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Promiscuity Among Gay Men Is Probably Very High


GAYS IN INDIA COME OF AGE, Article from the Hindustan Times

But are most of the gays promiscuous, so to say, in terms of gay morality? Gays are not promiscuous in general, but just as in the straight society, such relationships exist in ours too. As they mature, they appreciate commitment better," he said. But are they really not afraid of a backlash in the real world, like police raids, social ostracism etc? "Yes, there is a risk," he says. “But anyway, who cares for security. It’s my life, I will live it the way I like." 

Promiscuity Among Male Gays

Gay men do not face any comparable evolutionary pressure. Homosexuality was considered a perversion or psychological disorder until recent times, and is still taboo or punishable or looked disfavorably upon in less developed societies. When homosexuality is seen as a perversion, homosexual promiscuity is seen by mainstream society merely as an addendum with little additional evil value. Of the two 'vices' of homosexuality and promiscuity, homosexuality is clearly the much greater vice, the more repugnant evil.

Gay, lesbian issues bring up moral questions

Ironically, the current struggle of same-sex marriages might be a continuation of the decay of the country’s biblical standard on marriage, which started with the acceptance of divorce.

With the gradual societal embracing of divorce over the past 50 years, the traditional marriage image has been utterly shattered. However, no one established a satisfactory replacement for the traditional moral authority — the Bible.

The same-sex marriage argument (moral or immoral) is much more successful when the traditional authority against same-sex marriages also condemns divorce — a state which half of marriages in the United States end in.

Homosexual Myths

In 1948, Dr. Alfred Kinsey released a study called Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, claiming that between 10 and 47% of the male population was homosexual.(2) He got his figures from a pool of 5,300 male subject that he represented as your average "Joe College" student. Many of the men who gave him the data, though, actually consisted of sex offenders, prisoners, pimps, hold-up men, thieves, male prostitutes and other criminals, and hundreds of gay activists.(3) The 10% figure was widely circulated by Harry Hay, the father of the homosexual "civil rights" movement, urging that homosexuality be seen no longer as an act of sodomy but as a 10% minority class.(4)

Kinsey's figures were exposed as completely false immediately afterwards, and by many other scientists since. The actual figure is closer to 2-3%.(5) But the 10% number has been so often reported in the press that most people think it's valid. It's not.

Multiple Sexual Partners Among U.S. Adolescents And Young Adults

Results: In all, 63% of female respondents and 64% of males were sexually experienced. Among those who had had sex during the three months before the survey, 15% and 35%, respectively, had had two or more partners during that period. At each age, the majority of sexually experienced respondents had had more than one lifetime partner; between ages 14 and 21, the proportion who had had six or more rose from 8% to 31% among females and from 14% to 45% among males. In logistic regression analyses, alcohol use, illicit drug use and young age at first coitus were associated with increased odds that females had had two or more partners in the previous three months, and being married lowered the odds; black or Hispanic race or ethnicity, alcohol use and young age at first coitus increased the odds for males, and being married reduced the odds. As the number of reported alcohol-related behaviors increased, the adjusted proportion of respondents who had recently had multiple partners rose from 8% to 48% among females and from 23% to 61% among men.

Note: This study does not seem to differentiate between Gays and Non-Gays.

Supreme Court strikes down ban on gay sex

"The court has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda," Scalia wrote for the three. He took the unusual step of reading his dissent from the bench.

"The court has taken sides in the culture war," Scalia said, adding that he has "nothing against homosexuals."

Multiple Male Sexual Encounters In A Gay Bath House

Warning: This section contains accurate but very explicit sexual material.  If you are in agreement with the educational value of reading such material, you can certainly find what is the common type of sexual behavior among Gay men in a Gay Bath House.  It may surprise you that this article was published on a site under the control of the University of  California, SFO.


GAYS IN INDIA COME OF AGE, Article from the Hindustan Times

Even as more and more gays and lesbians are coming out of the closet and making their presence felt in all societies, the written word continues to be adamantly oblivious of the changing times. More than 70 countries, including ours, consider homosexuality a crime, and 30 of these deny homosexuals even basic human rights, according to a study by the Amnesty International.  Hindustantimes.com has been doing occasional features relating to the life that homosexuals are leading in India, the problems they are facing and the answers they are coming up with. In the wake of the Amnesty study, it is perhaps appropriate to bring these features together to give the reader a better understanding of the “five crore and growing” community.

Gays in India come of age - Nadeem Ahmed

 They came out of hiding long back. And now they are making their presence felt. Slowly but surely.

Yes, the meek and timid gays of 1995-96, when some of them revealed their real identity for the first time, are no longer the same lot in the land of Kamasutra today. From a scattered group of a few hundred, they are at present a five-crore strong and growing community evolving its own hip and happening lifestyle and weaving its way from metros into semi-urban societies - online as well as offline.  They are talking live in chat rooms, looking for soul mates, falling in love, having sex on the net and crossing cities to be with each other in real world.

Growing community

"India has about five crore Men Who Have Sex With Men (MWHSWM). The category includes both gays and bisexuals. The number is gradually increasing with more and more such people coming out of the closet. While Delhi and Mumbai (with five lakh gays each) and, to a lesser extent, Bangalore and Calcutta are the hub of the Indian gay movement, people from smaller towns in Gujarat, Maharashtra and Bihar are also coming out," says Shaleen Rakesh, Coordinator of the Milan project run by Naz Foundation, Delhi.

They are forming NGOs, calling up help-lines and meeting regularly to evolve strategies for their cause. Above all, they are partying -- not just in in remote farmhouses in secret but also in starred hotels and at gatherings of the glitterati where gay fashion designers and diplomats are counted among the star guests.

