Tag Archives: baby boomers

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


Pushing conference boundaries: Midlife and later life adults challenge relationship assumptions


How does one try to change the culture of an organisation, or the way society is viewed and studied? The nature of relationships is changing – or their overt expression is changing – and my research contributes to the bigger picture about this change, yet mainstream research seems focused only on mainstream. Joining an organisation and sharing work at its conferences is one way to raise awareness of change and promote interest in new ideas. I have been doing this through IARR.

The International Association for Relationship Research (IARR) has its conference every two years. I presented in 2012 in Chicago at the very unfriendly time of first thing on the morning after the conference dinner. The symposium, organised by (now) Dr Jocelyn Wentland was on casual sex, and at the time I wondered if the timeslot implied a judgement on the topic. I wrote at the time how I felt like a fish out of water as most presentations assumed the committed, heterosexual couple was the default and expected gold standard. My non-cohabiting, not always monogamous, not all heterosexual participants did not fit this model. I wondered if the emphasis would change for the 2014 conference, and if diverse relationships would feature more. This year the conference was in Melbourne, and I was part of two presentations. Dr Sue Malta’s PhD was on late-life romantic relationships and our work complements each other well. We did a joint presentation which focused on agency and sex – and it was at 9 am after the conference dinner, just like last time! There were 12 people present which was a good number considering the time, and the work was well received.

Better positioned at 3.30 on Friday afternoon was a round table panel presentation which was: From Early Adulthood to Later Life: Redefining the Boundaries of New Intimate Relationships Across the Lifespan. Four of us were in this: Dr Sue Malta represented older adults in new romantic relationships aged 60-92; I included baby boomers in friends-with-benefits aged 46-65; Dr Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli spoke of poly families with adults in their thirties and forties; and Luke Gahan referred to young same sex attracted, religious people aged 14-21. That session was fabulous. We each commented on three topics: exclusivity and commitment in the relationships; significance of sexual activity; the impact on wellbeing of the relationships and how it was influenced by the level of social acceptance of the relationships. A consistent finding was that the individuals and their relationships were doing well, and the main concern was the judgement or stigma that was feared or enacted in relation to being outside hetero-monogamy. We are writing a paper based on this presentation, so watch out for it. The picture shows us anxiously waiting for people to come – 14 turned up and were engaged and interested.

From left: Luke, Maria, Linda and Sue

From left: Luke, Maria, Linda and Sue

Rural sexual health conference – including a unicorn


Having a conference dedicated to rural sexual health was an opportunity not to be missed, even thouImagegh I’d said no more conferences this year. It was in Shepparton, not too far away, but not as exotic a location as Thailand where some of my colleagues are going next week. It was cool to see some of my #sexgeek tribe there; Bonnie, Anna, Kat, Kim, and Alaina . There were some interesting presentations and I learnt some new things, primarily that the main researcher in chlamydia thinks that screening as it is practised is not the right thing to do from a health or economic point of view. That was intriguing to me. The key point is to test for STIs before starting a new sexual relationship, irrespective of age or sexuality. My presentation on rural baby boomers’ experience of accessing health services for sexual health needs is here. It has pictures of a sad puppy and a unicorn. The unicorn symbolises my dream of good sexual health for all – is it a fantasy? I hope not.

Happy sexgeekery in Melbourne


The First National Sexual and Reproductive Health conference was held in Melbourne this week, 20-21 November 2012. It was not really the first national sexual health conference, but it WAS the first one organised by the PHAA and FPA, and definitely didn’t have a biomedical focus like many sex conferences, so let’s not be too hard on them calling it the first. I had an excellent time, hanging out with some of my sexgeek friends from Twitter, some of whom I met in real life for the first time. I also met some of my sex research, and qualitative research, heroes, including Gail Hawkes, Juliet Richters and Victor Minichiello. The invited speakers were really good, and you can see who they were here. My paper Kirkman 2012 Midlife sexuality_beyond heteronormativity, went well and I was pleased with the feedback I was given. If a post-doc or thesis examiner comes from contacts made at this conference, then I will be very happy.

My fellow student Asha gave me a plush toy representing HIV, and took a picture of me with it.

If you want to read more about the conference itself, Simon Blake from the UK’s Brook Young People Sexual Health Charity, has written a good account. A key theme from many presenters was that sexual expression, sexuality education, and good sexual health across the life span are human rights. The WHO definition was cited by many. I was also pleased to hear many people including sexual health across the life span, including midlife and older adults. It seems my research is in the right place at the right time.

Preliminary findings, including sex: pleasure; and safety


Friends With Benefits Relationships As Experienced by Rural Baby Boomers in Australia_IARR This link will take you to the presentation I gave at the IARR 2012 conference in Chicago. It is the first time I used data from participants, and cite people I interviewed. I comment on sex, and pleasure as described by my participants. I have already posted on what it was like being at IARR here; I realised how important what I’m doing is, as well as how unusual.

