STUDY: Gay Men Aren’t Sleeping Around As Much As They Used To

Abercrombie-Goes-Gay-Sex-ShowerA new study suggests that gay men generally have “significantly fewer” sexual partners than they did 10 years ago.

Comparing data from National Surveys of Family Growth in 2002 and between 2006-10, the study shows a consistent decline in sexual partners across most ethnicities and age groups, particularly men under the age of 24.

Condom use, or rather, the sad lack thereof, remains unchanged.

Key findings include:

* Between 2002 and 2010, the mean number of sexual partners among men who have sex with men (MSM) fell from 2.9 to 2.3

* Among men under 24, 2.9 to 2.1; among men 35-44, 3.0 to 2.2

* Among men with incomes under 150% of the US federal poverty level, 3.0 to 2.1

* Among men living in suburban metropolitan areas, 3.2 to 2.1; the number of sexual partners remained the same among men in city-center areas, 2.6

* Among white men, 3.0 to 2.5; among black men, 2.4 to 1.9

* In 2002, 57% of men had not used a condom the last time they had sex, compared to 58% in 2006-10

* Among MSM who also have sex with women, 46% had not used a condom the last time they had vaginal sex in 2002, compared to 67% by 2010

* MSM who had had female partners also decreased from 38% to 25%

* Fewer men reported transactional sex (sex for money or drugs), down from 15% to 3%

* Fewer men said they had injected drugs or had had sex with someone who had injected drugs, down from 12% to 5%

* In 2002 and 2006-10, 41% of men said they had had an HIV test in the last year; 38% reported having an STI check-up in 2002 and 39% in 2006-10.

* The proportion of men who had never had an HIV test fell from 25 to 15%.

Researchers claim “gay men appear to have taken steps that could reduce their HIV risk by using a method that has received little emphasis in HIV prevention programmes for gay men – reducing their number of partners – while not increasing condom use, which has received the most emphasis.”

However, HIV prevalence and the incidence of STIs increased in gay men despite the decrease in numbers of partners and other sexual risk behaviors indicate the influence of “network factors,” particularly among young black gay men. According to the study:

Factors about partners that are not captured by the individual risk behavior focus of most studies. For instance, some studies have found that black gay men tend to restrict sex to partners of their own ethnicity and are also more likely to have sex with men a number of years older or younger than themselves. Both of these would tend to concentrate HIV infection within the black gay community.

Meanwhile, one factor that could explain the pruding-up/settling down of MSM America could be the legalization of same-sex marriage. Massachusetts became the first state to adopt gay marriage one year after the first set of data was collected.

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  • Raquel Santiago

    lack of condom use is senseless and stupid. I operate on a firm policy of no glove no love, except for with my partner (been deceased due to a drunk driver), but we were togther for 5 years totally monagamous and tested regularly but we trusted each other and validated that, not to mention we done everything together so no time to cheat lol. All that said, where the hell are people’s heads, getting back that positive test would change some tunes real damn quick. Not to mention your partner if knew they are positive and had sex without a condom can then be charged for a crime, its not worth it to either life.

  • QJ201

    The lack of condom use statistic is devoid of context. Just the last time? Well WHO was the last partner.

    I doubt partnered men are using condoms, but the reporting doesn’t reflect that…AND continues to demonize gay men.

    This is the important info that is related to the spread of HIV?

    Did you use a condom the last time you had sex with someone you just met in an online hookup, bath-house, sex club, etc? THIS is the important data needed.

  • Origami Condoms

    It’s extremely far-fetched that gay marriage has anything to do with this. It’s not like gays are marrying left and right and/or suddenly turning monogamous. Very stretched assumption.

  • Sparkyu1

    It could just be that the study is picking up a broader spectrum of the gay male community. The problem with any study looking at GBLT people is the impossibility of getting a full cross section because so many of us are closeted. Inevitably, you are going to get more responses from people who are more open and more visible than not.

    As time goes on, more and more of us – including many who internalised the whole “it’s no-one’s business, must hide and play nice” meme – are happy to be open about being gay, which leads to wider inclusion in these studies

  • CleJoke

    Is this a study of rural homosexuals?

    Were urban homosexuals excluded?

