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Sexuality During the Adult Years
Single Living
• Increasing rates
• May reflect change in societal attitudes
• Lifestyles & satisfaction vary widely
– Celibacy or long-term monogamy
– Serial monogamy
– Single persons engage in sexual activity less
often & are less satisfied than married
• Domestic partnership
• Cohabitation vs. marriage
• Social impact
Men’s Cohabitation Rates by Educational Level
Personal & Social Functions
Stable families convey social norms
Defines rights of inheritance
Regulate sexual behavior
Emotional & social support system
Associated with better health
Takes different forms in different cultures
Question of same-sex and interracial marriage
Contemporary Cross-Cultural Comparisons
• Collectivist cultures:
– Emphasize group goals over individual
– Marriage unites families not two individuals
– Arranged marriages common
– Emphasize needs of family, community, or
religion; de-emphasize love
– Polygamy
• Individualistic cultures:
– Emphasize feelings of love
– Importance of love is a recent innovation
Changing Expectations and Marital Patterns
• Discrepancy between American marriage ideal
and actual practices
– Most politically conservative areas (“bible
belt”) have some of the highest rates of
divorce and unwed mothers
• Unrealistic expectations of fulfillment
• Fewer support networks for marriage
• Lack of preparation for daily issues
• People live longer
Predicting Marital Satisfaction:
Gottman’s Research
• Based on heterosexual couples
• Ratio of positive to negative comments predict
• Five positive to one negative interaction is key
Sexual Behavior Within Marriage
• Factors that raise sexual satisfaction
• Factors that lower sexual satisfaction
• Sexless union can be satisfying
– DINS (Dual income, no sex)
Extramarital Relationships
• Cultural differences
– Most cultures have restrictive norms; usually
more restrictive for women
• Consensual
– Swinging, open marriage, & polyamory
• Nonconsensual
– Varied & complex reasons
– Younger people have more affairs
– Role of internet
– Impact on marriage varies
• Half of all first marriages end in divorce
• Reasons for high divorce rate
– Increased expectations for marital and sexual
– No-fault divorce laws
– Reduction in social stigma
– Women’s economic independence
Most Frequently Cited Reasons
for Divorce
• Communication problems
• Basic unhappiness
• Incompatibility
• Drug abuse and physical abuse
Sexuality and Aging
• Aging associated with sexlessness
• Double standard for aging
• Health is most crucial to sexual well-being
Sexual Activity in Later Years
• Among sexually active adults over age 60: 61%
said their sex life today was either the same or
more physically satisfying than in their 40s.
• Factors that maintain activity
– Prior interest in sexual activity
– Regularity of sexual activity
– Good physical health
Sexuality & Aging:
Same-Sex Behavior
• Same-Sex sexual activity in later years is similar
to heterosexual
• Lesbian advantages
– Less likely to be widowed
– Higher pool of alternatives
– Less aging double standard
Sexuality & Aging:
Toward Androgyny in Later Life
• Hormonal differences decline
• Fewer gender-based duties
• More power for women, more emotionality in
• Widows to widowers ratio = 4:1
• 50% of widowers; 25% of widows remarry
• Older people remain interested in sex even
when no partner is available