Page 299-330, 31 pages Page 1 of12
Chapter 11: Sexuality & the Life Cycle: Adulthood
SEX & THE SINGLE PERSON
• Continued sexual development include dealing with sexual orientation and defining one’s sexual
• Those who are LGBTQ oriented struggle with heterosexism, society’s belief that heterosexuality is the
best and expected way of living. Even those who are heterosexual may experience same-sex fantasies
and question it.
• Learning one’s sexual likes and dislikes may occur naturally through experience, or through seeking
opportunities to engage in novel behaviours and with novel partners
• Learning to communicate directly and honestly with sexual partners is essential, but difficult
• Taking responsibility including using contraception and actively prevent STI transmission
• Intimacy involves a deep emotional sharing between partners that goes beyond casual or manipulative
The Never Married
• Adults who have never been legally married include those who intend to marry someday, and those
who decide to remain single, perhaps in a long-term common-law relationship
• In 2006, 93% of people 20-24 and 70% of people age 25-29 have never married, vs. 56% and 21% in
1971. However, many are in common-law relationships and most expect to have children.
• Average age of first marriage is 28.5 for women and 30.6 years for men. Many liver together first and
delay getting married, most spending this time in one relationship that eventually leads to marriage and
others continuing in serial monogamy.
• Individuals in a relationship may cohabit, or have a living apart together relationship in different
residences, to maintain independence or to keep their own residence.
• Long-distance relationships can lead to greater stress, depression, and lower relationship satisfaction.
They are more likely to survive if people have more trust in their partner’s commitment, expect more
support from their partner, are more optimistic about the future of the relationship, and see it in an
idealized way – which is facilitated by seeing each other less frequently.
• Some individuals decide to live chaste, abstaining from sexual intercourse. Three types of involuntary
o Virgins who have rarely dated and often not engaged in any partnered sexual intimacy
o Singles have had sexual experience but report it was not satisfying; unable to find and maintain
long-term relationships due to residential and work arrangements making it difficult to meet
o Partnered persons in sexless relationships, frequency gradually declined over time
• About 61% of women and 66% of men not in a relationship wished they were in one
• People over 30 years who expect to marry differ from those who do not expect to marry: “won’t marry”
group more likely to be single parents, have lower incomes, less education, and view love and marriage
as less important
• Singles scene institutionalized as singles apartment complexes and singles bars. In speed dating,
singles attend a dating event involving 15 to 25 other singles, speaking to many for a short and fixed
period of time. Page 299-330, 31 pages Page 2 of12
• Sporting Rituals: Game-oriented cultural scripts for nightlife participation. Involves elaborate
preparation with careful attention to grooming and adornment, drinking in advance, and choosing one’s
number and type of companions. Public behaviour is intended to display traditional masculinity and
• Most women prefer to be approached in a non-sexual manner; sexualized approach (grinding) most
common on the dance floor than in pubs and lounges
• Alternative way through singles ads as part of online dating, many sites including those geared towards
individuals with specific interests, such as vegetarians, pet lovers, specific religions, etc.
• Cybersex: Real-time online communication, activities, or exchanges with a partner, where one or both
of you describe or share sexual activities, behaviours, fantasies, or desires that lead to feelings of sexual
pleasure or physical intimacy. This is also called partnered-arousal online sexual activity (OSA), versus
solitary-arousal OSA activities such as accessing pornography or seeking information to connecting with
prospective sex partners
• Internet daters are more likely to be male, single, divorced, employed, urban, and have higher incomes
– they are not more likely to be socially isolated
• Couples experiment with various levels of commitment, including
cohabitating – “liver together apart” to “some days and nights” to “all the
• Cohabitation an increasingly common alternative to marriage, particularly
in Quebec (30% of couples are common-law). The number of common-law
couples grew 5x faster than number of married couples since 2001.
• Common-law relationship when two people have lived together as a
couple for 12 continuous months or more. These couples are entitled to
most, but not all, of the rights of people who are married.
