Sexing the midlife: women's experiences across same-sex and different-sex couples

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2015-12

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Paine, Emily Allen

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Abstract

This paper examines the experiences of women navigating sex amidst midlife transitions within same-sex and different sex long term couples. Data from in-depth interviews with women in 18 same-sex and 18 different-sex couples were analyzed to reveal how transitions related to caregiving, health and aging work to change women’s intra- and interpersonal experiences of sex and sexuality. I extend theories of gender and sexual scripts to examine how women framed and made sense of their changing sex lives in light of larger cultural schemas of gender and sexuality. For example, lesbian women negotiated their discordance from heterosexual scripts by framing their changing sex lives as either similar to those of heterosexual long term couples or too different to be understood through such scripts. Whereas straight women cited their alignment with the script of sexless long term heterosexual marriages, lesbian women negotiated stigmatized heterosexist scripts of lesbian asexuality. I introduce the term of lesbian “bed work” to describe the sense of responsibility and work undertaken to keep up sexual relationships discussed by lesbian women.

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