To identify sexually-related themes of the sexuality of older African American women. We included 13 African American older women 57 to 82 years of age11 of whom self-identified as heterosexual, one as bisexual, and one as lesbian. Moreover, we collected information on demographics and self-rated physical health.
Two co-authors served as coders, and used content analysis to identify the most salient sexuality themes. Motivated by the paucity of our sexuality data, we have also provided suggestions to scholars interested in conducting more in-depth further research on this topic with older African American women. Our findings indicate that the common notion that older women are asexual is a myth, while lack of a suitable sexual partner is a problem reported by many African American older women who would otherwise enjoy sexual interaction.
There are many erroneous assumptions regarding the sexuality of older adults in general. People often mistakenly believe that interest in sexual activity decreases with age [ 1 ].
In addition, the needs of family members can ificantly drain emotional energy in older couples [ 3 ], leaving little or no time for sexual satisfaction. A limited amount of research is currently available on this issue, especially concerning ethnic minority older women.
For a variety of reasons detailed below, we chose African American older women as the units of analysis of the study. Concerning the structure of this article, we have 1 provided a succinct literature review on the topic of sexual health among African American older women, 2 described our mixed method study on this topic, and 3 motivated by the lack or extreme shortness of the sexuality responses provided by our research participants, described our methodological challenges and offered potential solutions for interested researchers.
Hopefully, scholars intending to shed more light on this challenging research area will be in the position to choose from a variety of effective methodological strategies that would allow them to collect richer, more in-depth sexuality data on older African American women. Concerning sex research on aging populations, there are very few large studies on sexuality in relation to critical factors such as advanced age and health status.
Among them, we refer the interested reader to comprehensive research conducted by Tessler Lindau et al. This study is particularly relevant to our discussion because African Americans were one of the very few oversampled groups. Women with poor health were rarely sexually active and, if they did engage in sexual activities, often Old black woman want sex problems with sex. Indeed, without good physical health, it is challenging to achieve good sexual health in older age, given that both advanced age and poor physical health are risk factors for many sexual problems [ 5 — 7 ].
The latter could also be reflective of specific physical illnesses including urogenital tract conditions, cancer, or major infections [ 8 — 9 ]. Unfortunately, if sex problems are untreated, they might cause other ificant problems such as social withdrawal or depression [ 10 ]. In the present study, we intended to explore the sexuality of African American older women as tactfully as possible. Of particular interest was the identification of specific sexual themes that are most ificant in the sex lives of the research participants.
The review of prior studies highlighted herein provides a glimpse into some of the many possible themes that could emerge when asking our research participants to express their thoughts and feelings regarding their sexuality.
Many scholars have pointed out that there are several difficulties inherent in conducting in-depth research on such an intimate subject in populations of all ages. Among them, Hines [ 15 ] argued that many African American women, to best cope with pressure involving their sexuality, engage in the dynamic of dissemblance.
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This phenomenon consists of creating an appearance of being open to disclosing intimate issues about themselves as well as their feelings; yet, in actuality, they remain enigmatic as further confirmed in the current study. Additionally, Hines added that African American women were forced to seek protection of their self-image and sexuality due to an unsupportive, antagonistic, and patriarchal White middle class American society.
Unfortunately, as Clarke [ 17 ] highlighted, the overt acceptance and internalization of strict Puritanical ideals regarding sex i. Regrettably, through propagandized images, African American women have been routinely assailed with a unique brand of stereotyping.
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Not only is she typically labeled as an inadequate, unfeminine woman; but, even African American intellectuals have deemed her as antithetical to the African woman and harmful to African Americans [ 13 ]. Importantly, White added, African American women are often portrayed as emasculating of African American men, overbearing to their families, as well as sexually and emotionally abandoned due to their general unattractiveness.
Also, they have typically been held responsible for the dysfunctionality of African American families. Through generations of this ideology perpetuated through socialization, media, and social policy, many African American women may have come to internalize these manipulative debasements.
In this regard, of particular relevance is the fact that older African American women who came of age during a period of racial segregation are possibly still seeing themselves in the very negative images painted of them at that time. According to White [ 18 ], these women seem to have internalized the condemnation and dismissal of their own sexuality, thereby typically forfeiting their sexual empowerment and liberation. InMitchem [ 19 ], reflecting on patterns of socialization, contended that African American women are judged for their sexualities, when sexuality, like prayer, is personal.
Additionally, issues of financial and economic stability are a ificant concern for older African American women. This insidious form of ageism i. Therefore, omission of sex and romance among older populations is likely to be, at least in part, a reflection of ageism.
Ageism is fraught with all the hazards of the more familiar prejudices of racism and sexism. Butler and Lewis [ 21 ] observed that ageism in relation to sex is the ultimate form of desexualization, as sexuality is generally thought of as something that only the young possess. This concept is perpetuated in many forms of mass communication in the U. An example of this message deals with the concept of intimacy and how it can be used interchangeably in the minds of many older people as an acceptable substitute for sex.
Indeed, intimacy is a major aspect of sexuality and does not always require sexual intercourse; ironically, the latter is typically mistaken for intimacy. Older women often consider the intimacy of close friendship and family ties as more important and fulfilling than having sex. However, in a likely effort to counteract and cope with the aforementioned negative pressures and circumstances, African American women have traditionally used African American families and community Old black woman want sex as places where they could develop agency, as well as a sense of sexual freedom and self-empowerment.
