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Sex for Life

From Virginity to Viagra, How Sexuality Changes Throughout Our Lives

Laura Carpenter, John DeLamater

Publication Year: 2012

Sexual beliefs, behaviors and identities are interwoven throughout our lives, from childhood to old age. An edited collection of original empirical contributions united through its use of a distinctive, cutting-edge theoretical framework, Sex for Life critically examines sexuality across the entire lifespan. Rooted in diverse disciplines and employing a wide range of research methods, the chapters explore the sexual and social transitions that typically map to broad life stages, as well as key age-graded physiological transitions, such as puberty and menopause, while drawing on the latest developments in gender, sexuality, and life course studies.
Sex for Life explores a wide variety of topics, including puberty, sexual initiation, coming out, sexual assault, marriage/life partnering, disability onset, immigration, divorce, menopause, and widowhood, always attending to the social locations – including gender, race, ethnicity, and social class – that shape, and are shaped by, sexuality. The empirical work collected in Sex for Life ultimately speaks to important public policy issues, such as sex education, aging societies, and the increasing politicization of scientific research. Accessibly written, the contributions capture the interplay between individual lives and the ever-changing social-historical context, facilitating new insight not only into people’s sexual lives, but also into ways of studying them, ultimately providing a fresh, new perspective on sexuality.

Published by: NYU Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-vii

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pp. ix-x

No book would ever come to fruition without the hard work and vision of many individuals, and this is especially true of edited volumes. We, the editors, would first and foremost like to thank the 19 accomplished scholars who contributed...

Part I: Studying Sexualities over the Life Course

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pp. 1-41

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Introduction: Sexualities over the Life Course: The Development of a Perspective

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pp. 3-22

How do sexual and social experiences—childhood sex play, immigration, or divorce, for example—at one point in a person’s life affect his or her sexual beliefs and behaviors later on? How are individuals’ sexual biographies shaped...

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1. Studying Gendered Sexualities over the Life Course: A Conceptual Framework

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pp. 23-41

From the moment we’re born, each of us begins to accumulate a wide range of physical, emotional, and intellectual experiences. Many of these experiences—from being gently caressed by a caregiver to watching one’s parents go through...

Part II: Sexualities in Childhood and Adolescence

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pp. 43-106

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2. Childhood Sexuality: Exploring Culture as Context

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pp. 45-69

Antoinette, a 10-year-old African American girl removed from her biological parents’ home a year earlier and placed in the state’s foster care system for reasons related to parental neglect, has recently experienced a disruption in her...

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3. Sexuality Development in Adolescence

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pp. 70-87

“Abstinence” has been a focal point in policy and public debates about adolescent sexuality for over 30 years. As a candidate, President Barack Obama made news when he promised to end federal funding for “abstinence- only” sexuality education...

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4. The Life Course Consequences of Childhood Sexual Assault: Effects on Relationship Formation and Intimate Violence across Relationships

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pp. 88-106

Research on the prevalence, risk factors, and consequences of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) has increased a great deal in the past four decades (for reviews, see Beitchman et al., 1992; Finkelhor, 1994). Such inquiries have produced three important...

Part III: Sexualities from Young Adulthood through Midlife

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5. A Meta-Analysis on the Relationship between Parental Divorce Family Structures and Adolescents’ Attitudes and Behaviors Regarding Premarital Intercourse

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pp. 109-127

Over the last 35 years social scientists have made considerable advances in understanding the effects of parental family structure on children’s behavioral, academic, and attitudinal outcomes. Of these outcome measures, the relationship...

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6. Hooking Up and Opting Out: Negotiating Sex in the First Year of College

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pp. 128-145

Ramona’s optimistic remark, already in the past tense, captures the hopes and disappointments of many first-year college students. Ramona had a worse year than most. After surviving two attempted sexual assaults and one successful one, she decided to transfer...

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7. The Symbolic Power of Civil Marriage on the Sexual Life Histories of Gay Men

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pp. 146-160

The institution of marriage has had a profound and enduring impact on intimate life. Marriage, for instance, confers a wide range of benefits, rights, and obligations that support the marital couple, including resources for the protection...

Part IV. Turning Points throughout the Life Course

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pp. 161-214

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8. U.S. Colonialism, Migration, and Sexualities: The Filipino American Case

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pp. 163-179

Life course research on migration and sexuality treats migration as a key turning point in migrants’ sexual lives. In her 1999 groundbreaking study, Espin observes that migrant women, free from the prescribed choices of their premigration...

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9. Starting Over: Dating Risks and Sexual Health among Midlife Women after Relationship Dissolution

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pp. 180-197

Women who begin dating after a long-term relationship face uncertainty and risk, if only because the social terrain is different from what they knew in their youth. How should they “do” sex in a youth-oriented culture? How can they avoid the pitfalls...

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10. Secrets and Magic Pills: Constructing Masculinity and Sexual “Normalcy” Following Spinal Cord Injury

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pp. 198-214

According to a recent population-based survey, approximately 1.275 million people in the United States are currently living with a spinal cord injury (SCI) and a total of 5.5 million have some form of paralysis (The Christopher and...

Part V: Sexualities from Midlife to Later Life

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pp. 215-295

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11. Reproductive History as Social Context: Exploring How Women Talk about Menopause and Sexuality at Midlife

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pp. 217-235

Although we typically characterize sexuality through individuals’ behaviors (e.g., intercourse, masturbation) or identities (e.g., heterosexual, homosexual, queer, etc.), sexuality can include a wide range of meanings and experiences...

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12. Sexual Expression over the Life Course: Results from Three Landmark Surveys

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pp. 236-259

Although sexuality studies have become increasingly mainstream over the last two decades, large-sample research has only lately picked up steam. Moreover, most social demographic studies still focus on isolated facets of the overall...

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13. Exploring Embodied Aging and Ageism among Old Lesbians and Gay Men

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pp. 260-277

The sexuality of old women and men is an issue that has seen an upsurge in scholarly attention over the past decade and a half (e.g., Cruikshank, 2009; DeLamater & Moorman, 2007; Levy, 1994).1 These investigations disprove...

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14. Pleasure in Old Age

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pp. 278-295

How many of us associate pleasure, joy, or satisfaction with turning 90? It is usually the opposite—we are taught to brace ourselves, preparing for pain and discomfort in the last years of our lives. And yet old age does not necessarily negate...

Part VI. Conclusion

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pp. 297-316

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15. Toward an Interdisciplinary Science of Lifelong Sexualities for the Twenty-First Century

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pp. 299-316

How do sexual and social experiences at one point in a person’s life affect their sexual beliefs and behaviors later on? How are individuals’ sexual biographies shaped by broader cultural and historical changes? In what ways do intersections...


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pp. 317-347

About the Contributors

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pp. 349-352


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pp. 353-363

E-ISBN-13: 9780814723814
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814772522
Print-ISBN-10: 0814772528

Publication Year: 2012