I am delighted when I can help young people on a mission, and 27-year-old Rose (Bouaziz) Robbins is on a mission that concerns all of us. A PhD candidate in Clinical Psychology at the University of Ottawa, Canada, Rose discovered, while conducting a series of studies on body image and sexual health in women across their lives, that most of the information currently available focuses on young women. “Researchers have looked at undergraduate students in their early 20s and generalized their findings to older women,” Rose wrote to me. “As you can imagine, this is hardly conducive to developing appropriate interventions for women 50+ whose experiences of sexuality and body image may differ greatly from that of emerging adults,” she said. For sure!
Determined to fill this gap and “shed some light on the reality and perspective of women over 50,” Rose is currently conducting an online sex survey that is 100 percent anonymous since it doesn’t ask for a single piece of identifying information. Participants must be heterosexual women over 50. The survey has been reviewed and approved by the University of Ottawa Ethics Review Board, a panel of experts verifying that studies are appropriate and harmless to potential participants. Rose is working under the supervision of Dr. Elke Reissing who also is the director of the Human Sexuality Research Laboratory.
Rose told me she heard about FabOverFifty from women she’s interviewed for her research, and asked for our help. When I answered the questions last night, it took around 20 minutes. And I invite you to answer them, too. Some of them focus on our experiences with our bodies (e.g., how satisfied we are with the way we now look); others ask more specifically about sexual health (e.g., our level of sexual satisfaction, do we experience sexual dysfunctions?), and other questions collect demographic information, such as age, height, level of education.
“Relationships have always interested me,” Rose explained. “I started actively conducting research on couple satisfaction and same-sex relationships throughout my undergraduate studies. Eventually, I began to ask questions about sexuality and what makes ‘better sex’. Body image always came up as something that mattered and impacted the sexuality of women.
“Many women, especially younger women, worry about the way their body looks during sexual activity, which ultimately prevents them from fully immersing themselves in the moment. They worry about whether their partner will find them overweight or notice small imperfections and, as a result, their sexuality suffers. I am curious to see whether more mature women experience this as well and to what degree. I’m also interested in finding out whether having a good body image (even with imperfection) can help women have more satisfying sex lives.”
The goal of Rose’s research will be to inform healthcare providers about potential interventions that could help older women who experience poor body image and/or sexual difficulties. That’s why she needs to capture the perspective of as wide a group of women as possible.
“Your help in this endeavour, by sharing and mentioning our research project, will be beyond valuable,” Rose told me.