The above considerations highlight the need to conduct research targeting the sexuality of older African American women, in an attempt to understand their sexual concerns. In a study on 15 Caucasian women ages 62 to 79 that inspired the present investigation, Dickson, Hughes, and Walker [ 23 ] discussed the dynamics of later-life dating and the search for a long-term mate.
Although the men whom these women dated sought intimacy, sex, self-disclosure, and the potential for marriage in their dating partners, women did not always agree, tending instead to describe their dating within the constructs of a the need for independence and companionship, and b gender role conflicts in reference to dating. Additionally, increased self-esteem and peer identity were listed by older women as benefits of dating. However, even though they sought companionship, intimacy, and sex, they were very protective of their independent status, both physically and financially, and resisted marriage, even at the risk of losing their partners.
In our investigation, we intended to conduct research somewhat complementary in scope to that of Dickson et al.
This theoretical framework depicts health—including sexual health and well-being—as being related to a multitude of variables. We planned to collect demographic and health status information to provide a picture of our sample in terms of variables such as general health as it related to sexuality. No specific a priori hypotheses were made on the outcomes of this research, as very little prior evidence existed in this area to corroborate potential hypotheses.
Though we did not make specific hypotheses, we formulated the following two research questions: 1 what are the descriptive statistics on socio-demographic and health variables of our sample? Not developing explicit hypotheses in an exploratory, mixed method study with strong qualitative elements of this kind is in line with the methodological requirements of grounded theory [ 26 ], as it utilizes content analysis. In addition, we planned on collecting some quantitative data to quantify characteristics of the sample potentially related to sexuality, such as demographic and physical health information.
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We gathered a sample of 13 African American older women. Research assistants RAs recruited them as volunteers at a variety of community locations, including churches, libraries, and stores.
We used purposive sampling, i. Although RAs worked several hours per week to recruit participants, it took four months an academic semester before we were able to locate and interview 13 women who were open to discussing sexual issues.
The CSUN Institutional Review Board approved this study, which was conducted in full compliance with the ethical standards regarding research on human participants. Most importantly, to this end, we carefully matched RAs to respondents based on both gender and race. RAs were trained by one of the principal investigators of the study in qualitative and quantitative research methods.
Participants ed a consent form prior to starting the assessment, which took between 30 and 45 minutes to complete. We asked research participants to select a convenient location where to conduct the interviews; they usually chose places such as senior centers or libraries, as well as their homes. We did not collect identifying information on any participant; each woman was identified only by a random between 1 andwhich was put on her research packet once assessment began.
They were quantified through utilization of a simple list that was created by one of the authors.
The entire measure has eight scales, four on mental health and four on physical health, which afford the quantification of several health concepts, including limitations in physical, social and role activities, vitality, and general health perception [ 29 ]. Clinical tests of its validity conducted through component analysis have obtained excellent [ 30 ]. If not, would you like to be? As a result, we gathered only somewhat general information on several aspects of the sexuality of our respondents.
Using a mixed-method approach, we calculated descriptive statistics on the socio-demographic variables utilizing SPSS. Health-related answers were used to identify the perceived health status of each participant and were categorized as 1 reported health status and 2 ability to complete activities of daily living independently.
Two of the authors of this article transcribed all hand-written protocols from the RAs who collected the datatyped the content of each interview into Word files and coded the data. Each coder was asked to evaluate pertinent data individually by reading and re-reading the protocols several times in order to identify the most endorsed sexuality-related themes. Using content analysis is appropriate for this study, as this has been the method of choice in prior empirical research on sexuality in older age [ 27 ] and it conveniently allows for the identification of themes related to sexuality.
Answers on all themes were typically very short and, at times, consisted of only one or two words; the answers were often intertwined concerning which theme was covered, as many times responses were applicable to two or more themes at once. Regarding the themes 1 having sexual desire and 2 engaging in less sexual activity in older age, overall, the women in this sample responded positively to such questions.
Only four of the 13 women reported no sexual desire. My only problem is trying to find someone to have sex and to be intimate with.
Only about a quarter of the sample was sexually active and wanted to continue engaging in sexual activity. Three of these women perceived that they were not sexually deprived.
Although most respondents felt sexual desire, many of these women did not want to engage in any interactional sex with anyone but their husbands: yet, this was impossible as, for over half of the sample, the man was deceased. Four out of 13 women reported being interested in engaging in sex; one woman stated that she would consider engaging in it; however, nobody was available.
Participant 6 had interesting responses related to all the themes considered together. My husband really loved me. Not really. Who m would I love? In the present study, we attempted to get a glimpse into the sexuality of older African American women. The shortness of the answers received to our questions was particularly striking; nonetheless, we gathered interesting albeit very succinct information and were able to identify four major themes that emerged from the coding procedures.
Regarding the most endorsed theme, having sexual desire often unfulfilledeight women out of 13 reported having sexual desire those without a partner did not do anything about fulfilling this desirefour had none, and one reported missing her husband but not having any particular desire to engage in sexual interaction.