• Rate of cohabitation in Canada is twice that of the US
• 2/3 of cohabiting couples cohabiting marry within 2 years of starting to
live together, so cohabitation is seen as a relationship stage preceding
marriage; however, common-law relationships break up more often than
marriages and most of these couples do not have children
• In Quebec, cohabitation is more often seen as replacing marriage and as an appropriate relationship
within which to have and raise children. This may be due to stronger acceptance of egalitarian roles for
men and women, and more liberal attitudes towards sexuality in Quebec
• Marriages preceded by cohabitation are more likely to end in separation, than marriages not. This
might be because some couples who live together get married, even though they would not have had
they not lived together, due to inertia.
• Couples who live together before engagement have more negative interactions (e.g. criticism), lower
commitment, and lower relationship quality.
• Almost half of common-law couples have children; Canadians whose first marriage dissolved often
choose common law over remarriage, especially in their 30s and 40s.
• 71% of cohabiting persons have sexual intercourse >1/week, compared to 60% of married persons,
perhaps because they believe having sex more frequently will strengthen the relationship
• 2005: All Canadians have right to marry, regardless of sexual orientation; same-sex married couples
make up about 0.1% of all married couples, of these 53.7% are men Page 299-330, 31 pages Page 3 of12
• Marriage is a psychological turning point for many, a decision compared to previous decades where
everyone assumed they would marry. Today, most have a full sexual relationships, sometimes for years,
• Three important reasons: signifies commitment, consistent with moral values and beliefs, and reflects
belief that children should have married parents.
• For many, marriage is a tangible statement that one has left the family of origin in which you grow up,
and shifted to creating one’s own family.
• Pressure for sexual performance may become more intense, as sexual dissatisfactions that were easy
to overlook in rose-tinted early phase of relationship start to have more impact.
• Marriage carries an assumption of life-long commitment to fidelity that may be hard for some to keep.
Frequency of Intercourse
• 90% of Canadians aged 50 to 69 are or have been legally married. About 1/3 of first marriages end in
divorce – of these people, 70% of men and 58% of women remarry
• Marriage is context in which sexual expression has most legitimacy, so sex in marriage is one of the
most common forms of sexual expression for adults
• Average married heterosexual couple have sex 2-3 times a week, declining with age. Frequency of
marital sex has been consistent from 1940s to present day. Social characteristics like race, SES, and
religion are generally not related to marital sexual frequency.
• Age-related decline contributed by biological aging and habituation to sex with one’s partner. Physical
factors associated with age such as decrease in vaginal lubrication or increased likelihood of pure health
• Habituation occurs when we lose interest in sex as the partner becomes more and more familiar. There
is a sharp decline in frequency after the 1 year, and a slow steady decline thereafter. This decline is not
necessarily a decline in quality, may be decline in frequency but increase in quality.
• Sexual inactivity in marriage associated with unhappiness with marriage, lack of shared activity,
presence of children, increased age, and poor health
• 15% report sex lasting 15 minutes or less, and 9% report it lasting one hour or more. Average about 20
• Increase in oral-genital sex techniques is one of the most dramatic changes in heterosexual marital sex
in the past 50 years. Younger respondents more likely to include oral sex in their sexual repertoire – 90%
of people aged 18 to 34 vs. 40% of people 55 years and older
• About 27% of married men and 21% of married women have engaged in anal intercourse
• Sexual scripts are played out in marriages, such as direct verbal statements (“Let’s go make love”
replied to with “What are we waiting for?” or “Not now, dinner is almost ready”)
• Deciding to have sex involves preliminary negotiations phrased in indirect or euphemistic language, in
part so that the person’s feelings can be salvaged if their partner is not interested. The partner may not
reply with “yes” or “no”, but “I’ll meet you upstairs” or “the kids will be home any moment”
• To avoid this, some couples ritualize sex by scheduling it so both understand when it will and will not
• Most frequent strategy is direct verbal statement, followed by kissing more passionately non-verbally.
