulthood. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 33, 339–351.  https://doi.org/10.1023/B:JOYO.0000032642.27242.c1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lindau, S. T., Surawska, H., Paice, J., & Baron, S. R. (2011). Communication about sexuality and intimacy in couples affected by lung cancer and their clinical-care providers. Psycho-Oncology, 20, 179–185.  https://doi.org/10.1002/pon.1787.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  34. Lindau, S. T., Tang, H., Gomero, A., Vable, A., Huang, E. S., Drum, M. L., et al. (2010). Sexuality among middle age and older adults with diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes: A national, population-based study. Diabetes Care, 33, 2202–2210.  https://doi.org/10.2337/dc10-0524.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  35. Long, A. (1968). Communication about sex between physician and patient. ETC: A Review of General Semantics, 25, 193–202.Google Scholar
  36. Magnan, M. A., Reynolds, K. E., & Galvin, E. A. (2006). Barriers to addressing patient sexuality in nursing practice. Dermatology Nursing, 18, 448–454.Google Scholar
  37. Mark, K. P., & Jozkowski, K. N. (2013). The mediating role of sexual and nonsexual communication between relationship and sexual satisfaction in a sample of college-age heterosexual couples. Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy, 39, 410–427.  https://doi.org/10.1080/0092623X.2011.644652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mastro, S., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2015). Let’s talk openly about sex: Sexual communication, self-esteem and efficacy as correlates of sexual well-being. European Journal of Developmental Psychology, 12, 579–598.  https://doi.org/10.1080/17405629.2015.1054373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. May, J. (2006). Secrets and lies: Sex education and gendered memories of childhood’s end in an Australian provincial city, 1930s–1950s. Sex Education, 6, 1–15.  https://doi.org/10.1080/14681810500508790.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McAuliffe, L., Bauer, M., & Nay, R. (2007). Barriers to the expression of sexuality in the older person: The role of the health professional. International Journal of Older People Nursing, 2, 69–75.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-3743.2007.00050.x.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  41. Meston, C. M., Heiman, J. R., Trapnell, P. D., & Paulhus, D. L. (1998). Socially desirable responding and sexuality self-reports. Journal of Sex Research, 35, 148–157.  https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499809551928.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Nery, I. S., Feitosa, J. J. D. M., de Sousa, Á. F. L., & Fernandes, A. C. N. (2015). Approach to sexuality in the dialogue between parents and adolescents/Abordagem da sexualidade no diálogo entre pais e adolescentes. Acta Paulista De Enfermagem, 28, 287–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Nicolosi, A., Glasser, D. B., Kim, S. C., Marumo, K., & Laumann, E. O. (2005). Sexual behaviour and dysfunction and help-seeking patterns in adults aged 40–80 years in the urban population of Asian countries. BJU International, 95, 609–614.  https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2005.05348.x.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  44. Politi, M. C., Clark, M. A., Armstrong, G., McGarry, K. A., & Sciamanna, C. N. (2009). Patient-provider communication about sexual health among unmarried middle-aged and older women. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 24, 511–516.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11606-009-0930-z.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  45. Ponterotto, J. G. (2006). Brief note on the origins, evolution, and meaning of the qualitative research concept thick description. The Qualitative Report, 11, 538–549.Google Scholar
  46. Ports, K. A., Barnack-Tavlaris, J. L., Syme, M. L., Perera, R. A., & Lafata, J. E. (2014). Sexual health discussions with older adult patients during periodic health exams. Journal of Sexual Medicine, 11, 901–908.  https://doi.org/10.1111/jsm.12448.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  47. Rohrbach, L. A., Berglas, N. F., Jerman, P., Angulo-Olaiz, F., Chou, C.-P., & Constantine, N. A. (2015). A rights-based sexuality education curriculum for adolescents: 1-year outcomes from a cluster-randomized trial. Journal of Adolescent Health, 57, 399–406.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.07.004.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  48. Rosenthal, D. A., & Feldman, S. S. (1999). The importance of importance: Adolescents’ perceptions of parental communication about sexuality. Journal of Adolescence, 22, 835–851.  https://doi.org/10.1006/jado.1999.0279.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  49. Rosenthal, D. A., Feldman, S. S., & Edwards, D. (1998). Mum’s the word: Mothers’ perspectives on communication about sexuality with adolescents. Journal of Adolescence, 21, 727–743.  