'Cougars' and condoms: let's talk about sex, says uni

The rise in divorce and online dating are widening women's networks of sexual partners and that of their partners in turn.
The rise in divorce and online dating are widening women's networks of sexual partners and that of their partners in turn. KatarzynaBialasiewicz

SEX can be fraught with awkward conversations.

If you are a middle-aged woman and you're nodding frantically, CQUni want to hear your stories - anonymously of course.

Bundaberg's Dr Cathy O'Mullan is launching a study to find out how heterosexual women aged 45 to 64 negotiate safe sex following a rise in STIs.

She says this demographic is often ignored when it comes to sex studies.

"Over the last decade we've seen almost a threefold increase in sexually transmitted infections, particularly chlamydia, in this group," Dr O'Mullan said.

"While the numbers are still low compared to younger people, it's an area of public health that has been neglected and it is something we need to keep an eye on."

The rise in divorce and online dating are widening women's networks of social and sexual partners and that of their partners in turn.

"It can be really difficult for women in this cohort to start raising the issue of safe sex and condom use," Dr O'Mullan said.

Many women in middle age have been in long-term relationships so they haven't had recent experience in negotiating safe sex.

They may associate condoms with promiscuity, or feel they don't need them because they are at low risk of getting pregnant.

More worrying is pressure from male counterparts to go along with unsafe sex.

While men's sexuality is more widely discussed, a lot of stigma and stereotyping persists around women, Dr O'Mullan said.

"Research shows even health professionals don't readily broach the subject of safe sex with older women.

"We hope the findings will have some use in policy and sexual health promotion.

"We want to challenge some ageist and sexist constructs - stereotypes like 'cougars' - and put this on the agenda."

Women interested in taking part in a phone interview can respond via text message or phone 0435 725 528 to receive an information sheet. 

Queries or concerns can also be addressed via or

Topics:  bundaberg cq university general-seniors-news sex wellbeing

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