Sex, desire and pleasure: considering the experiences of older Australian women Academic Article uri icon


  • Older age is often associated with asexuality. That is, older individuals are not viewed as desiring of sex, nor as sexually desirable to others. Broader social and cultural norms that downplay women's sexual desire and agency further compound these phenomena. Whether this popular image accurately reflects older women's sexual desires, behaviour and capacity to experience pleasure is unclear. Drawing on semi-structured interviews with 43 partnered Australian women aged 55-81, this article considers women's sexual experiences and desires in older age. The findings of our research confirm that older women's experiences of sex and sexual desire are diverse and fluid. Some of the factors that influenced participants' sexual behaviour and desire will be considered in this article, as will their understandings of what "counts" as sexual satisfaction and "successful sex". The factors affecting sexual behaviour and desire also influence the way in which women are able to negotiate sexual interaction with their partners. Participants expressed a need for education and resources in order to gain greater control and to make autonomous choices over their sexual experiences, desire and ability to give and receive pleasure. The implications of these findings for practitioners are also considered.


  • Fileborn, B
  • Thorpe, R
  • Hawkes, G
  • Minichiello, V
  • Pitts, M
  • Dune, T

publication date

  • 2015