    Did any of the homosexuals in this study have internet access or smart phones with access to A4A, Manhunt, Grindr, Jack’d, et al.?

    Were these homosexuals polygraphed as they answered these questions.

  • miagoodguy

    Don’t buy the results of this study.

  • CleJoke

    Why are so many little homos under 25 proudly hiv+ in their A4A profiles then?

    Have you tried answering a post of CL for a dude under 25? They are always looking for “help”. First thing they ask when your reply is “Are you gen?”

    Where did they do this research Utah?

  • CleJoke

    Ok this has just put the biggest bug up my keester this morning.

    I want to set fire to the rain (thanks Detox for putting that phrase in my vocabulary).

    Which gay unfriendly group is National Surveys of Family Growth anyhow?


  • Sweet Boy

    If I were with a hot guy sleeping is the last thing I would be doing with him…there are more fun things to do in bed than sleeping

  • EManhattan

    @CleJoke – The study is done by the CDC, which is gay-neutral these days, not a “gay unfriendly group”.

    The numbers here are interesting because they show a general trend – but there is always a numerically large group of men who have lots of partners. The percentage may fluctuate, but they’re always there. And that includes gay, bi and non-gay men too; enjoying lots of partners is a male thing, not a gay thing, as we all know.

    I’d be interested to know if the rise of marriage in the gay community has seen an equivalent rise in sexual hypocrisy, with a higher percentage of gay men pretending to be monogamous when they are not. There’s always been some of that, but I wonder if it’s increasing. I hope we’re managing to marry with better grace than that, but assimilationist yearnings have always lead some to take the bad as well as the good from the opposite-sex marriage model.

  • Niall

    I’m always cynical about surveys and even more about this. I’d be really surprised if gays are less promiscuous than they used to be.

  • DBBromberg

    Any lie, any bullshit to promote the social media image of the their idea of a typical gay male and his lifestyle, even to the point of saying they are not doing what the social media say they are.

  • thezak

    The strategy… BEFORE sex get tested TOGETHER for A VARIETY of STDs then make an INFORMED decision.

  • GayTampaCowboy

    I have to chime in here too. Let me get this right, gay men (especially younger ones) are tricking LESS but still barebacking too much. So the authors of this report automatically assume the NEGATIVE instead of offering an alternative thought that those who are NOT using condoms MIGHT be in a monogamous LTR? Sounds to me like that’s a CRUCIAL question that should have been asked – THEN you can draw some conclusions about who’s doing what and condom use.

    I’m BETTING that more younger gay men ARE having fewer sexual partners (outside of a committed LTR) because they ARE in a committed LTR or WANT to be. And those that ARE in a committed LTR are NOT using protection because of their relationship status.

    I also agree with the section of this survey overview where they link marriage equality with the reduction of sex partners! Why? Because for decades, the str8 world liked to villify gay men as being hedonists – driven solely by the desire to have sex with as many partners as possible. But, given all that’s happened in the judicial system and in the court of popular opinion – gay men (gay folks in general) are RAPIDLY gaining social acceptance – and probably the MOST POWERFUL part of that acceptance is the reality by society that gay folks HAVE, CAN and DO make loving, life-long commitments.

    Think about it. You’re a 24 year old gay man who, up until the last year, was told that no matter how he felt, he wasn’t “worthy” of using the word “marriage” and that he was a second class of citizen – not worthy of having ANY LTR he entered into, accepted and given all the benefits that come with heterosexual marriage. NOW, we’re on the brink of seeing gay marriage rights extended and expanded RAPIDLY. I know for ME, that’s been a powerful driver emotionally – as is has for my partner.

    So, i think they dropped the ball on many of their conclusions…but a follow-up survey sounds like a good idea!

  • thezak

    Of course. Those who were more promiscuous increased their chances of dying from AIDS. Less promiscuous people were less likely to become HIV+. So less promiscuous men became a larger proportion of the population. Therefore it APPEARS as though gay men are becoming less promiscuous.

  • maxlovesrio

    I don’t understand the numbers about number of sex partners. Is that the number of sex partners EVER or the number of sex partners per week or per weekend? When I was in my 20’s I might have sex with more than that on a weekend day.

