Is gay sex good

Many charities and other community based HIV organisations across the world have drawn on the broad principles of the Ottawa and Bangkok charters [ 26 , 27 ] in the development of their institutional policies or strategic plans that seek to facilitate a sense of sexual well-being that extends beyond the absence of disease see, for example: In England, a partnership of community-based organisations have also drawn upon these charters in their development of national HIV prevention planning frameworks, including the current framework, Making it Count 4.

Past editions of Making it Count [ 30 , 31 ] attended to the wider determinants of the behavioural causes of HIV transmission but the current edition [ 32 ] is explicit in calling for HIV prevention activity to focus on helping men minimise the harms associated with sex while maximising its benefits.

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While some community-based organisations and other health professionals agree that HIV prevention activity should seek to help men achieve a broader sense of sexual well-being, a detailed consideration and description of what men aspire to for their sex lives does not exist within the published literature. This paper aims to contribute to broader health promotion goals by seeking to understand what MSM value in the context of their sexual lives. We therefore aim to: There were a total of , valid responses, representing the largest ever survey of sexual behaviour among men who have sex with men anywhere in the world.

A detailed description of the methods has been published elsewhere [ 34 ]. A total of 18, men living in the UK completed the survey, although to increase data quality we excluded men who gave two or more inconsistent answers across the survey see Weatherburn et al. Responses to the question ranged from just a few words to several sentences. The mean number of words per response was With such a large number of brief responses, we sought to establish a rigorous, but suitably flexible, method of identifying themes and coding responses according to these themes within the data, which drew upon the principles of Framework analysis method [ 35 ].

Each author independently sought to identify and describe all themes they believed to be present prior to a meeting to share findings and start working towards a commonly agreed thematic framework. A first draft of this framework was then used to code another random sample of responses by each of the four authors listed. Conceptual problems with the framework, as well as additional information detail required for each theme was recorded and discussed.

This process was repeated with a third random sample of responses to ensure that all necessary dimensions were reflected in the framework, which ultimately comprised eight key themes, plus one additional theme that accommodated responses where the respondent said they were uncertain or not sure.

A fourth sample of responses was then used, with four authors independently coding each response to one or more of the eight key themes. Responses were frequently detailed and multi-dimensional, meaning that two or more themes were often reflected in a single answer.

The codes each response had been assigned were then collated and compared to establish inter-rater consistency. Discrepancies were discussed and the focus or description of each theme was adjusted where necessary. This process was repeated a further two times until all were satisfied with the thematic framework, including the conceptualisation of each theme and the way it was described.

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This final framework was then utilised by GH to code all 12, responses to one or more themes. Any ambiguous responses were flagged and further reviewed by AB. AB reviewed a random sample of responses utilising the final framework to ensure consistency of coding with GH. Few inconsistencies emerged and these were resolved.


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After removal of unclassifiable responses, the final number of responses coded using the thematic framework, and reported on in the remainder of this paper, was 12, Chi-square and ANOVA were used to establish associations between the citing of themes and a number of sample descriptors: Our sample, like all opportunistic samples of MSM in England, was predominantly gay identified, well-educated and employed.

With a mean age of 37 years, they are somewhat older than samples recruited in gay scene venues e. Perhaps because the current sample was predominantly recruited through gay dating sites, the proportion of men currently in a regular relationship was lower at It is possible that this may have biased the balance of descriptions of the best sex life by over-emphasising the relationships which men do not have and are looking for.

The eight key themes identified during analysis were: These are described in more detail, including indicative responses, in the following section. Responses could be coded to one or more of these themes. The themes are described below in the order in which they were most commonly coded. Quotes from respondents, shown in italics , are provided as theme exemplars. When asked what their idea of the best sex life was, the most common response by Other responses include: These responses related to mutuality between themselves and their sexual partner; they generally sought a mutually satisfying and sensual experience.

This theme encompasses notions of compatibility, respectfulness and affection. Some men simply stated a desire for any sex, or more than they were currently having. Other responses stated a desire for sex that was varied, adventurous, experimental or exploratory. Typical responses included: Occasionally men described a range of sexual behaviours which, by their nature and breath, actively implied a desire for variety in their sex life. Around one in six men Typical responses include: This theme captures stated desires for group sexual activity threesomes etc.

A relatively small proportion of men This theme also covers a small number of responses that described the best sex life as consensual and free from coercion. For 9. Psychological barriers to the best sex life included a lack of self-confidence including body-confidence or assertiveness skills, or a general inability to negotiate the kind of sex desired.