• On average men initiate sex almost twice as often as women did, but both are equally likely to respond
positively to the initiation, about 75% of the time – men are not less likely to refuse
Masturbation Page 299-330, 31 pages Page 4 of12
• For heterosexual man, masturbation may be a substitute for vaginal sex, whereas for women it is a part
of a larger repertoire of sexual activity.
• Many adults masturbate even though they are not married and have ready access to partnered sexual
• Masturbation can serve legitimate sexual needs in long-term relationships, providing sexual gratification
while allowing one to remain faithful when the two are separated or cannot have sex for some reason.
• Masturbation can be a pleasant adjunct to marital sex, in mutual masturbation
• Sexual satisfaction is not just physical pleasure, but the overall feeling after considering the positive
and negative aspects – sexual rewards and costs – of one’s sexual relationship.
• This differs between individuals. E.g. Having sex every day may be a reward for some, and cost for
• Sexual rewards include feeling comfortable with one’s partner, feeling good about themselves during
and after sex, having fun during sex, and sex in the context of a long-term relationship
• Interpersonal Exchange Model of Sexual Satisfaction: 4 distinct aspects that influence sexual
o More satisfied if we perceive ourselves to be getting many sexual rewards and few sexual costs
o We perceive we are getting more rewards and fewer costs than expected
o Perceive our own and partner’s rewards and costs to be relatively equal
o Happy with non-sexual aspects of the relationship
• Sexual satisfaction is an important contributor to marital quality
• 4 factors for LGBTQ people: calm and acceptance of sexuality, delight in giving partner sexual desire,
listen to partners and awareness of partner’s quirks, moods, likes and dislikes, and talking both in and
out of bed
• Level of sexual desire experienced by each person influences sexual patterns in marriage. 4 patterns:
stable and low, slight fluctuations and low, moderate fluctuations, and highly fluctuating.
• Positive affect and lust are positively correlated, and this is strengthened by feelings of closeness to
• Sexual patterns change during course of a marriage. Many do find their sexual relationship “routine”,
but many don’t; there are many ways to spice up a sexual relationship, such as by telling each other
what you want and acting out fantasies.
• Transition to parenthood, threat of infertility when trying to get pregnant, and pregnancy itself can all
drastically influence a couple’s sexual interactions.
• Average age of first childbirth was 28 years in 2006, and many women in their 30s still do not have
Sex and the Two-Career Family
• Work commitments can certainly interfere with a couple’s sex life in our achievement-oriented society
• Study with women who are homemakers, employed part time (up to 31 hours/week), full time, or high
full time (over 45 hours/week). No significant differences among the four groups in terms of frequency of
intercourse, sexual satisfaction, or sexual desire.
• Not number of hours of work, but quality of work that is important; people with satisfying jobs report
that sex is better compared to people dissatisfied with their jobs. Page 299-330, 31 pages Page 5 of 12
• Two-profession couples who both work 60 to 80 hours a week do not have as much time for sex, or for
nurturing the relationship – quality sex requires quality time together
Maintaining a Long-Term Relationship
• About 40% of marriages end in divorce, and higher for common-law relationships. The end of a
relationship is associated with depression and other psychological distress.