In Delhi, the ‘fun addresses’ include some farmhouses on the Delhi-Gurgaon road, Park Hotel, Hotel Surya and Someplace Else. At a given point of time, date and place, everything turns gay -- be it the guests, outfits, music or dance.  Several gay and lesbian groups like Naz, Hamsafar and Bombay Dost are raising gay issues in the mainstream. "And the response is encouraging," says Shaleen.

Gay activism

"We at Milan talk about AIDS prevention and other issues besides trying to get mainstream attention. No social change will happen until people start talking about us," says Shaleen. The Milan centre in South Delhi aptly samples this gay activism. Run in a small three-room flat, the otherwise sleepy centre comes to life after 2 pm every afternoon when its help-line telephone starts ringing - almost non-stop - amidst the hustle and bustle of youthful volunteers.  At one of the more obscure gay spots – a farmhouse in Gurgaon -- they don't just talk. After the frolic of weekly or fortnightly dinner parties, they actually go for carnal fun and spend the night with partners.

"These places, though risky, are better than the open parties in Delhi hotels because you can actually have some real fun after dinner,” says Rohit (name changed), taking a sip of white wine. "You always get to find a new partner." His lanky partner comes and sensuously pressed his hand. "Excuse us," he cuts the informal chat and the pair heads for a door, sliding their arms around each other's waist. Annoyed? "Naah - he has got a new partner this time and seems eager about him." Nandan, another guest and Rohit's friend sniggers.

Gay promiscuity

But are most of the gays promiscuous, so to say, in terms of gay morality? Gays are not promiscuous in general, but just as in the straight society, such relationships exist in ours too. As they mature, they appreciate commitment better," he said. But are they really not afraid of a backlash in the real world, like police raids, social ostracism etc? "Yes, there is a risk," he says. “But anyway, who cares for security. It’s my life, I will live it the way I like." 

Behind closed doors

But leaders of the community apparently aren’t as flippant. The thick and huge iron-gate near Milan’s entrance remains locked round the clock. The sturdy volunteers let you in only if convinced about the purpose of the visit, without forgetting to lock it behind you. People who openly speak for gays still face stigma, prejudice and rejection at various social platforms, including their families, neighbours and workplaces.  "It is a daily struggle for us. So we not only help people come out of the closet but at times have to help them go into hiding too," says Shaleen. "I came out openly in my early twenties. My family was okay about it but wanted me to hide it from the world.” He goes on to add, “For the middle class, is tougher. It’s easier for one from the elite class to come out.”


Promiscuity Among Male Gays

Social and Probable Evolutionary Factors

Ninad Jog

May 21, 2002
Copyright © Ninad Jog, 2002.


Heterosexuals wonder: Does being gay by itself lead to promiscuous behavior or do gays have the same desires to pair up in monogamous relationships and raise families as most heterosexuals do? This question is doubtless based on the popular stereotype of gays as being promiscuous. Gays and those who dislike stereotypes might reflexively reject the promiscuous-gay notion solely because it is a stereotype - and a negative one that maligns an entire community: especially a community struggling for broad societal acceptance and long-denied rights.

Rather than rejecting the stereotype outright on emotional or political grounds, I first examine the possible social factors contributing to the emergence and establishment of the stereotype. Then, assuming for the sake of argument that the stereotype is indeed true - that the percentage of gays with promiscuous urges is indeed innately - i.e. biologically - higher than the corresponding percentage of heterosexuals with promiscuous urges - I analyze the probable processes that could have lead to such an evolutionary outcome.

Since actual data about promiscuity among heterosexuals and gays are lacking, we are currently unable to definitively accept or reject the rampant gay promiscuity hypothesis. Based on the analysis presented here, the hypothesis could well be true on theoretical grounds. The average gay man may indeed be more promiscuous than the average heterosexual man solely due to biological and evolutionary causes, quite apart from the amplifying social causes.

Some would characterize the analysis as simply another evolutionary just-so story, the carcasses of which litter the field of evolutionary sociobiology. Yet even if this analysis is subsequently refuted by data or on theoretical grounds, I believe its value lies in spurring debate and discussion. The analysis also supports my observation that male gays appear to be endowed with a curious mix of a few overtly effeminate traits and a number of hyper-masculine ones.


The word 'promiscuity' has a pejorative meaning in common usage. Here I intend no disrespect towards - or moral judgement against - promiscuous behavior or promiscuous people, yet I continue using the word for clarity and brevity - not for levity. Throughout this essay I make a distinction between promiscuous behavior and an urge for promiscuous behavior. The distinction assists with explaining observed phenomenon, even though it may be artificial and unreal.

Social Factors

Promiscuity: Repression and Freedom

The urge for indulging in promiscuous behavior may be higher among heterosexual men than is manifested in any society, because the taboo of promiscuity limits the available opportunities. Many of our ethics and morals stem from the biological imperative of reproducing and surviving as a species. Since human children need the most nurturing from elders and take the longest time to reach adulthood among all animals, a family man faces selection pressure (however indirectly) to stay faithful to his wife. This pressure manifests itself as social sanction against promiscuity. The widespread social disapproval of promiscuity can limit the pool of a man's potential sexual partners, severely constraining him from translating his urge for promiscuity into promiscuous behavior. Net effect: lower observed (measured) level of promiscuous behavior in a population.

Gay men do not face any comparable evolutionary pressure. Homosexuality was considered a perversion or psychological disorder until recent times, and is still taboo or punishable or looked disfavorably upon in less developed societies. When homosexuality is seen as a perversion, homosexual promiscuity is seen by mainstream society merely as an addendum with little additional evil value. Of the two 'vices' of homosexuality and promiscuity, homosexuality is clearly the much greater vice, the more repugnant evil.

Attitudes such as these are thankfully on the retreat in the developed world, but one of their unwitting legacies has been the continuing lack of social sanction against gay promiscuity. I'm not arguing that mainstream society should proscribe homosexual promiscuity (I believe it should not), but merely that it does not. Net effect: The absence of social pressure confers greater freedom upon gays to act upon their promiscuous urges leading to a higher observed level of promiscuity.