The Gay Man's Good Sex Guide | Men's Health Forum

Some men described wanting to feel more comfortable and relaxed during sex, or simply to feel less inhibited about actioning their sexual desires. A few described feelings of internalised homonegativity and wanted to feel more comfortable with their sexual orientation and with having sex with men. Typical responses relating to psychological barriers were: This theme also encompasses social barriers to the best sex life, including a desire to eliminate or overcome negative attitudes about gay and bisexual men held in some elements of society, and the ability to overcome HIV related stigma.

A small number of men 5. For example: Responses that included general words associated with physical attractiveness e. For a very small number of men 1. For example, sex in a sauna, a cruising ground, or on a beach. Responses most commonly related to ideal relationships Conceptualising best sex in terms of volume or variety of sexual activity was also commonplace described in some manner by Some associations were observed between themes.

Almost two thirds A total of Those in a current relationship with another man were more likely to idealise emotional and sexual connection, and less likely to idealise volume and variety in their sex life than were those not in a relationships. The same was also true of idealising relationship formulation. Those out to few or none were, however, more likely to describe their idea of the best sex life in ways that relate to sexual actions or behaviours. A significant difference in idealised sex lives is also evident across age groups.

However, the likelihood of describing the best sex life in terms of types, actions or behaviours during sex generally increased in line with age.

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The rank order of the eight themes was almost identical across the three testing history groups, suggesting no major group differences in sexual values. However, relationship formulation was significantly more commonly cited by men who had tested negative than those who had never tested or tested positive, as were emotional and sexual connection with a partner, and freedom from physical harm. Conversely, men who had tested HIV positive were significantly if marginally more likely to cite overcoming psychological and social barriers and idealised physical attributes than men who had not tested positive.

We cannot say whether these differences preceded and perhaps contributed to men staying HIV negative or becoming HIV positive, or whether the differences are a consequence of diagnoses. On the other hand men who had never tested were most likely to be unsure of what their best sex life might contain, perhaps reflecting a broader ambivalence about the world. This paper describes an exploratory analysis of responses to one open question about what constitutes the best sex life, which were often only several words in length and occasionally ambiguous.

A more in-depth, purely qualitative investigation of this issue may reveal greater complexity and richness to these themes, or better illustrate how they are interconnected.


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  5. As with all social survey research, this data may reflect a social desirability bias, particularly given that common place discourse surrounding the desire for a partner or for love is widely accessible. Comparisons between demographic groups are tentative but provide some useful insight into how ideas of the best sex life, and its role in a broader sense of sexual well-being, may differ among men at different points in their lives or in different personal circumstances. The principle of health promotion conceived by the Ottawa and Bangkok Charters notwithstanding, a significant body of social marketing and communication literature highlights the importance of attending to what people value and what is meaningful in their everyday lives when attempting to elicit health behaviour change [ 40 , 41 ].

    Such an understanding on the part of health and social care professionals seeking to reduce transmission of HIV and other STIs among gay and bisexual men may assist in the development of engaging and effective interventions to help men make sexual choices that maximise pleasure or satisfaction and minimise potential harms. That gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men value emotional connection or meaningful, romantic relationships with other men is by no means a new finding [ 42 , 43 ] but what the current study adds is better sense of the primacy placed on these themes as key components of an idealised sex life.

    Nearly two-thirds of respondents described their idea of the best sex life in these terms, while responses relating to variety of sexual contact or specification of sexual acts were substantially less common. This finding stands in stark contrast to a predominate media and commercially driven representation of gay men as promiscuous and interested primarily in anal intercourse [ 44 ].

    While a still sizeable proportion of men described their idea of the best sex in ways that related to volume and variety, such articulation decreased with the advancing age of respondents.

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    As age increased so too did a tendency to describe specific sexual acts or behaviours, perhaps reflecting how some men gain a greater sense of what is sexually satisfying with experience. The current study is unable to unpick these maturational and chronological processes but see Weeks, [ 45 ]. Public health interventions for HIV prevention emphasise risk reduction but pay little attention to pleasure promotion. This is clearly at odds with what men themselves are aiming for in their sex lives. The purpose of safer sex has always been to continue to have an adequate sexual life in the presence of potential harms by reducing the probability of those harms.

    The current study suggests that the kind of sex lives MSM aspire to are varied and multifaceted.