https://doi.org/10.1006/jado.1998.0192.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  50. Saldaña, J. (2015). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  51. Sandelowski, M. (1995). Qualitative analysis: What it is and how to begin. Research in Nursing & Health, 18, 371–375.  https://doi.org/10.1002/nur.4770180411.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Schuster, M. A., Bell, R. M., Petersen, L. P., & Kanouse, D. E. (1996). Communication between adolescents and physicians about sexual behavior and risk prevention. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 150, 906–913.  https://doi.org/10.1001/archpedi.1996.02170340020004.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sears, J. T. (1992). Sexuality and the curriculum: The politics and practices of sexuality. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  54. Stone, N., & Ingham, R. (2002). Factors affecting British teenagers’ contraceptive use at first intercourse: The importance of partner communication. Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, 34, 191–197.  https://doi.org/10.2307/3097729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Tanton, C., Jones, K. G., Macdowall, W., Clifton, S., Mitchell, K. R., Datta, J., et al. (2015). Patterns and trends in sources of information about sex among young people in Britain: Evidence from three National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles. British Medical Journal Open, 5, e007834.  https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2015-007834.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Tarzia, L., Bauer, M., Fetherstonhaugh, D., & Nay, R. (2013). Interviewing older people in residential aged care about sexuality: Difficulties and challenges. Sexuality and Disability, 31, 361–371.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11195-013-9297-5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Taylor, A., & Gosney, M. A. (2011). Sexuality in older age: Essential considerations for healthcare professionals. Age and Ageing, 40, 538–543.  https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afr049.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  58. Trinh, S. L. (2016). “Enjoy your sexuality, but do it in secret” exploring undergraduate women’s reports of friends’ sexual communications. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 40, 96–107.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0361684315596914.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  59. Trinh, S. L., Ward, L. M., Day, K., Thomas, K., & Levin, D. (2014). Contributions of divergent peer and parent sexual messages to Asian American college students’ sexual behaviors. Journal of Sex Research, 51, 208–220.  https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2012.721099.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  60. Twenge, J. M., Sherman, R. A., & Wells, B. E. (2015). Changes in American adults’ sexual behavior and attitudes, 1972–2012. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 44, 2273–2285.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0540-2.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  61. Walz, T. (2002). Crones, dirty old men, sexy seniors: Representations of the sexuality of older persons. Journal of Aging and Identity, 7, 99–112.  https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1015487101438.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Whitaker, D. J., Miller, K. S., May, D. C., & Levin, M. L. (1999). Teenage partners’ communication about sexual risk and condom use: The importance of parent–teenager discussions. Family Planning Perspectives, 31, 117–121.  https://doi.org/10.2307/2991693.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  63. Widman, L., Choukas-Bradley, S., Helms, S. W., Golin, C. E., & Prinstein, M. J. (2014). Sexual communication between early adolescents and their dating partners, parents, and best friends. Journal of Sex Research, 51, 731–741.  https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499.2013.843148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Wiederman, M. W. (1999). Volunteer bias in sexuality research using college student participants. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 59–66.  https://doi.org/10.1080/00224499909551968.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018
Corrected publication October/2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Louis and Gabi Weisfeld School of Social WorkBar-Ilan UniversityRamat GanIsrael
  2. 2.The Division of Family Medicine, The Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of MedicineTechnion-Israel Institute of TechnologyHaifaIsrael
  3. 3.Department of Sociology, Crimes Against Children Research Center and Family Research LaboratoryUniversity of New HampshireDurhamUSA
  4. 4.Sex and Couples Therapy UnitMeir Medical CenterKfar-SabaIsrael
  5. 5.Department of Family Medicine, The Ruth and Bruce Rappaport Faculty of MedicineTechnion-Israel Institute of Technology, Clalit Health ServicesHaifa and Western Galilee DistrictIsrael

Personalised recommendations