Women’s Sexuality Across the Lifespan

Course Description

This essential book explores how women experience and express their sexuality from childhood through old age. Moving beyond a traditional focus on sexual functioning, the book emphasizes the complex interaction of psychological, social, cultural, and biological influences on the creation of individual sexual meanings? meanings central to each woman’s experience of herself as a sexual person. The author shows how these meanings are often problematic and contradictory, causing many women to feel disconnected from their bodies and form their needs and desires. Demonstrating how problematic myths and messages can be challenged, the book outlines ways that women can be empowered to create a more comfortable and self-defined sexuality throughout life.

About Authors

Judith C Daniluk, PhD, is professor and Director of Training in the Counseling Psychology Program at the University of British Columbia.


Learning Objectives

  1. Discuss the various ways sexuality may be defined and constructed using a developmental perspective.
  2. Explain how sexual meanings can be problematic, and how they may be challenged and changed in the therapeutic setting.
  3. List behaviors and experiences that constitute “normal” sexual exploration and development for children ages infant to 12 years old.
  4. Assess the meanings children derive from others’ reactions to their developing sexuality.
  5. Summarize basic issues regarding body image, gender identity, and sexual identity formation commonly faced by adolescent girls.
  6. Describe some of the messages about sexuality girls receive during adolescence from significant others and their cultures.
  7. Discuss the impact of often-contradictory messages on girls’ perceptions and experiences of their developing bodies and evolving sexual self-constructions.
  8. Utilize various activities and interventions to help adolescent girls create new meanings and a sense of joy regarding their sexuality.
  9. List the typical biological changes and psychological issues that characterize young adulthood.
  10. Assess the interaction between women and their reproductive decision-making, roles, and losses.
  11. Explain exercises and activities that can be used to help young women navigate through the physical changes and transitions they experience.
  12. Describe factors that shape and define the commitments young women make to intimate roles and relationships.
  13. Predict the normative biological changes and psychological issues women face during middle age (40-65 years old).
  14. Discuss problematic meanings and messages faced by women experiencing menopause.
  15. Help women adapt to body changes and body image as they relate to the aging process.
  16. Describe methods for dealing with midlife women’s needs, desires, and expectations in their intimate relationships.
  17. Summarize how sexuality is defined, lived and expressed by women in later life.

Course Contents

I. THE ENIGMA OF WOMEN’S SEXUALITY

  1. Opening Pandora’s Box
    • Everyone Knows What Sex Is, Don’t They?
    • If It’s Not Just Intercourse, What Is It?
    • The Meaning of Sexual Meanings
    • The Construction of Sexual Meanings
    • Problematic Meanings
    • Conclusion

II. CHILDHOOD AND ADOLESCENCE

  1. Teaching the Children
    • “Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice”: Biological Development
    • Girls’ Psychological Development
    • Messages and Meanings
    • Summary and Recommendations
  2. Adolescence: Biological and Psychological Development
    • Biological Development
    • Psychological Development
    • Conclusion
  3. Menstruation: Initiation into Womanhood
    • The Things We Needed Mother “and Dad” to Tell Us: Parental Messages
    • A Friend in Need: Messages of Peers
    • Of Cleanliness and Womanliness: Media Messages
    • Religious and Medical Messages
    • Summary: Problematic Meanings
    • Challenge and Change: Creating New Meanings
    • Conclusion
  4. “Bawdy” Image: From Subject to Object
    • Changing Roles and Expectations: Messages of Significant Others
    • Objects of Desire: Media Messages
    • Summary: Problematic Meanings
    • Challenge and Change: Creating New Meanings
    • Conclusion
  5. Who Loves Ya, Babe?: Sexual Intimacies and Expression
    • Sex as Love: Parental Messages
    • Sex as. Status: The Messages of Peers
    • “Intimate” Partners: Mixed Messages
    • Sex as Surrender: Media Messages
    • Sex as Weapon: Sexual Violence
    • Summary: Problematic Meanings
    • Challenge and Change: Creating New Meanings
    • Conclusion

II. CHILDHOOD AND ADOLESCENCE

  1. Teaching the Children
    • “Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice”: Biological Development
    • Girls’ Psychological Development
    • Messages and Meanings
    • Summary and Recommendations
  2. Adolescence: Biological and Psychological Development
    • Biological Development
    • Psychological Development
    • Conclusion
  3. Menstruation: Initiation into Womanhood
    • The Things We Needed Mother “and Dad” to Tell Us: Parental Messages
    • A Friend in Need: Messages of Peers
    • Of Cleanliness and Womanliness: Media Messages
    • Religious and Medical Messages
    • Summary: Problematic Meanings
    • Challenge and Change: Creating New Meanings
    • Conclusion
  4. “Bawdy” Image: From Subject to Object
    • Changing Roles and Expectations: Messages of Significant Others
    • Objects of Desire: Media Messages
    • Summary: Problematic Meanings
    • Challenge and Change: Creating New Meanings
    • Conclusion
  5. Who Loves Ya, Babe?: Sexual Intimacies and Expression
    • Sex as Love: Parental Messages
    • Sex as. Status: The Messages of Peers
    • “Intimate” Partners: Mixed Messages
    • Sex as Surrender: Media Messages
    • Sex as Weapon: Sexual Violence
    • Summary: Problematic Meanings
    • Challenge and Change: Creating New Meanings
    • Conclusion

IV. THE MIDDLE AND LATER YEARS

  1. Biological and Psychological Development
    • Biological Development during the Middle Years
    • Psychological Development during the Middle Years
    • Biological Development in Later Life: “You’re as Young as You Feel”
    • Psychological Development in Later Life: Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained
  2. When Being “Hot” Takes on New Meaning: Menopause
    • All “Dried” Up: Medical Messages
    • All “Used” Up: Media Messages
    • Secret Shame: Messages of Significant Others
    • Summary: Problematic Meanings
    • Challenge and Change: Creating New Meanings
    • Conclusion
  3. The Festival of Lipid Migration: Bodily Changes and Body Image
    • Forever Young: Media Messages
    • Hourglass Figures, or “Time Is Running Out”: Messages of the Beauty Industry
    • Between Lovers: Messages of Significant Others
    • Between Women
    • Summary: Problematic Meanings
    • Challenge and Change: Creating New Meanings
    • Conclusion
  4. Intimate Connections: Sexual Expression and Relationships
    • The Serviceable Vagina: Medical Messages
    • On the Downhill Slide: Media Images
    • Lovers and Other Strangers: Messages of Significant Others
    • Summary: Problematic Meanings
    • Challenge and Change: Creating New Meanings
    • Conclusion
  5. Coming Full Circle
    • Over the Hill: Medical Messages
    • Rocking Chairs and Apple Pies: Media Messages
    • Intimate Relationships: Messages of Significant Others
    • Intimate Partners: Myths and Miscommunication
    • Summary: Problematic Meanings
    • Challenge and Change: Creating New Meanings
    • Conclusion

Epilogue

Appendix A: The Sexual Development of Children and Adolescents

Appendix B: Body Image and Struggles with Weight

Appendix C: The Aftermath of Sexual Violence

Appendix D: Lesbian Identity and Sexual Orientation

Appendix E: Reproductive Health and Decision Making

Appendix F: Disability and Illness

Appendix G: Issues for Women in the Middle and Later Years

References

Index

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