Baby boomers back in the dating game need a sex education refresher


Older men getting back into the dating game are having riskier sex than younger suitors, leaving them vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections, a new study suggests.

Men in their 50s and 60s were less likely to use a condom or have a good understanding of STIs than younger male suitors, found the analysis of 2339 men who logged onto the dating site RSVP.

The findings suggest a sex education refresher may be in order for older lotharios who were more likely to believe condoms were mood killers that would stifle their sexual pleasure, reported the researchers at Family Planning NSW.

Fewer than half of men over 60 said they would only have sex with a new partner if they used a condom. The same was true of 51 per cent of men in their 50s compared to almost 70 per cent of men aged 19-29, found the study published in the journal Sexual Health on Friday.

The study also found that older men who had multiple sexual partners were more likely to have riskier sex without a condom, bucking a long-established trend that generally sexually experience people had higher rates of safe sex practices.

"These men on dating websites are coming out of long-term relationships and finding new partners and their knowledge many not be so up-to-date," said study co-author and medical director of FPNSW Dr Deborah Bateson.

"It may be many years, even decades since older men have come across or received information about STIs," Dr Bateson said.

National data shows the number of people divorcing after 20 years of marriage had risen from 13 per cent in 1990 to 28 per cent in 2011.

"A lot has changed since they were the focus of sex safe messaging ... most campaigns are, quite rightly, [geared towards] young people," Dr Bateson said, alluding to the significantly higher rates of STIs among adults under 30.

Older men were more likely to talk about STIs with new partners, but these conversations may not be as informative as they should be.

Simply talking to new partners about STIs wasn't enough, especially considering more than half of men aged 60 and over, and 40 per cent of men in their 50s, did not know people with chlamydia may not have symptoms, according to the study.

Some 45 per cent of men 60 and over believed there was no risk of contracting STIs because they were in a monogamous relationship.

"We certainly know there are misperceptions that if you talk to someone and they say 'no, I'm fine' it's not always the case. People can have [STIs] and not realise it," Dr Bateson said.

"They need to use condoms with new partners to protect themselves, their partners and prevent the spread of infection," she said.

The most common reasons for not using a condom among older men was the belief that their partner did not have an STI, and that they simply did not want to use one, and men of 50 "overwhelmingly believed condoms reduced sexual interest and pleasure", the authors wrote.

Older men may not be aware of recent condom technologies designed to improve pleasure, Dr Bateson said.

"There has been a lot of time, and effort and money put into finding new material and new ways of [making] condoms designed to improve the experience for men and women," Dr Bateson said.

Worryingly, men who reported having vasectomies (one in four of all study participants) had riskier attitudes towards sex and were less likely to wear a condom with new partners.

Australia has a relatively high rate of vasectomy, with 25 per cent of men aged over 40 reporting they had undergone the procedure in 2005.

"We need to remind men that vasectomies prevent unwanted pregnancies but not STIs," Dr Bateson said.

Most of the men surveyed were aged over 40 (73 per cent) and 48 per cent were aged 50 and over. The majority lived in major Australian cities, had a tertiary education and worked full time.

The authors recommended introducing STI awareness campaigns aimed at this older demographic, including advertising on dating sites and apps.

Dr Bateson also suggested nostalgia campaigns similar to those used in the US and UK harking back the the older generations' youth may also be effective in Australia.

"We also need to normalise going to the doctor for these men who we know don't see their GP as much [as women do]," she said

The findings were reminiscent of a 2009 FPNSW study that found older women were less likely to refuse sex without a condom and more likely to discuss STIs with new partners than younger women.

This story Baby boomers back in the dating game need a sex education refresher first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.