Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Regardless of age, health conditions, many seniors not retired from sex


 Despite societal perceptions that older adults' love lives are ancient history, many seniors are anything but retired from sex, a new study suggests.
Many seniors consider sexual activity essential to their well-being, happiness and quality of life. And some of these vivacious seniors are finding their golden years to be an optimal time for exploring new dimensions of their sexuality, said researcher Liza Berdychevsky, a professor of recreation, sport and tourism at the University of Illinois.
Berdychevsky and co-author Galit Nimrod of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, examined the importance of and constraints on sexuality in older adulthood - as well as people's strategies for staying sexually active throughout their later years. The researchers analyzed a full year of conversations about sex that occurred on 14 leading online communities that target people age 50 and over. The study sample included English-speaking websites based in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the U.S.
Older adults' discussions of their experiences and perspectives about sexual matters were wide-ranging and diverse. While some seniors were content with retiring from sex, many others emphasized that they "remained sexually able, interested and active," the researchers found.
"Although some older adults reported abstaining from sexual activity due to health conditions or loss of interest, others refused to renounce sexual activity. Their health problems or society's ageist stereotypes that portray seniors as asexual were not going to become excuses to give up on life - or sex," Berdychevsky said.
A sense of impending mortality inspired some older adults to cast aside sexual inhibitions or stereotypes that constrained their behavior when they were younger and to begin exploring new activities or aspects of their sexuality, according to the study.
Rather than diminishing with age, some seniors' libidos caught fire and sexual activity took on greater importance with their abundance of leisure time in later life. For these seniors, their sexual explorations affirmed their ongoing engagement with life and continuing personal growth, Berdychevsky said.
While people may have greater opportunity and perceived freedom to explore their sexuality later in life and might benefit the most from it, they also are confronted with numerous cultural, social, psychological and biological constraints, Berdychevsky said.
"But not everybody perceived these constraints as verdicts. Many seniors were willing to negotiate these constraints, resist them and find various cognitive and behavioral strategies to continue having sex," Berdychevsky said.
Ageist stereotypes that older adults are - or should be - asexual frequently encroached on seniors' sex lives. In the online forums, some seniors recounted incidents of health care workers dismissing their concerns about their sexual health or functioning. Likewise, some seniors reported that their lifestyles elicited disapproval from their adult children or staff members in their living facilities, Berdychevsky said.
How to continue enjoying one's sexuality after the loss of a spouse or partner and the risks associated with dating and sexual relationships in later life were popular discussion topics. While some seniors swapped advice about finding new partners and trying new sexual activities such as sex toys, less progressive older adults wrote that embarrassment and fear of social stigma prevented them from trying these activities.
Although health conditions sometimes constrained older adults' physical abilities, their willingness to reappraise and adapt their sexual activities - rather than surrender to their physical limitations - determined whether they continued to enjoy fulfilling sex lives, the researchers concluded in the paper, published in the journal Leisure Sciences.
Learning to appreciate what they had - whether it was enjoying foreplay in lieu of intercourse, focusing on quality instead of quantity, or finding mental richness and life experience as arousing as a youthful physique - enabled some older adults to adjust their sexual expectations to the realities of aging and their health conditions, Berdychevsky said. 
Like other leisure pursuits, sexual activity served as an important adjustment strategy, helping some seniors cope with life transitions such as ending their careers and moving into retirement communities or health care facilities, the researchers wrote.
Other seniors, however, indicated they were happy to forgo sex, the researchers found. Youth-oriented depictions of "positive" or "successful" aging that implied ongoing sexual activity, which are used frequently in marketing sex-enhancement products, were distressing to these seniors and perceived as sensationalistic.
"These stereotypes caused performance anxiety in some older men, and some older women believed that both partners should have a say in whether sex enhancement drugs are prescribed," Berdychevsky said.
Sexual education programming that addresses the variety of physical and psychosocial risks that sexually active older adults face is much needed, according to the researchers. Likewise, health care providers and residential facility staff members must be encouraged to shed ageist stereotypes about older adults' sexuality, respect their rights to privacy and sexual activity, and be sensitive to their concerns.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

There are ways that couples can sustain -- or relight -- their passion


Many couples find that their sexual desire has dwindled over time. It's not unusual for partners who could not keep their hands off each to gradually lose interest. But new research indicates that there are ways that couples can sustain -- or relight -- their passion.

"Our research shows that partners who are responsive to each other outside the bedroom are able to maintain their sexual desire," says Gurit Birnbaum, psychology professor at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, Israel. Birnbaum and her coauthors also found that women's desire is more strongly affected by their partner's responsiveness than men's desire -- although men report a boost, as well.

"Responsiveness -- which is a type of intimacy -- is so important in a relationship because it signals that one is really concerned with the welfare of the other, but in a way that is truly open and informed about what the other cares about and wants," says Birnbaum. Responsive partners are willing to invest resources in the relationship, and show understanding at a deep level. They make the relationship feel special -- that their relationship is unique -- which is, at least in Western societies, what people seek from their romantic relationships.

Resolving the intimacy-desire paradox

In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Birnbaum and coauthor Harry Reis, professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, report that their new study was, in part, prompted by a concept psychologists know as the "intimacy-desire paradox."

