Social Interaction and Safer Sex at Sex Parties: Collective and Individual Norms at Gay Group Sex Venues in NYC
- 507 Downloads
Sex-on-premise venues for gay/bisexual men have been identified as high-HIV risk environments, partly because they seem to have norms discouraging discussion of safer sex. This study investigated individual and collective norms about social and sexual interaction in these venues through qualitative interviews with 20 men recruited from private sex parties in New York City. All participants recognized that there was a collective norm encouraging casual conversation at sex parties, which was supported by organizational features of these events; however, participants’ willingness to engage in social interaction ranged widely. Although conversation seemed pervasive in the social area of parties, most participants said there was no conversation in the sexual area and very few participants reported ever asking potential sex partners about HIV status or safer-sex preferences. Participants preferred going to events that set clear expectations regarding condom use (either “safer-sex” or “bareback” parties). These data point to a dichotomy in the norms of sex parties where conversation is expected in the social area of a venue but inappropriate around sexual activity. Sexual health interventions targeted to this population are more likely to be successful if they take the social and sexual norms of these events into account.
KeywordsGay and bisexual men Private sex parties Norms Social interaction Sexual communication HIV/STI
While carrying out this study, the author benefited from doctoral fellowships from the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture and from the Desjardins Foundation, as well as support from the graduate school and sociology department at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All procedures performed in this study involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the author’s institution and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Conflict of Interest
The author declares that he has no conflict of interest.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
- Delph, E. W. (1978). The silent community: Public homosexual encounters. London: SAGE.Google Scholar
- Gallagher, T., Link, L., Ramos, M., Bottger, E., Aberg, J., & Daskalakis, D. (2014). Self-perception of HIV risk and candidacy for pre-exposure prophylaxis among men who have sex with men testing for HIV at commercial sex venues in New York City. LGBT Health, 1, 218–224. https://doi.org/10.1089/lgbt.2013.0046.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Grov, C., Rendina, H. J., Breslow, A. S., Ventuneac, A., Adelson, S., & Parsons, J. T. (2014a). Characteristics of men who have sex with men (MSM) who attend sex parties: Results from a national online sample in the USA. Sex Transm Infect, 90, 26–32. https://doi.org/10.1136/sextrans-2013-051094.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Herdt, G. H. (1992). Gay culture in America: Essays from the field. Boston: Beacon.Google Scholar
- Hirshfield, S., Chiasson, M. A., Joseph, H., Scheinmann, R., Johnson, W. D., Remien, R. H., et al. (2012). An online randomized controlled trial evaluating HIV prevention digital media interventions for men who have sex with men. PLoS One, 7, e46252. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0046252.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Hirshfield, S., Schrimshaw, E. W., Stall, R. D., Margolis, A. D., Downing, M. J., & Chiasson, M. A. (2015). Drug use, sexual risk, and syndemic production among men who have sex with men who engage in group sexual encounters. Am J Public Health, 105, 1849–1858. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2014.302346.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Humphreys, L. (1975). Tearoom trade: Impersonal sex in public places (2nd ed.). New Brunswick: Aldine Transaction.Google Scholar
- Marcus, U., an der Heiden, M., Gassowski, M., Kruspe, M., & Drewes, J. (2015). The impact of meeting locations for men having sex with men on the risk for bacterial sexually transmitted infections: Analyses from a cross-sectional online survey. BMJ Open, 5, e009107. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009107.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Melendez-Torres, G. J., & Bonell, C. (2017). Littoral spaces of performance: Findings from a systematic review and re-analysis of qualitative studies on men who have sex with men, substance use and social venues. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 14, 259–269. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13178-016-0247-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Meunier, É. (2016). Organizing collective intimacy: An ethnography of New York City’s clandestine sex clubs. New Brunswick: Rutgers University - Graduate School. https://doi.org/10.7282/T3FB5584.
- Miles, M. B., Huberman, A. M., & Saldaña, J. (2013). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, Califorinia: SAGE.Google Scholar
- Mimiaga, M. J., Reisner, S. L., Bland, S., Cranston, K., Isenberg, D., Driscoll, M. A., et al. (2010). “It”s a quick way to get what you want’: A formative exploration of HIV risk among urban Massachusetts men who have sex with men who attend sex parties. AIDS Patient Care & STDs, 24, 659–674. https://doi.org/10.1089/apc.2010.0071.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- O’Leary, A., Horvath, K. J., & Rosser, B. R. S. (2013). Associations between partner-venue specific personal responsibility beliefs and transmission risk behavior by HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM). AIDS Behav, 17, 1855–1861. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10461-012-0291-1.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Rice, C. E., Maierhofer, C., Fields, K. S., Ervin, M., Lanza, S. T., & Turner, A. N. (2016). Beyond anal sex: Sexual practices of men who have sex with men and associations with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. J Sex Med, 13, 374–382. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsxm.2016.01.001.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- Rich, A. J., Lachowsky, N. J., Cui, Z., Sereda, P., Lal, A., Birch, R., et al. (2016). Substance use, sexual behaviour and prevention strategies of Vancouver gay and bisexual men who recently attended group sex events. Culture, Health & Sexuality, 18, 361–376. https://doi.org/10.1080/13691058.2015.1084649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Rodger, A. J., Cambiano, V., Bruun, T., Vernazza, P., Collins, S., van Lunzen, J., et al. (2016). Sexual activity without condoms and risk of HIV transmission in serodifferent couples when the HIV-positive partner is using suppressive antiretroviral therapy. JAMA, 316, 171–181. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2016.5148.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
- Rubin, G. (1991). The Catabombs: A temple of the butthole. In M. Thompson (Ed.), Leatherfolk: Radical sex, people, politics, and practice (pp. 110–141). Boston: Alyson.Google Scholar
- Saldaña, J. (2015). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. SAGE.Google Scholar
- Solomon, T. M., Halkitis, P. N., Moeller, R. M., Siconolfi, D. E., Kiang, M. V., & Barton, S. C. (2011). Sex parties among young gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men in New York City: Attendance and behavior. Journal of Urban Health, 88, 1063–1075. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11524-011-9590-5.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
- van den Boom, W., Davidovich, U., Heuker, J., Lambers, F., Prins, M., Sandfort, T., & Stolte, I. G. (2016). Is group sex a higher-risk setting for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections compared with dyadic sex among men who have sex with men? Sex Transm Dis, 43, 99–104. https://doi.org/10.1097/OLQ.0000000000000389.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar