Faculty of Social and Human Sciences (UNL) Conference System, 1st Non-Monogamies and Contemporary Intimacies Conference

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Contemporary intimacy research and associated activism: Researching and talking about baby boomers in friends-with-benefits relationships in Australia.
Linda Kirkman

##manager.scheduler.building##: B Tower
##manager.scheduler.room##: T10
Date: 2015-09-27 04:30 PM – 06:00 PM
Last modified: 2015-08-08


In this paper I will outline PhD research into the experience of rural baby boomers in friends-with-benefits relationships (FWBR), then explore how the findings have been used to promote awareness and acceptance of relationship diversity.

I explored the experience of rural baby boomers in FWBR and examined the effect of the relationships on participants’ wellbeing, approaches to safe sex, and use of health services for sexual health. A FWBR was defined as when people, who are friends, have an ongoing sexual relationship, yet do not consider themselves to be a couple. In this qualitative, interpretive-descriptive study 22 participants—15 women and 7 men—who self-identified as having had a FWBR within the previous five years, took part in semi-structured, in-depth interviews. Findings were analysed thematically, and non-monogamy emerged as one theme. Eight of the participants had concurrent sexual relationships and six of those could be described as consensual non-monogamy, with three participants using the term polyamorous. The remaining participants described monogamous relationships, or serial monogamy. Highly enjoyable sexual experiences were reported by most, and the FWBR generally had a positive effect on wellbeing. Approaches to safe sex and use of health services for sexual health were mixed.

The research topic attracted media attention, including radio interviews, speaking to informal professional groups such as Psychology in the Pub, bringing ‘academic credibility’ to a panel discussion on polyamory, and writing for popular media. I used these opportunities to promote awareness of non-normative relationships and will discuss the responses that this activism received.