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
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.
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