Amplifying Factors

When gays act upon their promiscuous urges (partly because they have the freedom to do so), the pool of available promiscuous gays also increases, thereby increasing the opportunity and providing an easy incentive to other gays with similar urges. This positive feedback mechanism can amplify and sustain the observed promiscuous behavior at heightened levels.

Many gays have the same desires of pairing up in stable monogamous relationships and raising families as heterosexuals do, but the lack of societal and governmental support makes their task difficult. The absence of a legal marriage and divorce framework contributes towards relationships that are broken quickly and easily with a mere verbal barrage, rather than with a deliberative, long drawn-out divorce process where the partners have the time to think it through and perhaps change their minds. An increased break-up rate can send otherwise relationship-oriented gays into a search for new partners, thereby increasing their chances of getting into one-night stands or similar promiscuous behaviors.

Apart from the legal support for gay marriage and gay divorce, married heterosexuals may stay married for the kids sake, or due to an economic dependence, etc.; gay couples tend to have fewer of such 'gluing' factors.

Promiscuity and Visibility

In my experience, most promiscuous people tend to be politically/socially left-of-center - what I term liberal - while monogamous ones are largely right-of-center - what I term conservative. Among gays, the liberal gays are the ones who are more 'out and about' - not shy about proclaiming their homosexuality to the world from every rooftop, participating in public gay events (such as gay parades), being active in gay organizations etc. In contrast, the conservative gays are largely hidden - they may be busy mowing their lawn with their partner or hiding in a suburban nook or cranny. They may not even be 'out' to others i.e. they may not even have revealed their gaiety to others. When such a 'gay scene', is surveyed, the gays who are visible are mostly (if not overwhelmingly) the out-and-about, promiscuous ones. So based on that sample, it might appear that most gays are promiscuous.

Even if the assumption that most promiscuous gays are liberals and most monogamous ones are conservative does not hold, the only assumption that needs to be true is that the more visible gays are also the more promiscuous. The observed gay promiscuity is then an outcome of a skewed and misleading sample.

Biological Factors

Are social factors the only factors that can cause gay promiscuity, or at least cause it to be displayed more prominently? Pure sociologists (as opposed to sociobiologists), leftists, and anyone mistrusting biology would certainly like to think so! Yet few discussions of as widespread a phenomenon as homosexuality would be intellectually or scientifically complete without a discussion of probable biological causes. In fact, the existence of such causes is the main point of this essay.

Let us assume for the sake of argument that the percentage of gays who have innate promiscuous urges is significantly larger than the fraction of heterosexuals that have promiscuous gays, in any and all populations of the world! For example, in the hypothetical island country of Zenda, a mere 15% of the heterosexuals have promiscuous urges (whether they are able to act on them or not is besides the point) while 50% of the gays have innate promiscuous urges. How can such an innate difference arise? Are the islander gays trapped in their biological destinies as veritable Prisoners of Zenda?

Hyper-Masculinity as a Proximate Cause

The proximate cause of increased promiscuity may well be the hyper-masculinity of gays. While most gays that I have come across (including myself!) have some overtly feminine (effeminate) traits such as a female walk, a feminine voice, feminine movements, a lack of interest in (and understanding of ) team sports such as football, basketball, etc., most gays are also simultaneously hyper-masculine in other respects - such as being tough nuts to crack (no pun intended!), standing their ground in arguments, having a pronounced tendency to dominate over other males, etc.

This may seem surprising, yet one of the putative causes of male homosexuality is an increased exposure to androgens (male hormones) in the womb, resulting in measurable hyper-masculine attributes such as finger-length ratios, longer penises, etc. Studies that point towards gay hyper-masculinity are still tentative and not been widely replicated, so their data and conclusions may be in doubt.

Despite the lack of consensus over the studies data and conclusions, the possibility of gay hyper-masculinity that they raise opens up a powerful avenue. Biological theory and evidence indicate that human males tend to be more promiscuous than females. It follows that hyper-masculine males e.g., gays would be even more promiscuous than regular (masculine, heterosexual) males.

An Evolutionary Ultimate Cause

While the proximate biological cause may be hormonal, the ultimate cause of increased promiscuity may well be evolutionary. One of the putative functions of male gays in early human and pre-human groups is thought to have been to glue the group together (again no pun intended!) by forming close sexual bonds among the [largely heterosexual] males of the group. Groups in which the gays were more promiscuous would be bonded more closely together and consequently have fewer fights and civil wars among themselves. Such groups would be more reproductively successful than the less cohesive groups in which the gays were less promiscuous. This would create a positive selection pressure in favor of gay promiscuity, favoring its spread by natural selection at the expense of gay non-promiscuity. In such groups, gay promiscuity seems to have a lot of benefits and no apparent costs, since gay sexual bonding does not lead to procreation.

Attracting a Heterosexual Man

One seeming problem with this argument is: how would a heterosexual male agree to bond sexually with a gay male in the first place? The answer is twofold: heterosexual men can be attracted towards a gay man if the gay has a few overtly feminine traits that are visible and obvious to everyone. Heterosexual males may be attracted towards that femininity, and may also feel less uncomfortable bonding sexually with a seemingly effeminate gay man than with a male (say a heterosexual) who has no feminine traits. Hence gay promiscuity and the display of overt feminine traits may have co-evolved due to the same underlying selection pressure.

When a seemingly heterosexual man has sex with another man, his behavior is bisexual rather than heterosexual. Yet he may consider himself heterosexual, by convince himself that the gay man he is sleeping with is 'really a woman' (simply because of the gay man's overt effeminate traits).

