Tuesday, November 6, 2007

This presentation is part of : Women's Health and Social Issues
Sexual Intimacy and Relationship Negotiation between Lesbians during the Menopausal Transition
Laura Kelly, PhD, APRN, BC, Marjorie K. Unterberg School of Nursing and Health Studies, Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ, USA
Learning Objective #1: The learner will gain an understanding of the lesbian experience of menopause.
Learning Objective #2: The learner will be able to identify how lesbiansí perceptions of their body image during midlife might affect their sexual functioning.

The purpose of this study was two-fold. First, it investigated how self-perceptions of body image in lesbians during the menopausal transition or post-menopause affect their sexual functioning and satisfaction with sex. It also investigated how partnered lesbians learned to negotiate sexual intimacy in their relationships during midlife. To achieve this purpose, the study adopted feminist grounded theory as a qualitative method of knowledge discovery. In my dissertation, completed in 2005, it was discovered that lesbians who felt negatively about their bodies avoided sexual intimacy, even if their partners offered positive body appraisal. There is clinical evidence that indicates that as heterosexual women move through the menopausal transition, they are less satisfied with their bodies and this dissatisfaction affects their relationships (Deeks & McCabe, 2001; Koch, Mansfield, Thurau & Carey, 2005). There are no studies that investigate this among lesbians.
People are bombarded daily with messages about sex and the need to have sex frequently. These media images are entirely heterosexual and lesbians are not likely to discuss their sex lives with other lesbians (Kelly, 2005). The literature provides us with mixed messages about current lesbian sexual functioning. Clinical research through the 90s indicate that the longer lesbian couples are together, the less sex they engage in. This lack of sexual intimacy was coined “lesbian bed death.” While there's good reason to question whether lesbian bed death actually occurs, there is a paucity of research that examines lesbian sexual functioning during midlife.
The results of this study will assist nurses in gaining an understanding of the issues that lesbians might be confronted with in their sexual relationships as they age as well as their body perceptions during menopause.