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Learn More. Although researchers have related sexual desire in older women to quality-of-life variables such as overall physical health, well-being, and life satisfaction, little is known about the socio-cultural mechanisms that shape sexual desire in minority ethnic older women. We investigated this sexual variable among Mexican-American older women in a qualitative fashion. Date were collected from 25 community-dwelling women of Mexican descent aged 59—89 years using a semi-structured interview protocol and a grounded theory approach.
We inquired about dimensions of sexual desire including sexual fantasies and the desire to engage in sexual activity within the context of several socio-cultural and health-related factors. Traditional socio-cultural restrictions coupled with unmarried status and physical health problems emerged as critical issues associated with limited or no sexual fantasies and desire in our sample.
Many respondents indicated that their sexual needs were unmet.
Sexual desire is a core component of sexual health Young et al. As pointed out by Nusbaum, Singh, and Pylesit is common to assume that sexual interest wanes considerably as people grow older. In contrast, researchers have discovered that ageing does not necessarily precipitate decreased longing for sexual intimacy National Council on the Aging ; Laumann, Paik, and Glasser To better understand the sexual needs and behaviours of minority ethnic older women in particular, researchers must acknowledge that these women traditionally place a strong emphasis on cultural prescriptions and norms Phinney and Flores However, to our knowledge, there is very little empirical evidence on culturally relevant mechanisms that shape sexual desire in these research populations.
Of the 38 million Latinos, approximately 24 million are of Mexican descent. Women, who comprise the majority of older adults in the U. To contribute to the scarce literature on this topic, in the current study we explored socio-cultural and health-related factors associated with sexual desire among community-dwelling Mexican-American older women. Due to space limitations, we do not discuss the comparative literature on sexual desire and fantasies in older women from other cultures. It encompasses two distinct features: fantasies about sexual activity and desire to engage in sexual activity.
According to the DSM-IV-TR, hypoactive sexual desire disorder is a persistent deficiency or absence of fantasies about sexual activity and desire to participate in sexual activity.
It is the most common form of sexual dysfunction among women age 18 to 59, affecting approximately one-third of all women. Indeed, stereotypes of the older woman continue to persist: according to Spencewith older women being expected to be sexually undesirable, to not desire sex, and to be incapable of having sex. Regarding depression, deficiencies in sexual desire are often related to severity of depressive symptomatology Benbow and Jagus Concerning our target population, there is empirical evidence showing that low-income immigrant Mexican-American older women are at heightened risk for depression Chiriboga et al.
To our knowledge, researchers have yet to explore dimensions of sexual desire in relation to depression in this ethnic population.
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As to sexuality in relation to religious and cultural norms, older men and women who are religious typically are more sexually conservative than young people and nonbelievers, Meet latin women for sex of educational level Le Gall et al. Concerning women in particular, empirical evidence shows that those with the greatest sexual satisfaction did not attend church within the past year Davidson, Darling, and Norton These findings draw attention to the fact that, because most religions disapprove of sexual intercourse outside of a marital relationship, the repressing effects of religion on sexual desire could be substantial especially if an older woman is not married.
According to Pick, Givaudan, and Klinein traditionally patriarchal societies such as Mexico, church-based social norms typically discourage the dissemination of accurate sexual knowledge within families and educational structures. On the opposite side of this issue, the defence of sexual and reproductive rights in Mexico is being carried forward by groups such as the feminist movement Lamas Also, since the s, there has been a growth in programmes providing sexuality education and family planning in Mexican youth centres e.
Nowadays, younger women of Mexican background tend to focus on mutually pleasurable sexual intimacy within modern marriage Hirsch Mexican-American older women, however, did not have access to the same kind of sexuality education when they grew up. They were typically raised, in accordance with traditional Mexican cultural norms, to engage in sexual interactions within a marital relationship fulfilling a gendered set of marital obligations Hirsch These rather outdated norms could discourage the sexual autonomy and agency to make informed decisions about sexuality of women from prior generations.
Given this socio-cultural historical context, it is reasonable to posit that older women of Mexican descent may be at risk for poorer sexual health, having low or no sexual desire. Because we deed this study following a methodological commitment to grounded theory Charmazwe did not formulate any specific hypotheses in advance, but allowed respondents to create valuable data through the construction of their own stories of sexual desire.
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Our sample included 25 community-dwelling women of Mexican descent. Research assistants recruited participants as volunteers at stores, churches, libraries, and senior centres in Los Angeles County. Recruitment occurred using purposive sampling, i.
The latter was implemented through participant referral of other potential respondents. Inclusion criteria were: being at least 55 years of age in line with many of the aforementioned studiesof Mexican descent immigrant or first generationand fluent in English to minimise confounding the findings with acculturation levels. Exclusion criteria were: living in an institutional setting, or not being able to provide informed consent.
The socio-demographic characteristics of the sample are summarised in Table 1.
The procedures used in this investigation are in line with the ethical standards of the CSUN Institutional Review Board which fully approved this study concerning research conducted on human subjects. A consent form was ed and dated by each participant before assessment began.
The assessment session lasted from one to two hours. Respondents chose convenient locations at which to conduct the interviews, usually libraries, senior centres, or similar facilities. This simple list was developed by the first author. The content of this protocol was based on an extensive review of the pertinent literature, in an attempt to maximise its contextual reliability and validity.
Sexual desire among mexican-american older women: a qualitative study
Some of the protocol questions and related answers are reported later in the section. To minimise the possibility of offending or embarrassing older women, specific sexual questions were not asked on topics such as masturbation or interactional sexual activity. Descriptive statistics were computed for the socio-demographic variables using SPSS.
The second author transcribed all audiotapes, typing the content of each interview first into Word files. First, the themes covering sexuality and related topics were identified using open coding. In the second phase of analysis, respondents were placed on two continua for axial coding purposes based on their sexual desire responses. Finally, selective coding of the themes was implemented in order to identify sub-themes particularly relevant to sexual desire. The coding system was established by the second author in the following manner.
Subsequently, five interviews were coded collaboratively to verify overall thematic fit. Both authors discussed minor inconsistencies in their application of the coding system and refined the content of the coding manual. This procedure allowed for verification of coding agreement and achievement of consensus on the final version of the manual containing full descriptions of the criteria for the themes and sub-themes.
Finally, the second author re-coded the 15 interviews and coded the remaining 10 interviews according to the final manual. Regarding missing data, none of the respondents failed to answer the questions on the themes identified.
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The same was true for most demographics; concerning income, three women declined to disclose information on this variable. Concerning axial coding, research participants were placed on two continuums based on their responses concerning: 1 presence or absence of desire to have sexual activity X-axis ; and 2 presence or absence of fantasies about sexual activity Y-axis.
Women who reported having sexual fantasies and desire to have sexual activity were placed within the upper right-hand quadrant QI. Those with sexual fantasies but no desire to have sexual activity were placed within the upper left-hand quadrant QII. Respondents with neither sexual fantasies nor desire to have sexual activity were placed within the lower left-hand quadrant QIII.
Finally, those who had no sexual fantasies yet desired to have sexual activity were placed within the lower right-hand quadrant QIV. Figure 1 offers a graphic illustration of the positioning of each respondent within the quadrants. Seven women in QI expressed having fantasies about sexual activity and desire to have sexual activity. Some of them reported acceptance of a decrease in their sexual desire as a normal part of ageing. The woman who verbalised the strongest sexual desire also had the highest frequency of sexual activity.
All of them stated that marriage was the appropriate context in which to have sex.
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They all felt that they had sufficient emotional support from their children, friends, and others who shared their faith. God was mentioned as a resource to quell sexual deprivation. I want to be in a relationship, but there are no men my age around. I have been separated from my husband for fifteen years and have not had sex since. Four women in QII expressed having sexual fantasies but no desire to engage in sexual activity. They ranged in age from 65 to 92 years and were either widowed two of themmarried, or divorced.
These women prioritised sex differently than those in QI, as they did not have any desire to have sex nor find a sexual partner. One widow shared that missing her husband and feeling autonomous now that she was alone were her reasons for not wanting to pursue a new relationship. As a group, they had between two and five medical conditions each e. Most of them were unable to stand or walk for long periods of time due to fatigue; one had limited mobility and used a walker for transportation.
Their social resources e. All of them were either Catholic or Christian and engaged in daily prayer.
I miss my husband sometimes to talk to…His death really had an impact emotionally at the time but I learned to deal with it over the last few years with help from family and friends. Twelve women in QIII reported having neither sexual fantasies nor the desire to have sexual activity. Their age ranged from 61 to 89 years. These women either expressed an acceptance of their lack of sexual desire and activity as part of ageing, or the following sub-themes emerged as reasons for not desiring or fantasising about sex: repulsion toward sexual activity in general, lack of a suitable sexual partner, marital discord, poor body image, or loyalty to a former husband.
Almost all the women in this quadrant took several medications daily and stated that, due to ageing, it now took longer to perform physical activities and was hard to walk far distances. Now, I think I can control all sexual aspects better than when I was younger. Two women were placed in QIV, as they had no sexual fantasies, yet reported a desire to engage in sexual activity. Flora was 65 years of age and the only woman in the sample who had never been married.