What does it really mean to be ‘sexually active’?
Are you still ‘sexually active’?
There’s something condescending about that question, isn’t there? Almost as if there’s an implication that one day you’re supposed to deactivate your libido and that will be that. Usually, the person who’s asking you that question is a medical professional and they’re looking up at you, poised to insert something cold into an intimate part of your body.
Most people would agree that sex is pretty good when it occurs. Often, it’s the case that the less sex you have, the more important it becomes. But is sex really all that? Research on the sexuality of older Australians has found that while intercourse and sexual urges are considered important, the sex itself isn't necessarily what provides people with the feeling of being satisfied.
A study conducted by the Institute for Health and Ageing at Australian Catholic University found that desire for affectionate contact becomes more important over time for older people.
“The research shows that older Australians have an increasing desire for affectionate and intimate sexual behaviours, such as hugging, kissing and touching, with a trusted partner who respects them,” said lead researcher Ashley Macleod
That’s not to say, necessarily, that sexual urges diminish but, perhaps, what older people want in bed is quality over quantity.
Ms Macleod said everyday dialogue about sexuality fails to give a comprehensive representation of the sexual desires and activity of this demographic.
“Being ‘sexually active’ is so commonly associated with intercourse frequency, and sexual prowess, however our research shows that it’s much more. The fact of the matter is that, contrary to stereotype, older people aren’t asexual beings. In fact, they’re participating in sexual activity regularly – just in broader and more emotionally-stimulating ways,” said Ms Macleod.
Ms Macleod also said that there should be more open communication about human sexuality outside of the dominating reproductive years.
“Sexuality and intimacy play a significant role throughout the entire lifespan of humans, and yet our existing knowledge is based on research that looks almost solely at the sexuality of adults during their reproductive years.”
If you’re a heterosexual adult 45 years and over, you’re invited to participate in the second stage of the Institute for Health and Ageing’s study. Registrations for the online survey are open from now until January.
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