In contemporary American society, it is taboo for a heterosexually-identified man to have sexual relations with another man. The American masculinity and male heterosexuality somehow feels threatened by homosexuality. Yet that is still not the case in other societies - particularly Eastern ones such as India and Iran. A heterosexually identified man can feel a sense of power, conquest and superiority by being the sexually dominant (i.e. insertive) partner with another man. Consequently, there is a great taboo in such societies about a man being a bottom.

The Nature of Human Sexual Attraction

As an aside, such willing male bisexual behavior also sheds light on a related issue: humans' primary sexual attraction may well be along masculine/feminine lines than along gender/sex lines. For example, a heterosexually identified man may be willing to have sex with a feminine person, independent of whether the person is a female or an effeminate male. He self-identification as heterosexual may be based principally on his attraction towards femininity. He may prefer having sex with women than with men simply because femininity is expressed to a greater degree among women than among men. Similarly, a gay man may be attracted towards masculine women, because his primary attraction may be towards masculinity rather than men.

The Degree of Promiscuity

The innate promiscuity of gay men will be lower among groups in which a larger proportion of heterosexual/bisexual males are averse to bonding sexually gays. It will be correspondingly higher in groups where the heterosexual/bisexual men have few such qualms. A gay man who has a larger number of overtly effeminate traits might be more sexually attractive to heterosexual/bisexual men. If that is the case, then groups in which the hetero/bi males are more willing to sexually bond with gays will have a larger proportion of promiscuous gays with a larger number of overtly feminine traits. If promiscuity is indeed correlated with liberalism and monogamy with conservatism, 'liberal' groups will have more promiscuity than conservative ones. Thus the collection of gay and non-gay males is partitioned into two classes. Each class contains attributes that are corelated or linked:

Liberal Group = {

  1. Higher gay promiscuity
  2. Larger number of overtly feminine traits
  3. More hyper-masculine gays
  4. More heteros/bisexuals willing to bond with gays
  5. Politically/socially liberal attitudes.


Conservative Group = {

  1. Lower gay promiscuity,
  2. Gays have few or no overtly feminine traits (more straight-acting)
  3. Gays are less hyper-masculine
  4. Heteros/bisexuals less willing to bond with gays
  5. Politically/socially conservative attitudes.


Judge Not

I believe I am the conservative, monogamous, steady-partner type, and I'd like to see all possible efforts being made by government and society to facilitate gay marriages and gay families. Such steps would increase the happiness and contentment of the monogamous-oriented gays. However, I am also loath to ostracize or otherwise look unfavorably upon people who have the urge for promiscuous behavior and multiple partners. I am certain that any innately promiscuous gay would feel stifled, constrained and unhappy in a monogamous relationship. Hence monogamous relationships should not be foisted upon those who prefer multiple-partner relationships. It is the monogamous-oriented community that has to come to terms with the existence of promiscuity, and learn to respect promiscuous people for being people. If multiple-partners is a source of happiness for some, who are we to disapprove it?

Promiscuity presents one clear, unmistakable and undeniable danger: it can hasten the spread of diseases such as AIDS. We should make every attempt to minimize this spread, and the chief means of doing that is to equip the population in general and promiscuous people in particular with information about the health hazards of promiscuous behavior, and information about safe sex practices.


In this essay I have listed the social factors that cause or appear to cause the stereotype of promiscuous gays. I also explored the question of whether a hypothetically higher gay promiscuity (than heterosexual male promiscuity) can be the result of biological and evolutionary causes.

The following points were also made.

  1. Evolution and natural selection may have actively favored gay male promiscuity.
  2. Gay males have a curious mix of a few overtly effeminate (obviously feminine) traits and a number of hyper-masculine ones.
  3. The evolution of promiscuity and effeminate traits among gays may have been guided by identical selection pressures.
  4. Human sexual attraction may be based on the lines of masculinity/femininity rather than gender/sex lines.

The availability of a large body of empirical data will go a long way towards determining whether the percentage of promiscuous gays is indeed greater than the percentage of promiscuous heterosexuals, and whether the difference has biological causes apart from the social ones. It is hoped that this essay contributed to the theoretical aspects of these questions.


I thank Niraj Mohanka for initiating this discussion and Prashant Nagaraddi for comments.

May 21, 2002. Greenbelt, Maryland, USA.
Copyright © Ninad Jog, 2002.



Gay, lesbian issues bring up moral questions

  Alan Ray


From hate crimes in Michigan to “witch hunts” in the armed forces to scientific speculation, gay and lesbian issues are capturing headlines.

Activists combine the goals of prosecuting hate acts with achieving recognition of same-sex relationships. Discrimination against gays and lesbians is inhumane enough that it merely reflects how natural aversion and abhorrence are to human nature.

However, the promotion of free marriage rights reflects a deep but rarely addressed societal issue regarding the true meaning of marriage.

Between premarital sex, high divorce rates and same-sex unions, the traditional definition of marriage is dying rapidly as a civil standard. It may even be dead.

Traditionally, marriage was the lifelong commitment of a man and woman to each other until death, regardless of circumstance, “feeling unhappy,” misfortune, illness, acts of God, “loss of love” or other unforeseen predicaments.

As this standard collapses, the government is deeply involved in regulating matrimony, from marriage licenses to divorce proceedings to alimony. At the same time, discussion rages regarding what we are doing regulating marriage with civil law.

Ironically, the current struggle of same-sex marriages might be a continuation of the decay of the country’s biblical standard on marriage, which started with the acceptance of divorce.

With the gradual societal embracing of divorce over the past 50 years, the traditional marriage image has been utterly shattered. However, no one established a satisfactory replacement for the traditional moral authority — the Bible.

The same-sex marriage argument (moral or immoral) is much more successful when the traditional authority against same-sex marriages also condemns divorce — a state which half of marriages in the United States end in.

Few of us are willing to acknowledge that behavior we engage in is inappropriate.

