Study: Gay Men Are Scratching Fewer Notches On Their Bedposts

The National Surveys of Family Growth finds that gay men rack up fewer sexual partners than they did 10 years ago.

If you’re finding that hookups are harder to come by these days, don’t take it personally. A new study from the National Surveys of Family Growth (NSFG) finds that the modern gay man is simply racking up fewer sexual partners than he has in the past. 

To get their conclusion, NSFG compared results from a 2010 survey on the sexual habits of gay and bisexual men to a similar one they performed in 2002. What they found is a decline in sexual partners that’s “consistent across most ethnicities and age groups, but was particularly marked, and statistically significant, in younger men aged under 24.” More specifically, the mean number of sexual partners among gay men fell from 2.9 in 2002  to 2.3 in 2010.

One of the more disturbing findings, however, is that the number of men who reported having condom-less anal sex did not decrease, but researchers suggest that the lack of protection doesn’t necessarily mean guys aren’t taking precautions needed to safeguard themselves from STDs: “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.”

Here’s a rundown of other findings in the study, compiled nicely in an article about the study on Queerty, which correlates NSFG’s findings with the rise in gay-marriage support over the past decade.

  • Among men under 24, the mean number of sexual partners fell from 2.9 to 2.1; among men 35-44, 3.0 to 2.2
  • Among men with incomes under 150 percent of the U.S. 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 percent of men had not used a condom the last time they had sex, compared to 58 percent in 2006-10
  • Among MSM who also have sex with women, 46 percent had not used a condom the last time they had vaginal sex in 2002, compared to 67 percent by 2010
  • MSM who had had female partners also decreased from 38 percent to 25 percent
  • Fewer men reported transactional sex (sex for money or drugs), down from 15 percent to 3 percent
  • Fewer men said they had injected drugs or had had sex with someone who had injected drugs, down from 12 percent to 5 percent
  • In 2002 and 2006-10, 41 percent of men said they had had an HIV test in the last year; 38 percent reported having an STI check-up in 2002 and 39 percent in 2006-10.
  • The proportion of men who had never had an HIV test fell from 25 to 15 percent.

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