Tag Archives: social research

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



America, trying to avoid the stereotypes
There is nothing like a relationship conference to get one seeing the world in an analytic, labelling way, observing body language and interactions, categorising and stereotyping people. Given I spend a lot of time advocating for NOT putting people in boxes I found this reaction quite disturbing. I see a young, bling-adorned black man driving a huge, shiny convertible, pumping out doof-doof, and my first thought was, drug dealer. My second thought, naughty! Stereotypes are bad!

Building on from this, I’ve started describing and categorising my own behaviour using sociology concepts. Things like, ‘I don’t follow that social script’; ‘I don’t subscribe to that gendered behaviour expectation’. My PhD study has me looking at things, individual ideas or behaviours, and reducing them to theoretical concepts – or is that expanding them? It is probably a useful approach for thesis writing, but must be very annoying for people whose head is not in that universe. Having said that, my use of these concepts is more in my thinking and private describing, not used in general conversation.

Heteronormativity and mononormativity
I was trying to work out how to describe the impact of the generally heteronormative, mononormative, long-term-heterosexual-dyad-as-gold-standard approach to relationship research design and evaluation, when I read Silverman (2007) who uses the term, ‘Explanatory Orthodoxy’ (p. 88). He describes this as social scientists viewing people as puppets of social structures, and what they do is defined by society. ‘In practice, this reduces to the level of explaining people’s behaviour as certain “face sheet” variables (like social class, gender or ethnicity). … social scientists do research to find explanations of given problems, e.g., why do individuals engage in unsafe sex? Inevitably, such research will find explanations based on one or more ‘face-sheet’ variables’ (p. 88). My speculation on this is that many of the presentations I saw were from study designs based on face sheet variables, most of which were quantitative, of course, That’s what made the ones that were different really stand out. Amy Moors spoke about her research into non-monogamy, and from that some contacts were made, and there was a coffee meeting I missed out on but an email group has been formed and people will keep in touch. I’m suggesting a symposium at the next IARR conference on non-monogamy, which would be an interesting contrast.

How sessions were put together and symposia timetabled, plus what was chosen to be included, could say something about the approach of the conference organisers – pure speculation here, no evidence, but the talk comparing the frequency and duration of sexual encounters people of different sexual orientations was lumped in with conjugal pairings of men and women in Brazilian prisons. Our casual sex symposium was at a very unfriendly time. Maybe I’m reading too much into this.

Is there any meaning to the fact that I have Placebo’s Sucker Love as an ear worm while writing this?