Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Sex in older age in rural Malawi

Contents:

Author Info

  • Emily Freeman
  • Ernestina Coast

Abstract

This paper examines how older people living in rural Malawi explain and understand their sex lives. We present sex in this setting as a field in which broader understandings of ageing, aged identities, and conceptions of person- or adulthood in older age are played out and constructed. Qualitative data were collected from men (n=20) and women (n=23) aged between 50 and around 90 using in-depth multiple dependent interviews (n=136) between 2008 and 2010. The giving and receipt of sexual pleasure was considered natural and God-given. Primarily understood as a matter of “power”, sex was on the one hand beneficial to older bodies, but on the other, not accessible to such bodies. Declining sexual frequency was associated with declining desire for sex, or frustration stemming from continued desire for sex. These discourses emerged from the way the ageing body was constructed as a weakened body, incompatible with understandings of adulthood based on physical productivity. Older men and women used sex to discursively respond to these challenges to their adulthood in two ways. Firstly, sex was used to confirm an older person’s strength, physical productivity, and therefore, identity as an ‘adult’. Secondly, adulthood itself was redefined as being based on moral, rather than physical productivity, and refraining from sex was used to demonstrate an older person’s wisdom, self-control and ‘adult’ identity. Our results provide in-depth understanding of the ways constructions of ageing and sex can influence complex experiences of marital and non-marital sex in older age. We contribute to debates on sexuality in the gerontological literature by moving discussion beyond the presentation of continued sexuality as somehow exceptional or an indicator of successful ageing. Finally, in a setting of considerable HIV prevalence at older ages, our results challenge a preoccupation with fertility and chronological age in the collection of sexual health data in Africa.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/47624/
File Function: Open access version.
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library in its series LSE Research Online Documents on Economics with number 47624.

as in new window
Length:
Date of creation: Mar 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: Published in Ageing and Society, March, 2013, pp. 1-24. ISSN: 0144-686X
Handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:47624

Contact details of provider:
Postal: LSE Library Portugal Street London, WC2A 2HD, U.K.
Phone: +44 (020) 7405 7686
Web page: http://www.lse.ac.uk/
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords: ageing; sexuality; malawi; africa; HIV; HIV/AIDS; sex; older person;

Find related papers by JEL classification:

References

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

Citations

Lists

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ehl:lserod:47624. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Lucy Ayre).

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.