This study assesses the role of religion in influencing sexual frequency and satisfaction among older married adults and sexual activity among older unmarried adults. We propose and test several hypotheses about the relationship between religion and sex among these two groups of older Americans, using nationally representative data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project NSHAP.
suggest that among married older adults, religion is largely unrelated with sexual frequency and satisfaction, although religious integration in daily life shares a weak but positive association with pleasure from sex. For unmarried adults, such religious integration exhibits a negative association with having had sex in the last year among women but not men.
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Despite longstanding stereotypes to the contrary, sexual interest remains alive among older adults. In data from the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project NSHAPonly one in four 75—year-old men report a complete lack of interest in sex, and only about half of 75—year-old women say the same Lindau et al.
In fact, these s are not ificantly different than those for 57— and 65—year olds. Given the continued importance of sex for older adults and its positive implications for them—and considering how little we know about sex among seniors—it seems important to identify factors that shape their sexual activity and satisfaction. Although Americans over 50 years old will soon make up the largest demographic in the United States, there has only been modest attention given to their sexual behavior patterns Delamater and Moorman Drawing upon the NSHAP data, scholars have begun to investigate the sexual behaviors and functioning of older Americans ages 57 to 85, revealing that women are ificantly less likely than men to report sexual lady wants real sex macfarlan at all ages, with 43 percent of women indicating low desire as their most prevalent sexual problem Lindau et al.
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Gender disparities in having a spouse or romantic partner increase with age, as 78 percent of men and 40 percent of women ages 75 to 85 report having a spouse or partner. Those with poor health understandably reported less sexual activity than those in good or very good health.
Sexual satisfaction is typically defined quite broadly as the degree to which an individual is satisfied with their sexual relationship; it encompasses both physical pleasure and emotional satisfaction derived from sex. Qualitative studies note that religion and spirituality often rise in step with processes of coping with age-related changes in health, functioning, social losses, and with the growing recognition lady wants real sex macfarlan impending mortality Dalby Because religion holds such an important role in the lives of older adults, its influence may extend to sexual behavior.
Most of research on religion and aging nevertheless focuses on health and mental health outcomes as distinct from behaviors Krause, Because the sexual dyad is considered a sacred bond by most religious Americans, exploring the sexual lives of older adults may also provide a window into their religious lives as well. Research connecting sex and religion in older adulthood, however, remains slim. Much more is known about it at earlier stages of the life course. Studies of religion and sex among adults are rarer and have tended to focus primarily on retrospective s of premarital or extramarital sexual behavior.
Evidence from the — General Social Surveys GSS indicates that never-married adults with higher religiosity report fewer sexual partners than their less religious counterparts Barkan A study of never-married respondents from the — GSS suggests that elevated religiosity church attendance and strength of religious identification reduces the incidence of premarital sex among Catholics and conservative Protestants, but not among liberal or moderate Protestants Cochran et al.
For liberal Protestants, though, religion still matters: Church membership and belief in an afterlife reduce premarital sexual activity. Its authors note that religious individuals were less likely to think about sex, masturbate, have oral or anal sex, or have multiple partners. Evangelical Protestant adults reported the highest frequency of sex and the highest levels of satisfaction with sex, and the lowest frequency of oral and anal sex. Moreover, they were more lady wants real sex macfarlan to have had only one sex partner in the last year.
Sociologist Robert Merton asserts that reference lady wants real sex macfarlan provide people with a ready group by which to evaluate their own circumstances, behaviors, and to form new attitudes. He elaborates on two types of reference groups: the comparison and the normative. Comparison reference groups provide a frame of reference which individuals use to compare themselves with others, while normative reference groups set and provide standards for the individual. Religious groups are thought to provide more of the normative type than the comparative type.
For example, religious norms typically define the appropriate contexts in which people are to engage in sexual activity. Religious institutions provide informal scripts for when sexual activity is and is not appropriate. Between married couples for instance, sexual activity is accepted, and perhaps promoted, for the purpose of increasing and maintaining marital intimacy and quality, as well as for the generation of children.
Unmarried individuals, however, are subtly or overtly discouraged from engaging in sexual activity, or at least feel pressure to hide information about their sexual activity.
Belonging to a group that uses a normative reference frame of course does not ensure that individuals will adhere to that frame of reference Merton People use multiple frames of reference in their lives and experience competing claims upon their behavior and allegiances. Whether they are ificant influenced by their religious reference group is typically determined by its salience in their lives, both cognitively via beliefs and practically in their religious service attendance habits.
Both sexual frequency and satisfaction have been found to be positively associated with marital quality.
Explicit connections between religious faith and sexual behavior also can occur. Based upon research and the reference group framework outlined here, we propose three pathways by which religion may influence sexual outcomes for married older adults. Religion may influence sexual outcomes through relationship quality, social support, or explicit norms and scripts that advocate marital intimacy and sexual involvement.
