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Challenging Assumptions About the Sexuality and Relationships of Older People

Challenging Assumptions About the Sexuality and Relationships of Older People

Introduction and Objectives: This paper presents recommendations
based on research into the experience
of rural baby boomers in friends-with-benefits relationships
(FWBR). A FWBR is defined as one where the
participants have a friendship, an ongoing sexual relationship,
yet do not consider themselves to be a couple.
Mid-and-later-life adults are initiating new relationships;
many seek intimacy yet want to maintain independence,
so are not looking for marriage or
cohabitation.
Methods: This study was qualitative and used interpretive
description, influenced by social constructionism,
queer theory and feminist principles. In-depth,
semi-structured interviews were conducted with 22
people; 15 women and 7 men, who were invited to
“Tell me about your friends-with-benefits relationship”.
Participants were born between 1946–1964 and had
had a FWBR within the previous five years. Prompting
questions asked about the effect of the relationship on
their wellbeing, approach to safe sex, and use of health
services for sexual health. Transcripts were analysed
thematically.
Results: Effect on wellbeing was largely positive.
People reported the ‘best sex’ of their lives, growing
autonomy and an interest in sexuality and relationships
outside conventional structures. Approaches to safer
sex varied, as did the use of health services for sexual
health. Some medical practitioners were unsupportive
of STI testing after new partners despite guideline
recommendations.
Conclusions: This innovative research shows the
need to include lesser-used and harder-to-source population
groups in research such as rural, older, and nonheteronormative.
The default assumption of heteronormativity
perpetuates stereotypes while keeping relationship
diversity in the deviant, ‘other’ category. This can
lead to stigma and avoidance of health care. Our talk
will focus on recommendations for practitioners to
make no assumptions about the relationship status or
sexuality of baby boomers; ask and be open and nonjudgemental
to their answers. Be supportive of educational
needs such as: negotiating new relationships;
consent; pleasure; and sexual health. Positive sexuality
is important for healthy ageing.
Keywords: friends-with-benefits; ageing; non-monogamy
Conflict of Interest and Disclosure Statement: None