Suggested APA citation of this presentation: Kirkman, L. (2012, July 12-16). Friends with Benefits Relationships as Experienced by Rural Baby Boomers in Australia. Paper presented at the International Association for Relationship Research 2012 Conference, Palmer Hilton, Chicago, Illinois.retrieved from http://latrobe.academia.edu/LindaKirkman/Papers/1867563/IARR_2012_Prelim_findings_sexual_safety_and_pleasure

Why baby boomer sexual health is important, and a look at non-existent policy


Baby boomer sexual health L_Kirkman This link takes you to the presentation I gave at the Ninth Asia/Oceania Regional Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics on 25 October 2011. Below are my reflections about attending that conference, and working out how I feel about ageing and sexuality in general, and mine in particular.

Reflections 6 Nov 2011

Going to an ageing conference was a bit confronting. I felt out of place on the first day, but on the second day hung out with friends, met new people and started to feel as though I was with my tribe. This was because I met up with Sue Malta. Her presentation was really interesting, and added more information to my topic. The specific concept I learned was Living Apart Together (LAT) which seems to be a growing phenomenon, and has been researched in Europe but less in Australia. After her talk someone wanted her to speak at a conference in Brisbane next year, and she pointed me and my work out, and maybe we will get a symposium together? Very exciting stuff.

I did start to get freaked by the whole ageing concept. Maybe it is the “Keep young and beautiful, if you want to be loved” concept. I don’t agree with it, but there has to be some influence of mass media. I was pleased when my friend and PhD colleague Sue wrote,

I would love to read your reflections about your own worries about ageing as it seems that worries about ageing may be central in conceiving yourself as a sexual being – if you are worried about it you are less likely to be prepared and take precautions – so again that lived experience is so important in finding ways to connect with people about their sexual practices – sexuality is so deeply personal and private

I think too of all those relics of women goddesses who are so lush and powerful and think that not a lot of them of them are firm and young – there is potential in ageing and sexuality I think –

Those lush and powerful goddesses are certainly persuasive, and this notion gave me heart.

My reflections on ageing? It’s a very relevant suggestion, because if I am to study it my work will be enriched by such reflections, and probably my daily life, and attitudes to myself. I’ll do a free think.


Wrinkles; wisdom; physical decline; reduction in social acceptability, but an increase in perceived respectability – middle aged women are seen to be trustworthy, not like teen age boys, which is unfair to teenage boys; uncertainty; I’m gorgeous; employment; unemployment; being alone, or fear of it; finding a person to be with; forgetfulness; assumptions that I’m technically incompetent; patriarchy.

Wonder what all that says about me! Not brave and fearless, that’s for sure, but a mix of anxiety and some positive self talk thrown in. I’m holding myself together, but started to feel things unravelling yesterday. I’m not sure if the unravelling is a good thing or not. My carapace keeps me upright, and without it I might just pour everywhere. If that is unleashed, maybe what is left will have less baggage and be lighter?

Yes, Sue, I will have to reflect more on my attitude to ageing, and what it means and what attitudes I carry, and what I’d like to carry. Thank you for asking.

Suggested APA citation for the presentetion: Kirkman, L. (2011, 25 October). Sexual health policy and practice for baby boomers. Paper presented at the Ninth Asia/Oceania Regional Congress of Gerontology and Geriatrics, The Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre, Southbank, Melbourne, Victoria.retrieved from http://latrobe.academia.edu/LindaKirkman/Papers/1092364/Baby_boomer_sexual_health_policy_and_practice

Why baby boomer sexual health matters



At the Australasian Sexual Health Conference last year I presented a poster about why baby boomer sexual health matters. The link above takes you to a PDF of the poster. I had some interesting conversations with people who came to look at it. The clinician from Adelaide also attended the ASPOG conference I presented at this month, and told me she had referred to my work at professional presentations she’d given, with attribution. It was exciting to hear this.  This is my diary entry from then:

4 October 2011

The conference last week was an excellent experience. I was proud of my poster, and the 30 handouts all were taken, plus I printed another ten on the last day which were taken also. I met people I had cited, and spoke to many people (clinicians) who affirmed that my research is important and timely. Deborah Bateson was very interested, and said she hadn’t had my email forwarded. They have lots of qualitative data from the surveys but no money to have it analysed. Another clinician from Adelaide (who encouraged me very strongly to visit and present; must organise cards/contacts) said she was seeing baby boomer women who visited her STI clinic rather than their usual GP for tests because of the embarrassment/shame. They say things like ‘it should be my daughter here, not me’.

I learned heaps about chlamydia and BV, especially the urgency around getting treatment for chlamydia. The images of healthy and post infection fallopian tubes were very powerful. The NZ woman who presented on stigma and HIV was fabulous, and I’ve used her resources in class already. www.positivewomen.org.nz I also got excited about microbiology, probably because of the excellent presenter. Very interesting research being done.

It was also good to hang out with Irene, who looked after me very well.

To cite the poster in APA style I suggest:

Kirkman, L. (2011, 28-30 September). Why we should care about baby boomer sexuality. Paper presented at the 2011 Australasian Sexual Health Conference, National Convention Centre, Canberra ACT.retrieved from http://latrobe.academia.edu/LindaKirkman/Papers/1011516/Baby_Boomer_Sexuality