Tag Archives: friends with benefits

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

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 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

Defining friends with benefits



This link takes you to the text and images from my first conference presentation, where I describe my journey to define friends with benefits. I was encouraged by my supervisors to go to non-scholarly sources (gasp) so I played on the dark side, looking at Urban Dictionary, and doing some free Googling. I found a mix of attitude and advice out there.

The paper was well received:

22 April 2011 The presentation to the AHPA National Conference went really well, and was possibly the best attended concurrent session; maybe 80 people. It’s all part of my plan to be known and noticed. I was happy that Fran Baum had complimented me on my presentation. It was good to eventually find a couple of other tweeters, and one bloke had come to Cairns from SexTech, so I was jealous. The other is David from FPV and it was good to meet him.

A point I made in the presentation was that by having the language to describe things and social scripts to follow we are more likely to contemplate those behaviours. One woman confirmed this by approaching me later and saying, “That’s what I need in my life.” She described being single for eight years, wanting ‘physical activity’ but not the responsibility of a man. Another delegate said her grandmother had had a friends with benefits relationship. They are out there!

Suggested APA citation for the paper: Kirkman, L. (2011, 12 April). What are ‘friends with benefits’? The challenge of defining a new term in a scholarly way. Paper presented at the Australian Health Promotion Association’s National Conference, Cairns Convention Centre, Cairns, Queensland, Australia.retrieved from http://latrobe.academia.edu/LindaKirkman/Papers/524837/What_are_friends_with_benefits_The_challenge_of_researching_and_defining_a_new_relationship_concept

Baby boomers continue to explore new relationship types


Baby boomers were pioneers trying out new relationship types in the 1960s and 1970s, and are still pushing social boundaries. Society is evolving and changing, including the way friendships and intimate relationships are conducted. As the divorce rate increases, some people are looking for intimacy, but want independence too.

Relationship types are changing, but not much is known about them, how baby boomers are negotiating those changes, or what impact the relationship has on wellbeing. This research team is interested to find out about the experiences of rural baby boomers who are in friends with benefits relationships and is conducting a research project to explore their experiences. It is hoped that the research findings will have relevance to policy and health promotion.

We are no longer looking for people to participate in this research, but if you are interested in the study and its progress, this site has information.

This research has ethics approval from La Trobe University. UHEC No. 11-078

Who can participate?
If you would like to participate, you must:
• be a baby boomer, defined as born between 1946-1965;
• live in a rural area, defined as outside a capital city;
• have participated within the last five years in a friends with benefits relationship, defined as one where people have an ongoing intimate relationship, but do not consider themselves to be a couple.

What is involved?
Participation in this study involves an individual interview of approximately one hour duration. This will preferably be face-to-face but could also be by phone or an email discussion if face-to-face is not suitable. Face-to-face interviews will be conducted in a private room at a La Trobe University campus convenient to you. La Trobe University campuses are in Bendigo, Albury-Wodonga, Shepparton, Mildura and two in Melbourne, both Bundoora and the CBD. The interviews will be digitally audio recorded, with your permission. The interviews will be analysed for broad themes and will form the basis of a research thesis, presented at conferences, published in journals, presented and discussed in appropriate public forums, such as the media and online.

What about my confidentiality?
Throughout this process your privacy and confidentiality will be maintained. You will be given a pseudonym and the data from the interviews will be de-identified and then transcribed using this pseudonym. Your location, or anything that could identify you, will not be included in the transcriptions, stated in the thesis or any publications or presentations. All material collected will be stored in an approved, secure location.

What if I change my mind?
Participation is entirely voluntary. You have the right to cancel or stop the interview. You have up to four weeks after your interview to withdraw your data from the project and will be given a ‘Withdrawal of Consent’ form to use.

What are the benefits?
It is hoped that this research will contribute to the knowledge about and understanding of baby boomers in friends with benefits relationships. From this might come recommendations for policy or health promotion. Although there are no explicit benefits to you, it might give you an opportunity to reflect on and gain insight into your own experiences.

I would like to participate NO LONGER TAKING NEW PARTICIPANTS
If you are interested in participating in this research please email us at
fwb@latrobe.edu.au and we will provide you with a detailed participation information sheet. If after reading this information sheet you are interested in participating you will be required to sign a consent form prior to your participation.

Thank you for your interest in this project!