• Happy couples:
o Have good listening and communication skills
o Have effective problem-solving skills – important to not only discuss, but resolve
o Many positive interactions and few negative interactions, such as enjoyable shared leisure-time,
affection, and feeling good about communication
o Realistic expectations about relationship, while distressed couples may believe one must be a
perfect sexual partner at all times, or that one must feel intensely passionate about partner at all
o Interpret partner’s behaviour and causes of behaviour positively, e.g. if partner is late to dinner,
assume due to traffic rather than being thoughtless
o Share common view of roles and responsibilities in relationship
o Have feelings of love and intimacy – motivates couples to work through problems
• Relationship satisfaction key contributor to sexual satisfaction, with dissatisfaction increasing
susceptibility to Extradyadic sexual activity
• Narcissism and impulsiveness linked to higher probability of Extradyadic sexual activity, as well as
reports of conflict in relationship such as partner sexualizing others or engaged in sexual withholding,
and dissatisfaction with marriage and marriage sex
• Mate Retention Tactics are designed to preserve the relationship, perhaps elicited by fear that partner
is losing interest, is dissatisfied, or suspected signs of extradyadic activity (contracting an STI, changes
from normal sexual behaviour, increased or decreased sexual interest, or disclosure of interest or
involvement with someone else)
• Men’s tactics involve resource display, while women tend to monopolize their partner’s time, punish
threats of infidelity, say derogatory things about competitors, provide sexual inducements, and enhance
their appearance or attractiveness. Homosexual women tend to use tactics more similar to heterosexual
• Extradyadic Sex: Sexual activity between a person in a serious or exclusive relationship, and
someone other than his or her steady partner. When one is married, this is extramarital sex.
• Sometimes this is accidental, unintended and not characteristic, such as being drunk or having a bad
• Romantic infidelity occurs when the two people fall in love and consider or establish a long-term
• Open relationship or marriage where partners agree in advance that each may have sex with other’s
person’s, rather than without the partner’s knowledge
• Philanderers repeatedly engage in sexual liaisons outside committed relationship; more motivated by
self-affirmation than desire for sexual gratification
• Many engage in extradyadic sex because they find it exciting, due to being with a new partner, being
found desirable, or doing something forbidden. Others do it due to problems in the committed
relationship. Page 299-330, 31 pages Page 6 of12
How Many People Engage in Extramarital Sex?
• About 25% of married men and 15% of married women have engaged in extramarital sex in the US; in
Canada, incidence varies between regions with highest in Quebec
• No indication that extramarital sex is casual or frequent, many indicate it was done with only one
Attitudes toward Extramarital Sex
• While attitudes towards premarital sex have become more permissive, attitudes towards extramarital
sex remains relatively unchanged – that is, most disapprove and would probably or definitely end the
• Incidence of extramarital sex correlated with higher levels of dishonesty, more arguments about trust,
and more time spent apart in relationship
• Attitudes towards extramarital sex are not predictive of extramarital sexual behaviour – a person
who approves is not more likely to engage in it than a person who disapproves. Other factors such as
gender, education, and social class (men, higher class and more education) contribute to being more
• Swinging: Married couples exchange partners with each other, or engage in sexual activity with a third
person with the knowledge and consent of all involved.
• Swingers often find partners from specialized bulletin boards, web forums, and magazines, as well as
swingers’ clubs, parties, or resorts. Interested persons are often screened before being told of the
location of a party.
• Supreme Court ruled swinging is legal in Canada as long as it takes place in private.
• In closed swinging, couples meet and exchange partners and each pair go off separately to a private
place to have sex. In open swinging, the pairs get back together for sex in the same room.
• Many start off with soft swinging, watching another couple engage in sexual activity and participating
in kissing, fondling or oral sex but not intercourse
• Most are upper or middle class, above average in education and income, and employed in professional
or management jobs. Most consider themselves moderate or conservative, not liberal.
• Swingers tend to report high marital satisfaction, and that swinging improved their relationship.
• Web sites designed to connect romantic and sexual partners, and chat rooms and webcams have
created new opportunities for extradyadic sex.
• Cyberaffair: A romantic or sexual relationship initiated by online contact and maintained primarily by
online communication. A twist is when two people’s avatars engage in sexual activity in a virtual reality
world such as Second Life.
• No difference in percentage of men and women who access a personals site (vary in marital status),
although more LGBTQ individuals than straight individuals do. Divorced individuals more likely to go on
personals sites than never-married or married individuals.
• Of married individuals engaging in cyberaffairs, 5x more likely to be seeking a serious relationship than
singles, and more likely to go on a date. This may be due to dissatisfaction with current relationship,
perceiving marriage as inequitable and looking for alternative partners.
Equity & Extradyadic Sex
• Equity Theory: A social exchange theory that states that p