For the curious, one of Jesus’ comments regarding marriage: “That at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ … so they are no longer two but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let man no separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

As the argument surrounding same-sex marriages continues, any government regulation of marriage begins to seem awkward. Measures like sex education programs are merely a quick response to an epidemic of problems from disease to young parents.

And government regulations regarding prostitution and polygamy, for example, are just extensions of a basic premise regarding God and marriage. A fight isn’t raging over those laws because there isn’t a strong advocacy for them — so far.

The process of decay seems almost inevitable without any consensus of a concrete standard for marriage (and sex). The easy solution that few seem willing to address is a firm foundation for establishing basic civil law regarding sex and marriage.

To be fair, I don’t believe many supporters of any position can propose a rule to pertinently and intelligently judge between acceptable and inappropriate marriages. In order for society to settle the issue, a lasting criterion which will not easily fall tomorrow needs to be found.

Until that principle exists, reporters, politicians and lawyers will continue to make headlines with the debate. For an example of where a standard is agreed upon, look at homicide: The general consensus is that, except for self-defense, murdering a born human being is wrong.

Babies can’t be dumped in garbage cans, drive-by shootings aren’t acceptable, and drunken-driving deaths are outrageous. As a result of the agreement, no serious movement exists for legalizing murder. With the continuation of the same-sex discrimination cases, I’m glad that our courts are finally establishing the precedent that we need to be

loving and caring toward all people.

At the same time, the second issue of gay and lesbian relationships brings with it a far deeper dilemma regarding civil law: Just what moral standard are we using?




Homosexual Myths

Sue Bohlin


In this essay we'll be looking at some of the homosexual myths that have pervaded our culture, and hopefully answering their arguments. Much of this material is taken from Joe Dallas' excellent book, A Strong Delusion: Confronting the "Gay Christian" Movement.(1) While the information in this essay may prove helpful, it is our prayer that you will be able to share it calmly and compassionately, remembering that homosexuality isn't just a political and moral issue; it is also about people who are badly hurting.


10% of the Population Is Homosexual.

In 1948, Dr. Alfred Kinsey released a study called Sexual Behavior in the Human Male, claiming that between 10 and 47% of the male population was homosexual.(2) He got his figures from a pool of 5,300 male subject that he represented as your average "Joe College" student. Many of the men who gave him the data, though, actually consisted of sex offenders, prisoners, pimps, hold-up men, thieves, male prostitutes and other criminals, and hundreds of gay activists.(3) The 10% figure was widely circulated by Harry Hay, the father of the homosexual "civil rights" movement, urging that homosexuality be seen no longer as an act of sodomy but as a 10% minority class.(4)

Kinsey's figures were exposed as completely false immediately afterwards, and by many other scientists since. The actual figure is closer to 2-3%.(5) But the 10% number has been so often reported in the press that most people think it's valid. It's not.

People Are Born Gay.

Ann Landers said it, and millions of people believe it. The problem is, the data's not there to support it. There are three ways to test for inborn traits: twin studies, brain dissections, and gene "linkage" studies.(6) Twin studies show that something other than genetics must account for homosexuality, because nearly half of the identical twin studied didn't have the same sexual preference. If homosexuality were inherited, identical twins should either be both straight or both gay. Besides, none of the twin studies have been replicated, and other twin studies have produced completely different results.(7) Dr. Simon LeVay's famous study on the brains of dead subjects yielded questionable results regarding its accuracy. He wasn't sure of the sexual orientation of the people in the study, and Dr. LeVay even admits he doesn't know if the changes in the brain structures were the cause *of* homosexuality, or caused *by* homosexuality.(8) Finally, an early study attempting to show a link between homosexuality and the X- chromosome has yet to be replicated, and a second study actually contradicted the findings of the first.(9) Even if homosexuality were someday proven to be genetically related, *inborn* does not necessarily mean *normal*. Some children are born with cystic fibrosis, but that doesn't make it a normal condition.

Inborn tendencies toward certain behaviors (such as homosexuality) do not make those behaviors moral. Tendencies toward alcoholism, obesity, and violence are now thought to be genetically influenced, but they are not good behaviors. People born with tendencies toward these behaviors have to fight hard against their natural temptations to drunkenness, gluttony, and physical rage.

And since we are born as sinners into a fallen world, we have to deal with the consequences of the Fall. Just because we're born with something doesn't mean it's normal. It's not true that "God makes some people gay." All of us have effects of the Fall we need to deal with.


What's Wrong with Two Loving, Committed Men or Women Being Legally Married?

There are two aspects to marriage: the legal and the spiritual. Marriage is more than a social convention, like being "best friends" with somebody, because heterosexual marriage usually results in the production of children. Marriage is a legal institution in order to offer protection for women and children. Women need to have the freedom to devote their time and energies to be the primary nurturers and caretakers of children without being forced to be breadwinners as well. God's plan is that children grow up in families who provide for them, protect them, and wrap them in security.

Because gay or lesbian couples are by nature unable to reproduce, they do not need the legal protection of marriage to provide a safe place for the production and raising of children. Apart from the sexual aspect of a gay relationship, what they have is really "best friend" status, and that does not require legal protection.

Of course, a growing number of gay couples are seeking to have a child together, either by adoption, artificial insemination, or surrogate mothering. Despite the fact that they have to resort to an outside procedure in order to become parents, the presence of adults plus children in an ad hoc household should not automatically secure official recognition of their relationship as a family. There is a movement in our culture which seeks to redefine "family" any way we want, but with a profound lack of discernment about the long-term effects on the people involved. Gay parents are making a dangerous statement to their children: lesbian mothers are saying that fathers are not important, and homosexual fathers are saying that mothers are not important. More and more social observers see the importance of both fathers and mothers in children's lives; one of their roles is to teach boys what it means to be a boy and teach girls what it means to be a girl.

