Sexually satisfied but feeling frumpy: It's body image, not 'the change'

sed survey data collected by the Tremin Research Program in 1993. Tremin is one of the world's oldest ongoing research programs dedicated to studying women's health and menstruation.

The responses came from 307 women who were heterosexual, 99.2 percent Caucasian; 99 percent college-educated; 83 percent employed outside the home and 80.1 percent married or living with a partner. Nearly 21 percent of the respondents self-reported that they were pre-menopausal, 63.5 percent said they were undergoing some menopausal changes (i.e. perimenopausal) and 15.5 percent were post menopausal.

Nearly 21 percent of the respondents could not think of even one attractive feature and reported an overall sense of dissatisfaction with their bodies. The features that the women considered least attractive were stomach/abdomen, hips, thighs and legs.

The researchers note that it is the norm for U.S. women to be dissatisfied with these parts of their bodies which are affected by weight gain as they age. The percentage of body fat generally doubles by the time women reach age 50. Weight also tends to be redistributed so that breasts become larger, waists thicken and fat increases on their upper back. While it is natural for midlife women to change shape in these ways, the U.S. standard of attractiveness remains a youthful and slender body which creates anxiety about aging and pressure for older women to disguise normal changes.

The researchers found that the more a woman perceived herself as less attractive, the more likely she was to report a decline in sexual desire or activity over the past 10 years. Two- thirds of the women reported one or more changes in their sexual response, most frequently desiring sex less and engaging in sex less often; although some women reported improved sexual response.

Yet, despite these changes in desire and activity, the women reported that when they did have sex, there was a high level of enjoyment. Among the w

Contact: Barbara Hale
Penn State

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