“The Heart Desires but the Body Refuses”: Sexual Scripts, Older Men’s Perceptions of Sexuality, and Implications for Their Mental and Sexual Health

Sylivia Karen Rutagumirwa, Ajay Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


We use sexual scripting theory in the present paper to gain a better understanding of older men’s perceptions of their sexuality in relation to dominant Tanzanian cultural norms of masculinity. Qualitative in-depth interviews were conducted with 15 older men, and ten focus group discussions were conducted with 60 men aged 60–82. Participants’ recruitment was guided by theoretical sampling strategies. Consistent with the principles of grounded theory, data collection and analysis occurred simultaneously. Our findings indicate that Jando (male initiation rites) serves as a script for male sexuality that outlines the expectations and rewards of male sexuality. Adhering to masculine sexual script affects older men’s perceptions of their sexuality in later life and has detrimental effects on their well-being. Older men were concerned with changes in their sexual life, such as the decline in their sexual performance. The majority of the participants said they felt emotionally distressed about the age-related decline in their body and in their sexuality, and they reported that their inability to conform to male sexual scripts undermined their sense of masculinity. Several of the participants reported that in an effort to regain their previous sexual performance, they had turned to remedies and strategies of questionable appropriateness and effectiveness. Our study suggests that older men may benefit from age-related interventions tailored to their cultural background. These interventions may require trained health care providers on mental health issues to bridge the gap between the internalized scripts of ideal male sexuality and the reality of aging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalSex Roles
Publication statusPublished - 01-01-2018


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology

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