The other aspect of marriage is of a spiritual nature. Granted, this response to the gay marriage argument won't make any difference to people who are unconcerned about spiritual things, but there are a lot of gays who care very deeply about God and long for a relationship with Him. The marriage relationship, both its emotional and especially its sexual components, is designed to serve as an earthbound illustration of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.(10) Just as there is a mystical oneness between a man and a woman, who are very different from each other, so there is a mystical unity between two very different, very "other" beings--the eternal Son of God and us mortal, creaturely humans. Marriage as God designed it is like the almost improbable union of butterfly and buffalo, or fire and water. But homosexual relationships are the coming together of two like individuals; the dynamic of unity and diversity in heterosexual marriage is completely missing, and therefore so is the spiritual dimension that is so intrinsic to the purpose of marriage. Both on an emotional and a physical level, the sameness of male and male, or female and female, demonstrates that homosexual relationships do not reflect the spiritual parable that marriage is meant to be. God wants marriage partners to complement, not to mirror, each other. The concept of gay marriage doesn't work, whether we look at it on a social level or a spiritual one.


Jesus Said Nothing about Homosexuality.

Whether from a pulpit or at a gay rights event, gay activists like to point out that Jesus never addressed the issue of homosexuality; instead, He was more interested in love. Their point is that if Jesus didn't specifically forbid a behavior, then who are we to judge those who engage in it?

This argument assumes that the Gospels are more important than the rest of the books in the New Testament, that only the recorded sayings of Jesus matter. But John's gospel itself assures us that it is not an exhaustive record of all that Jesus said and did, which means there was a lot left out!(11) The gospels don't record that Jesus condemned wife-beating or incest; does that make them OK? Furthermore, the remaining books of the New Testament are no less authoritative than the gospels. All scripture is inspired by God, not just the books with red letters in the text. Specific prohibitions against homosexual behavior in Romans 1:26-27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9,10 are every bit as God-ordained as what is recorded in the gospels.

We do know, however, that Jesus spoke in specific terms about God's created intent for human sexuality: "From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; and the two shall be one flesh. . . What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder" (Matt. 19:4-6). God's plan is holy heterosexuality, and Jesus spelled it out.

The Levitical laws against homosexual behavior are not valid today. Leviticus 18:22 says, "Thou shalt not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination." Gay theologians argue that the term "abomination" is generally associated with idolatry and the Canaanite religious practice of cult prostitution, and thus God did not prohibit the kind of homosexuality we see today.

Other sexual sins such as adultery and incest are also prohibited in the same chapters where the prohibitions against homosexuality are found. All sexual sin is forbidden by both Old and New Testament, completely apart from the Levitical codes, because it is a moral issue. It is true that we are not bound by the rules and rituals in Leviticus that marked Yahweh's people by their separation from the world; however, the nature of sexual sin has not changed because immorality is an affront to the holiness and purity of God Himself. Just because most of Leviticus doesn't apply to Christians today doesn't mean none of it does.

The argument that the word "abomination" is connected with idolatry is well answered by examining Proverbs 6:16-19, which describes what else the Lord considers abominations: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises evil imaginations, feet that are swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaks lies, and a man who sows discord among brothers. Idolatry plays no part in these abominations. The argument doesn't hold water.


If the practices in Leviticus 18 and 20 are condemned because of their association with idolatry, then it logically follows that they would be permissible if they were committed apart from idolatry. That would mean incest, adultery, bestiality, and child sacrifice (all of which are listed in these chapters) are only condemned when associated with idolatry; otherwise, they are allowable. No responsible reader of these passages would agree with such a premise.(12)


Calling Homosexuality a Sin Is Judging, and Judging Is a Sin.

Josh McDowell says that the most often-quoted Bible verse used to be John 3:16, but now that tolerance has become the ultimate virtue, the verse we hear quoted the most is "Judge not, lest ye be judged." (Matt. 7:1) The person who calls homosexual activity wrong is called a bigot and a homophobe, and even those who don't believe in the Bible can be heard to quote the "Judge not" verse.

When Jesus said "Do not judge, or you too will be judged," the context makes it plain that He was talking about setting ourselves up as judge of another person, while blind to our own sinfulness as we point out another's sin. There's no doubt about it, there is a grievous amount of self-righteousness in the way the church treats those struggling with the temptations of homosexual longings. But there is a difference between agreeing with the standard of Scripture when it declares homosexuality wrong, and personally condemning an individual because of his sin. Agreeing with God about something isn't necessarily judging.

Imagine I'm speeding down the highway, and I get pulled over by a police officer. He approaches my car and, after checking my license and registration, he says, "You broke the speed limit back there, ma'am." Can you imagine a citizen indignantly leveling a politically correct charge at the officer: "Hey, you're judging me! Judge not, lest ye be judged!'" The policeman is simply pointing out that I broke the law. He's not judging my character, he's comparing my behavior to the standard of the law. It's not judging when we restate what God has said about His moral law, either. What is sin is to look down our noses at someone who falls into a different sin than we do. That's judging.


The Romans 1 Passage on Homosexuality Does Not Describe True Homosexuals, but Heterosexuals Who Indulge in Homosexual Behavior That Is Not Natural to Them.

Romans 1:26-27 says, "God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion." Some gay theologians try to get around the clear prohibition against both gay and lesbian homosexuality by explaining that the real sin Paul is talking about here is straight people who indulge in homosexual acts, because it's not natural to them. Homosexuality, they maintain, is not a sin for true homosexuals.


But there is nothing in this passage that suggests a distinction between "true" homosexuals and "false" ones. Paul describes the homosexual behavior itself as unnatural, regardless of who commits it. In fact, he chooses unusual words for men and women, Greek words that most emphasize the biology of being a male and a female. The behavior described in this passage is unnatural for males and females; sexual orientation isn't the issue at all. He is saying that homosexuality is biologically unnatural; not just unnatural to heterosexuals, but unnatural to anyone.

