Baby boomer sexuality from a rural perspective


This article, published in the journal Rural Society in a special edition on Sex, Sexuality and Place focuses on the rural aspects of my research. I focus on just four cases which highlight the diversity of behaviours, relationships and attitudes of the individuals, and their cultural environment.

Midlife relationship diversity, sexual fluidity, wellbeing and sexual health from a rural perspective.

Abstract: People in midlife are having sexual relationships outside hetero-monogamy and marriage. These relationships contribute positively to their wellbeing; however there is no policy that supports sexual health promotion or encourages sexually transmissible infection testing for people older than 29 years. For rural people who are in a non-traditional relationship, confidentiality, access to sexual health services, and stigma are concerns. In this qualitative research project we investigate the experience and wellbeing of rural baby boomers who have had a friends-with-benefits relationship within the previous five years. Participant recruitment criteria are to have been born between 1946 and 1965, and to live outside a capital city. The 22 participants are 15 women and 7 men who represent diverse sexual orientations including heterosexual, gay and lesbian, with most identifying as heterosexual and bi-curious. The duration of their relationships ranged from 6 months to 15 years. Some were monogamous and some had multiple partners. A fear of judgement about their sex lives for some led to a need for secrecy and concern about being seen with partners. Use of health services for sexual health was mixed: many would not ask for testing and some who did were challenged or refused. Four participants’ experiences when having an unconventional relationship in a rural area in relation to social wellbeing and sexual health are the focus of this article. Recommendations are made for policy, health practitioner education, clinical guidelines, sexual health promotion, and informal community activities to promote good sexual health and relationship wellbeing for people in midlife.

APA 6 citation:

Kirkman, L., Fox, C., & Dickson-Swift, V. (2015). Midlife relationship diversity, sexual fluidity, wellbeing and sexual health from a rural perspective. Rural Society Special Edition on Sex, Sexuality and Place, 24(3). doi:10.1080/10371656.2015.1099272

Rural Society article

The final thesis is available to download!


Thank you for your interest in my research! The final thesis: Doing Relationships Differently: Rural Baby Boomers Negotiate Friends-With-Benefits Relationships is now available to download. The 1 mb file can be accessed here. Happy reading!

If you want to contact me to ask questions, offer me a job, or conduct an interview I can be contacted on and my website is

Cheers, Linda.

Ask Us About Sex After 50!


This presentation will draw on my PhD findings, and be lots of fun. Hope you can come!


I’m excited about the gig Joan Price and I are doing at Hares and Hyenas next Monday 14 September 7-9pm. We will be discussing our favourite subject with each other, then opening up to questions. It’s a chance for people who are 50, or plan to be, or work with older adults to get an insight into the possibilities about sex and relationships as we age. It certainly is fun, and does not have to follow any earlier life patterns if you don’t want it to.

Joan has heaps of tips for enjoying your body around some of the limitations of ageing, and how to discuss sexuality with your health providers. If you are a health provider, then this will useful for you with your clients/patients.

Tickets: try 25/20 or 30 at the door.

If you miss this or are in Central Victoria we will do it again at…

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Busybodies over the fence: diverse relationships and implicit stigma in the country


The aspect of stigma is just one part of a mostly positive whole; this thesis found overall positive aspects of FWBR. Attitude change to be supportive of relationship diversity, and sexuality generally, is needed.


One of the interesting things that emerged from my data analysis was that while nobody used the words stigma or discrimination, there was an implicit assumption for some that if their sexual relationships were known that it would be a problem. I presented on this at a SEXRurality conference on 22 July 2015.

Link to the presentation, which uses Lego pictures denoting relationship types: LKirkman Wednesday22July_SEXRurality

There is a belief that in a rural area that everyone knows, or at least takes an interest in, everyone’s business. This makes secrecy about relationships difficult to maintain. With that knowledge comes social  manipulation to conform. Participant Bella’s* decision to remain on the farm after her husband’s death was, like her relationships, unconventional, and subject to community scrutiny.

No one, everyone stood back and watched when my husband died, and thought, oh, she’ll just come into town [low voice] and, you know, but…

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Thesis dedication and acknowledgements


The dedication and acknowledgements are an important part of the process. These ones tell some of the story of the thesis process.


Once the processes are finalised I’ll post a link to the thesis PDF for people who want to read it (you crazy people you). Meanwhile here is the title, dedication and acknowledgements. They took time, diplomacy, giggles and some tears to write.

Doing relationships differently: rural baby boomers negotiate friends-with-benefits relationships


I dedicate this thesis to my father, Dr Jack Martin Kirkman, MB, BS (1918-1994). He was an adventurer and autodidact who learnt to drive in a T-Model Ford and to fly in a Tiger Moth, later flying Spitfires as a fighter pilot. He enrolled in medicine as a mature age student and was valued and respected as a general practitioner. With his adventurous spirit, interest in technology, support for social justice, and pursuit of lifelong learning Jack has been an inspiration and role model.


Relationships are complicated and I have some complicated relationships with the people acknowledged…

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Limbo time



Finishing the thesis was a concentrated, focused time: Long days, with the whole thing clear in my mind. It flowed, made sense, told a coherent story and was tight. Every citation and reference was in place, and I knew they were right as I’d put them in as I wrote. None of that chasing back afterwards to find things for me. EndNote even cooperated! Well, almost. Somehow it managed to add a mysterious 10 digit number to the citation for all the journal articles, but I noticed and hand-deleted them all from the plain text version. I was confident that what I submitted was original, professional and worthy of the degree. I let it go.

Then was the waiting game. After a couple of weeks Virginia came to tell me, beginning pre-emptively with “No, it’s not back yet; one examiner has withdrawn their availability so it has been sent to…

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Finishing thesis


That was an exhausting, and VERY productive day!


I completed my thesis on Monday, 12 January. On the afternoon of the day before I decided that Monday would be the day I finished the full document. The feeling of excitement was awesome! I resolved it would be done and told everyone at #golddrinks that night that this was the plan. I drank too much Prosecco to celebrate in advance, oh well. I was at the lab before 8 am Monday nonetheless and got stuck into it. I’d spent the week before working on the conclusion and felt as though I’d faffed around a lot, although it was good thinking time about what I had achieved and where I fitted. I used the template  suggested by Pat Thompson for constructing a conclusion: what I set out to do; how I did it; what I found; where it fits in the literatures; the implications or so what factor; and…

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