The core of the paradox lies in the contradiction between intimate and familiar relationships that many people strive for, and the limitations of such bonds for facilitating desire. Some scholars have argued that long-term intimacy may actually inhibit rather than increase sexual desire. For example, the need for security may clash with the sense of novelty and uncertainty that can often fuel desire.
But previous research has not provided conclusive evidence for whether increased sense of intimacy actually promotes or undermines sexual desire.

And Birnbaum and Reis's new study suggests that, under certain circumstances, there may not be a paradox.

Valued and desirable

What determines whether intimacy prompts or inhibits desire is not its mere existence, but its meaning in the larger context of a relationship, they argue. Responsiveness is most likely to encourage desire. That's because it conveys the impression that the partner is worth pursuing and thus engaging in sex with such a desirable partner is likely to promote an already valuable relationship.
As part of the study, the researchers conducted three experiments, one of which consisted of 100 couples who kept a diary for six weeks. Both partners reported on their own level of sexual desire each day as well as their perceptions of their partner's responsiveness. They also reported their own levels of feeling special and perceptions of their partner's mate value.

The results indicated that when men and women perceive their partners as responsive, they feel special and think of their partner as a valuable mate, which boosted sexual desirability.

Birnbaum notes that partner responsiveness had a significantly stronger effect on women's perceptions of themselves and others, suggesting that women experienced higher levels of desire for their responsive partner because they were more likely than men to feel special and value their partner as a result of the partner's responsiveness.

"'Being nice' and things like that are not necessarily based on who the partner is and what the partner really wants," Birnbaum says. "When a mate is truly responsive, the relationship feels special and unique and he or she is perceived as valued and desirable.

"Sexual desire thrives on increasing intimacy and being responsive is one of the best ways to instill this elusive sensation over time; better than any pyrotechnic sex," Birnbaum says.


Thursday, July 14, 2016

Opposites attract -- unless you're in a relationship



If we are in a relationship we are more likely to be attracted to faces resembling our own, but for single people, opposites attract.
Relationship status affects who and what we find attractive, found a study published in Frontiers in Psychology.
Dr Jitka Lindová of Charles University in the Czech Republic and her team showed a series of photographs of faces to university students and asked them to rate their attractiveness. The photographs were digitally manipulated so that the resemblance to the student was modified.
Images were of an individual of the opposite sex, whose face had been manipulated to look either more or less similar to the student. They were also presented with images of a same-sex individual manipulated in the same way.
"We found that single participants, those not in relationships, rate dissimilar faces as more attractive and sexy than self-resembling faces;" stated Lindová.
This was observed when participants rated both same-sex and opposite-sex faces.
"For the first time, we have observed how our partnership status affects who we find attractive;" she added.
"Our interpretation is that attractiveness perception mechanisms that give us a preference for a genetically suitable partner may be suppressed during romantic relationships," explained Lindová; "This might be a relationship maintenance strategy to prevent us from finding alternatives to our own partner, or perhaps self-resemblance becomes more important in terms of the social support we expect receive from relatives, which are known as kinship cues."
Little research has been carried out about how our perceptions change when we enter a relationship. These findings have important sociological and biological implications that require further study.
In addition, Lindová pointed out that this work may be of interest to the applied psychological sciences.
"For example, as those not in a relationship were not influenced by kinship cues and our findings might help to explain social phenomena such as parent and adolescent disaffection;" she said.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Faking to finish -- women feign sexual pleasure to end 'bad' sex

When talking about troubling sexual encounters some women mention faking sexual pleasure to speed up their male partner's orgasm and ultimately end sex.
This is one of the findings of a qualitative study by Emily Thomas (Ryerson University, Canada) Monika Stelzl, Michelle Lafrance (St. Thomas University, Canada) that will be presented today, Friday 8 July 2016, at the British Psychological Society's Psychology of Women annual conference in Windsor. 
Emily said: "While some women spoke about faking orgasm in positive ways, for instance, as a pleasurable experience that heightened their own arousal, many talked about feigning pleasure in the context of unwanted and unpleasurable sexual experiences. Within these accounts, we were struck by the degree to which women were connecting the practice of faking orgasm to accounts of unwanted sex."
In the study 15 women (aged 19 -28) who had been sexually active for at least one year were interviewed to talk about experiences of feigning sexual pleasure. Despite being recruited to talk about consensual sex, all women spoke explicitly of a problematic sexual experience. Interviews were analysed to explore how these women negotiate and account for experiences of problem sex in the context of exaggerating sexual pleasure and faking orgasm.
Analysis showed that the women never used terms such as rape and coercion to refer to their own experiences - despite their descriptions of events that could be categorised as such. Instead, women described their experiences of unwanted sex in indirect ways. For example, women used the term 'bad' to describe sex that was both unwanted and unpleasurable. 
The women spoke of faking orgasm as a means to ending these troubling sexual encounters. In other words, faking orgasm provided a solution for ending sex where, culturally, not many options are available. 
""It appears that faking orgasm is both problematic and helpful at the same time. On one level faking an orgasm may be a useful strategy as it affords some control over ending a sexual encounter. We are not criticizing faking practice on an individual level. We want to focus on the problems with our current lack of available language to describe women's experiences that acknowledges, names and confronts the issues women spoke of in our interviews."