Furthermore, Romans 1 describes men "inflamed with lust" for one another. This would hardly seem to indicate men who were straight by nature but experimenting with gay sex.(13) You really have to do some mental gymnastics to make Romans 1 anything other than what a plain reading leads us to understand all homosexual activity is sin.


Preaching Against Homosexuality Causes Gay Teenagers to Commit Suicide.

I received an e-mail from someone who assured me that the blood of gay teenagers was on my hands because saying that homosexuality is wrong makes people kill themselves. The belief that gay teenagers are at high risk for suicide is largely inspired by a 1989 report by a special federal task force on youth and suicide. This report stated three things; first, that gay and lesbian youths account for one third of all teenage suicides; second, that suicide is the leading cause of death among gay teenagers, and third, gay teens who commit suicide do so because of "internalized homophobia" and violence directed at them.(14) This report has been cited over and over in both gay and mainstream publications.

San Francisco gay activist Paul Gibson wrote this report based on research so shoddy that when it was submitted to Dr. Louis Sullivan, the former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Sullivan officially distanced himself and his department from it.(15) The report's numbers, both its data and its conclusions, are extremely questionable. Part of the report cites an author claiming that as many as 3,000 gay youths kill themselves each year. But that's over a thousand more than the total number of teen suicides in the first place! Gibson exaggerated his numbers when he said that one third of all teen suicides are committed by gay youth. He got this figure by looking at gay surveys taken at drop- in centers for troubled teens, many of which were gay-oriented, which revealed that gay teens had two to four times the suicidal tendencies of straight kids. Gibson multiplied this higher figure by the disputed Kinsey figure of a 10% homosexual population to produce his figure that 30% of all youth suicides are gay. David Shaffer, a Columbia University psychiatrist who specializes in teen suicides, pored over this study and said, "I struggled for a long time over Gibson's mathematics, but in the end, it seemed more hocus-pocus than math."(15)

The report's conclusions are contradicted by other, more credible reports. Researchers at the University of California-San Diego interviewed the survivors of 283 suicides for a 1986 study. 133 of those who died were under 30, and only 7 percent were gay and they were all over 21. In another study at Columbia University of 107 teenage boy suicides, only three were known to be gay, and two of those died in a suicide pact. When the Gallup organization interviewed almost 700 teenagers who knew a teen who had committed suicide, not one mentioned sexuality as part of the problem. Those who had come close to killing themselves mainly cited boy-girl problems or low self-esteem.(17)

Gibson didn't use a heterosexual control group in his study. Conclusions and statistics are bound to be skewed without a control group. When psychiatrist David Shaffer examined the case histories of the gay teens who committed suicides in Gibson's report, he found the same issues that straight kids wrestle with before suicide: "The stories were the same: a court appearance scheduled for the day of the death; prolonged depression; drug and alcohol problems; etc."(18)

That any teenager experiences so much pain that he takes his life is a tragedy, regardless of the reason. But it's not fair to lay the responsibility for gay suicides, the few that there are, on those who agree with God that it's wrong and harmful behavior.


1. Dallas, Joe. A Strong Delusion: Confronting the "Gay Christian" Movement. Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House, 1996.

2. Dr. Judith Reisman, "Kinsey and the Homosexual Revolution," The Journal of Human Sexuality (Carrollton, Tex.: Lewis and Stanley, 1996), 21.

3. Ibid., 26.

4. Ibid., 21.

5. Richard G. Howe, Homosexuality in America: Exposing the Myths (found on the American Family Association website at http://www.afa.net) gives this citation: "Knight lists the following sources in support of the 1%-3% figures: J. Gordon Muir, "Homosexuals and the 10% Fallacy," Wall Street Journal, March 31, 1993; Tom W. Smith, "Adult Sexual Behavior in 1989: Number of Partners, Frequency of Intercourse and Risk of AIDS," Family Planning Perspectives (May/June 1991): 102; John O.G. Billy, Koray Tanfer, William R. Grady, and Daniel H. Klepinger, "The Sexual Behavior of Men in the United States," Family Planning Perspectives, The Alan Guttmacher Institute, vol. 25, no. 2 (March/April 1993)."

6. Dr. Jeffrey Satinover, "The Gay Gene?", The Journal of Human Sexuality, 4.

7. Dallas, 114.

8. Ibid., 112-114.

9. Ibid., 116.

10. Ephesians 5:25-32

11. John 20:30

12. Dallas, 193.

13. Ibid., 195.

14. Peter LaBarbera, "The Gay Youth Suicide Myth," The Journal of Human Sexuality, 65.

15. Ibid.

16. Ibid., 66.


© 1996 Probe Ministries International


About the Author

Sue Bohlin is an associate speaker with Probe Ministries. She attended the University of Illinois and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and has been a Bible teacher and Christian speaker for over 20 years. In addition to being a professional calligrapher, she also maintains Probe's web site on the Internet.

What is Probe?

Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3 1/2 minute daily radio program, our extensive Web site at www.probe.org, and the ProbeCenter at the University of Texas at Austin.

Further information about Probe's materials and ministry may be obtained by contacting us at:


Probe Ministries
1900 Firman Drive, Suite 100
Richardson, TX 75081
(972) 480-0240    FAX(972) 644-9664


Copyright Information




Volume 30, No. 6, November/December 1998

Multiple Sexual Partners Among U.S. Adolescents And Young Adults

By John S. Santelli, Nancy D. Brener, Richard Lowry, Amita Bhatt and Laurie S. Zabin


Context: Because many teenagers and young adults fail to use condoms correctly and consistently, the number of sexual partners they have is an important risk factor for sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Identifying factors that are associated with having multiple partners can help in the design of disease interventions.

Methods: Data on 8,450 males and females aged 14–22 who participated in the 1992 Youth Risk Behavior Survey were used to examine the prevalence of and factors associated with young people's having multiple partners.

