Tag Archives: sexual health

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


Without policy nothing happens


Policy drives action. If there is no policy then it is hard to get funding for an idea, or to have a topic included in someone’s work plan. Did you know that midlife and older adult sexual health does not appear in Australian federal or state health policy? Why should it? Well, if people are still exploring new relationships, and want to brush up relationship or communication skills, or have suitable sexual health checks, without policy there probably will not be services for them to use, or to encourage a GP to think of midlife and older adults as sexual beings.


I’ve written (co-written, but most of it was me) an article that has just been published. It is scholarly evidence that there is no policy, because I took a thorough look, and the article has been reviewed and updated and reviewed again, that is, has gone through the proper process to make it academic, scholarly evidence so people can say, there is no policy, and HERE’S THE PROOF. Then they can cite: Kirkman, L., Kenny, A., & Fox, C. (2013). Evidence of absence: Midlife and older adult sexual health policy in Australia. Sexuality Research and Social Policy. doi:10.1007/s13178-013-0109-6 (which needs a volume and issue number but doesn’t have it yet, but was published online 2/2/2013).

Thank you to my lovely participants and later in the year I’ll publish something which quotes you and refers to you by name. This article is back ground to why my study, and your participation, matters.

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