Social Interaction and Safer Sex at Sex Parties: Collective and Individual Norms at Gay Group Sex Venues in NYC
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.
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