  • baystater

    I think it’s hilarious how many so-called “straight” folks hang out here and think they know exactly how gay men (or lesbians) live. Gay folks are no more promiscuous as straight single folks, but you all find that acceptable. Meanwhile you do all you can to make sure gay people don’t have equality in marriage or benefits which cause stress to relationships, then once a same sex couple breaks up, you point and say, “see, they can’t be monogamous.” I think you jokers have watched a bit too much gay porn and think those are documentaries.

  • daniwitz13

    @baystater: To be perfectly Equal, Congress shall make no Law respecting an establishment of an Orientation. Treat both Equally, after all, is an Orientation Greater than Religion? Since Equality is what Gays want, then treat them both the same. Call it Same Equal Application. (SEA) If we cannot respect Religion, how can we respect Homosexuality?

  • blkluvla

    @Niall: I’m wondering if the Internet might have counter-intuitively decreased guys’ sexual partners. Decades ago, one might go down to the club or bathhouse, meet someone and impulsively have sex there, in the car, park or at home. Now, as more people try to hook up online, it seems there might be a bigger “flake-out” or “2nd-thoughts” factor operating, e.g., hmm, maybe I don’t really want to go out to his place, or I’m not in the mood anymore, or, I just realized from his profile he’s a smoker etc. etc.. In other words, has the Internet actually taken some of the “on-the-spur-of-the-moment” out of the equation?

  • blkluvla

    @maxlovesrio: I agree – they did not state if that’s per week, per month, or per year. Either the study is not well conducted or is reported badly

  • beachcomberT

    Your article left out an important qualifier — the question was: how many partners did you have in the past 12 months? People were not asked for a lifetime total, which probably few gay guys could even guess.

  • DonW

    @thezak: I call bullsh*t, People have not died en masse from HIV infection in a couple of decades. A whole new generation has grown up since then. It’s not as if people inclined to multiple-partner sex lives have been eliminated from the gene pool.

  • maxlovesrio

    @blkluvla: Wow! Great point! I have never tried the online approach. I guess I’m just an old fashioned guy. It’s much simpler to meet a guy at a bar or gym or wherever and get together right then. You know what you are getting and so does he. I have friends who tell me about their online experience and it doesn’t sound good. From what I hear, the guys are flaky and meetup’s frequently are no-shows or are totally not like what they had stated.

    One friend of mine told me he often chatted with guys in a particular forum and they would trade pics. One night after he had spent an hour chatting with some guy in a forum, he finally asked the guy for a pic before they were going to meet up and was shocked when he actually received his own picture from the guy.

  • viveutvivas

    What are these numbers? The mean number of partners per week? Per month? Per year?

  • viveutvivas

    Considering the vanishing percentage nationwide of gay married men, the hypothesis that gay marriage has anything to do with anything is just completely specious. I assume it was just editorializing by Queerty and not mentioned in the study itself, since that kind of politicking and editorializing has no place in a scientific publication.

  • viveutvivas

    @blkluvia, I do think you have a good point there. For example, at a bathhouse, it is not difficult to have sex with 5 or 10 guys in the same night, even if it is not full sex to ejaculation with each one. But our local bathhouses have run empty as a result of Grindr, where people usually have 20 concurrent chats going on TRYING to hook up with someone and seldom actually succeeding. So yes, I think they are in fact having less sex as a result, and to be honest I think lately people are starting to go back to the bathhouses for that precise reason.

  • blkluvla

    @maxlovesrio: Yes, the dishonesty can be mind-boggling. It’s as if these guys think, “maybe he won’t notice that I don’t look like my online photo.” They are living in a strange fantasy. This is why some online hookups end up with, “thanks, but no thanks.”

  • blkluvla

    @viveutvivas: “…to be honest I think lately people are starting to go back to the bathhouses for that precise reason.”

    Oh, no, really?? Oh, dear. I think bathhouses are serious vectors of disease because of the multiple simultaneous and sequential partners you can get in one night.

  • viveutvivas

    @blkluvia, well, it depends on what someone does there and how.

    On the other hand, the internet is a serious vector for ending up alone for the weekend doing needlepoint. Some people who are looking for a middle ground are starting to go out again, it seems to me, including to bathhouses.

  • blkluvla

    @viveutvivas: You said, “the internet is a serious vector for ending up alone for the weekend doing needlepoint.”

    LOL! That’s a good one, but you are so right! You often end up making no human contact at all, which may or may not be a good thing.

  • Jeremi

    I think if the numbers are supposed to represent either number of partners within the past week then it makes a little sense (some guys are completely monogamous, so 1 partner, while other guys might have a different guy every day of the week, and the average comes down to that). I think an influence could be social change more so than marriage equality. 15 to 20 years ago there was still overwhelming stigma nationwide, except in certain enclaves, whereas now the viewpoints are shifting in our favor. More and more men who remained locked in the closet but had healthy secret sex lives are moving in favor of more public committed relationships. But I’d need to get a good look at the study, the methodology, etc. because there’s too much not being reported to really trust the data given.

  • LadyL

    @Jeremi: I think you may have something there. Marriage in the equation or not I read this study as meaning that gay men are no longer buying into the stereotype that gay = promiscuity.

  • gaym50ish

    According to the Huffpost report on the same study, the numbers refer to the average number of partners in the previous 12 months, not the number of partners ever. I don’t really believe we’re less promiscuous than anytime before, but there are those of us that have been in committed relationships for a long time, so perhaps we lower the average a bit — and maybe there are more of us these days.

    Also, I don’t believe gay men are promiscuous because they’re gay, but because they’re men. When you take women out of the equation there isn’t anyone to say no. Gay men can skip the candy and flowers, and in fact they know from the first kiss that they’re going to end up in the sack.

  • Freddie27

    It depresses me how conspiratorial all the gays are about this study just because it shows the shameful lack of safe sex and prevalence of STI’s in the gay community. This is our shame; don’t pin it on anyone else.

  • Kikback1000

    This just looks like bad reporting here. Are we to believe that 44 year old gay men have only ever had 2 sexual partners? That is what is implied by the article. I might believe that number if it was within the last year. But since the reporter has decided to not include the definition of the terms or discuss the methodology, we are left with a confused communication that neither furthers the discussion in a meaningful way nor establishes any useful information. Please try to think of reporting as more than regurgitating information you do not understand. Take some responsibility for what you write.

  • viveutvivas

    There is nothing wrong with promiscuity, as long as people take precautions so nobody gets hurt. The slut-shaming should stop.

  • Niall

    @viveutvivas: But sadly, most(probably not all) people that are promiscuous DON’T take precautions.

  • thezak

    >”I call bullsh*t,…”

    The smell problem can be solved by you not standing so close to yourself.

    >”People have not died en masse from HIV infection in a couple of decades…”

    To learn about people dying en masse from AIDS read this timeline

    >”A whole new generation has grown up since then…”

    And some fraction of them will not grow up…

    >”It’s not as if people inclined to multiple-partner sex lives have been eliminated from the gene pool…”

    AIDS has only had a small influence on the gene pool.

    It is probably true that a person having more sex partners is more likely to become HIV+ and die from AIDS than those who have fewer sexual partners. That would mean they, and their children and mates, would be more likely to be eliminated from the gene pool.

    During the Black Death time in Europe, in the Middle Ages, it is estimated that 30-60% of the population died. Today about 1% of descendants from Europeans seem to have a gene that provides immunity to HIV.

    Evolution works slowly and carefully, but not with malice aforethought.

  • ChiChi Man

    I’m not sure why marriage equality WOULDN’T be a factor. There ARE more same sex marriages, there ARE more same sex families and a larger portion of the community is choosing monogamy. The out community is becoming more diverse and men are making more diverse choices. I’m not saying that everyone is pairing up. But monogamy does work for some people so I’m not surprised that there’s a dent in the overall number sexual partners.

  • lemon-lime

    I know part of it was seeing all the older guys hanging around bars pretending they were still in their “glory years” looking to pull. They always seemed so desperate and lonely. (Completely projection on my part. I have no idea if they were desperate or lonely.) I didn’t want that kind life, so I started taking dating more seriously and wound up falling in love with the guy I’ve now been with for the last 5 years. We got engaged in Paris last year and will marry next year.

    I think it’s probably generational thing. Each generation has its own desires (hell, each person in each generation has theirs as well). I think marriage equality and acceptance helps too. I also think that if you’re going to have multiple partners, you gotta wrap it up, though. I’m not pleased about that part of the study.

Comments are closed.