Social support networks tend to be especially important for older Americans as functional mobility and their level of social interaction declines Krause, Religiosity is also proposed to have a direct effect on sexual frequency and satisfaction. This direct effect will likely be a result of norms and scripts communicated to religious adherents regarding marital intimacy and sexual involvement. This model contends that religious involvement promotes informal scripts which advocate sexual intimacy as necessary to maintain and build lady wants real sex macfarlan intimacy.
These scripts may promote sexual activity as both the means to building marital intimacy and the fruits of marital intimacy. Hence our model suggests that religiosity will have a direct effect on sexual outcomes, as well as an indirect effect that works through marital satisfaction. We favor hypotheses about religious integration in daily life over attendance because individuals with strong beliefs will be more likely to take the social scripts of religion and apply them in their marital routine.
Based on these and arguments, we develop the following hypotheses about older married adults in the U. Hypothesis 1: Individuals that have higher levels of religious integration will report a higher frequency of sex and higher levels of physical and emotional satisfaction from sex. Hypothesis 2: The effect of religious integration on sexual frequency and satisfaction will be partially explained by social support.
Hypothesis 3: The effect of religious integration on sexual frequency and satisfaction will be partially explained by spousal support and overall happiness of marital relationship. Although we posit that religion will influence sexual behavior and satisfaction among married adults, there are several reasons why religion may not have an important role in sexual issues. First, non-religious adults may receive similar informal scripts through other channels e.
That is, religious institutions may not be prescribing a sexual script that deviates substantially from the ones advocated by secular institutions. Second, more proximal antecedents, such as psychological and biological factors, may hold more importance for an aging population. Kontula and Haavio-Mannila find that good health, good sexual functioning, positive sexual self-esteem, and a sexually skillful partner are essential for maintaining sexual desire among older adults.
The influence of these factors on sexual issues may far outweigh the influence of religion. Third, people may favor other normative reference frames in regards to sexuality within marriage.
While religious expectations regarding marital sexuality may be somewhat ambiguous, the expectation that sex only belongs in the confines of marriage is explicit. The stigma traditionally placed upon nonmarital childbearing, extramarital sex, and cohabitation Christiano, ; Stolzenberg et al. The norm against nonmarital sex may act as a form of social control, especially for regular churchgoers. Studies exploring the sexual engagements of adolescents suggest that indeed this is the case.
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Religious service attendance and religious salience appear to directly affect premarital sexual behavior; that is, at least some religious adolescents and young adults internalize and live by a religious sexual script Uecker While religiosity—or religious commitment—is associated with more sexually restrictive behavior, religious traditions do not appear to uniquely influence sexual behavior.
Adolescents from different religious traditions do not exhibit widely varying sexual behavior; religiosity within any religious tradition is what matters Regnerus Religion may influence sexual behavior or lack thereof more for women than men. Gender socialization suggests that boys are socialized to be competitive, aggressive, and independent, whereas girls are taught to be obedient, sociable, and nurturing.
Gender socialization and the roles associated with it, may partially explain why women may be more prone to adhere to the sexual scripts emphasized by their religious community than men. Lady wants real sex macfarlan, among older adults women tend to be disproportionately single. Sexual activity may not be a viable option if opportunities for it are diminished. As a result, adhering to religious prohibitions on sex outside of marriage may be easier.
Based upon these arguments we hypothesize that religious integration will affect whether or not unmarried older adults will engage in sexual intercourse. Older adults that have higher levels of religious integration will likely be more apt to accept the normative reference frame of their religious institution than those with lower levels.
Also, women may be more likely to hear of and internalize religious scripts that prohibit sexual activity than men. We therefore present the following hypothesis concerning unmarried older adults. Hypothesis 4: Unmarried people reporting higher levels of religious integration will be less likely to have engaged in sexual activity in the last year.
The role of religion in shaping sexual frequency and satisfaction: evidence from married and unmarried older adults
Hypothesis 5: The proposed inverse relationship between religious integration and likelihood of sexual activity among unmarried people will be much stronger for women compared to men. Although the predominate religious traditions in the U. In particular, mainline Protestants and modern Catholics tend to have more permissive attitudes toward straying from religiously derived scripts than evangelical Protestants. The messages communicated to evangelical Protestants regarding the avoidance of sex outside of marriage may be more conservative and less permissive than other traditions.
Lady wants real sex macfarlan we present our final hypothesis regarding unmarried people over and above the influences of religious attendance and integration in daily life. Hypothesis 6: Those affiliated with the evangelical tradition will be less likely to have engaged in sexual activity in the last year than mainline Protestants or Catholics.
The study consists of 3, non-institutionalized older adults conducted between fall and spring In addition to in-home interviews and take-home questionnaires, anthropometric measurements, blood, salivary, and vaginal mucosal specimens were taken. The survey had an unweighted response rate of 75 percent and a weighted response rate of 76 percent.