A new study reveals that ‘mid-life’ women can and do successfully negotiate safer sex with new partners.
Although based on a small sample, revealing the repertoire of safer sex negotiation strategies gives the study wider value.
Lead author Dr Cathy O’Mullan from CQUniversity says it’s important to identify what’s working in terms of negotiating safer sex practices.
“Rather than focusing on a deficit based approach; that is identifying risk factors and attempting to eliminate those risks, we’ve based our learning on what is working well. We can then capitalise on this knowledge to inform public health interventions.”
Dr O’Mullan says it’s important to focus on women over 45 years as they are the fastest-growing group of online dating users and their rates of sexually transmitted infections are steadily increasing.
“It can be really difficult for women in this cohort to start raising the issue of safer sex and condom use. Many women in middle age have been in long-term relationships, so they haven’t had recent experience in negotiating safer sex.”
The CQUni researcher notes that insufficient attention has been paid to the sexual health of women over 45 years at a research, program and policy level.
“Our findings reveal a complex interplay of individual, interpersonal and structural factors that have enabled the women to practice safer sex,” she says.
“It boils down to women being informed, being prepared and being empowered.
“Women felt able to negotiate safe sex if they felt they had control over the situation, felt able to articulate their needs and wants, and were able to take action if their needs and wants were not being met.
“Our findings emphasise the importance of developing skill sets aimed at building self-confidence around initiating safer sex conversations and enhancing negotiation skills. In addition to providing women with the tools to successfully negotiate safer sex, it is imperative to also challenge inaccurate assumptions or stereotypes regarding women, sexuality, and ageing.”
Dr O’Mullan completed the study with her CQUni colleague Professor Lynne Parkinson and Dr Joseph Debattista from Brisbane’s Metro North Hospital & Health Service.
(Source: CQUniversity Australia)