Results: In all, 63% of female respondents and 64% of males were sexually experienced. Among those who had had sex during the three months before the survey, 15% and 35%, respectively, had had two or more partners during that period. At each age, the majority of sexually experienced respondents had had more than one lifetime partner; between ages 14 and 21, the proportion who had had six or more rose from 8% to 31% among females and from 14% to 45% among males. In logistic regression analyses, alcohol use, illicit drug use and young age at first coitus were associated with increased odds that females had had two or more partners in the previous three months, and being married lowered the odds; black or Hispanic race or ethnicity, alcohol use and young age at first coitus increased the odds for males, and being married reduced the odds. As the number of reported alcohol-related behaviors increased, the adjusted proportion of respondents who had recently had multiple partners rose from 8% to 48% among females and from 23% to 61% among men.

Conclusions: The strong association between alcohol use and having multiple sexual partners underscores the need to educate young people about the effects of alcohol on partner choice and the risk of infection with sexually transmitted diseases.

Family Planning Perspectives, 1998, 30(6):271–275

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are enormously costly to society in terms both of human pain and suffering and of health care expenditures. Among their consequences, STDs are potent cofactors in the sexual transmission of HIV.1

Of an estimated 12 million new STD infections that occur each year in the United States, three million occur among people younger than 20, and another four million occur among those aged 20–25.2 The probability of acquiring an STD is the product of several risk factors, including age at first coitus, number of concurrent or sequential sexual partners, use of barrier methods of contraception, partner choice, prevalence of the disease in a community, access to health services for treatable STDs and biological factors, such as cervical ectopy (extension of the cervical mucosa around the opening of the cervix into the uterus).3 An adolescent whose only lifetime sexual partner has ever had other partners is also at risk for STDs, particularly if the partner comes from a community with a high prevalence of infection.

Having multiple sexual partners represents an important behavioral risk factor for STDs among adolescents and young adults, especially if they fail to use condoms correctly and consistently. Most teenagers do not have multiple concurrent sexual partners; however, because many adolescent relationships are of short duration, teenagers often have multiple sequential partners.

Previous research has demonstrated that adolescents are more likely than adults to report having had multiple sexual partners in the recent past.4 Adolescent males are more likely than adolescent females to report multiple sexual partners and multiple concurrent partners.5 The number of lifetime sexual partners among adolescents is strongly related to the length of time since first coitus.6

Studies of primarily adult populations have identified several demographic markers for multiple sexual partners; younger age has consistently emerged as a risk marker. In the 1988 National Survey of Family Growth, among women 15–44 years old, risk factors for having more than one partner in the previous three months included having been young at first coitus, being younger than 30, being unmarried, living in an urban area, having an income below 200% of the poverty line, working outside the home and having no religious affiliation. Unmarried teenagers were about as likely as unmarried women in their 20s to have had multiple partners.7

Similarly, in the National AIDS Behavioral Surveys, risk factors for multiple partners in the past year among 18–75-year-old men and women included male gender, younger age, unmarried status, urban residence and higher educational status (for whites).8 Because of difficulties in obtaining accurate reports about a sexual partner's other relationships, few studies have been able to measure the STD risk associated with having a sexual partner who is not monogamous, although attempts have been made to estimate this risk.9

For a variety of social, physiological and individual reasons, alcohol and drug use among adolescents may influence sexual behavior, including an individual's number of partners. Use of alcohol and other substances has been associated with sexual risk behavior in some studies,10 but most of these have focused on condom use. Prior use of alcohol and drugs greatly increases the risk of early initiation of sexual intercourse,11 and beginning intercourse at a young age, having multiple partners and failing to use condoms are interrelated.12

Given the relationship between multiple sexual partners and STDs, the purpose of our study was to examine potential risk factors associated with having multiple sexual partners among youth in the United States. Our analysis was guided by three questions: What is the prevalence of having multiple partners among U.S. adolescents and young adults? After controlling for demographic factors, are young people's risk behaviors, particularly alcohol or drug use and early onset of sexual intercourse, associated with having multiple partners? Finally, what is the relationship between a young person's number of sexual partners and his or her condom use? (The last question is important because individuals with multiple partners have the greatest need to use condoms.)

Data for our analyses are from the 1992 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) and Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS). The NHIS is an annual household interview survey of the civilian, noninstitutionalized population of the United States; the survey uses a multistage probability cluster design to obtain data representative of the U.S. population, and it oversamples minority families.13 The 1992 YRBS was conducted as a supplement to the 1992 NHIS.

The 1992 NHIS enumerated all 12–21-year-olds from sampled households, including those who were married and those who were living away from their family of origin. YRBS respondents were randomly selected from this list. Out-of-school youth were oversampled; one in-school and up to two out-of-school youth were selected from each family. A weighting factor was applied to each YRBS record to adjust for oversampling and nonresponse. The final sample was weighted to be representative of the population of youth aged 12–21 residing in U.S. households.

Youth were surveyed approximately two months after the initial household survey. Data collection used audio interview technology; participants privately listened through headphones to a tape recording of the questionnaire, and they recorded their responses on a standardized answer sheet. This technique was used to address young people's potential concerns about confidentiality with in-home interviewing. Most data included in our analysis were reported by the respondent, but the youth's race, ethnicity, residence and marital status were reported by the adult who completed the core NHIS interview.

Of the 13,789 youth aged 12–21 who were selected at the time of the core survey, 10,645 (77%) were located and agreed to be interviewed. Our analysis excluded the 2,195 respondents aged 12–13, because the survey for this age-group did not ask about their sexual activity; the resulting sample consisted of 8,450 youth, including 126 who were 21 years of age at the time of the core NHIS but had turned 22 by the time of the YRBS.

We limited our analysis of lifetime sexual partners to the 5,223 respondents who were sexually experienced (i.e., had ever had sexual intercourse). Analyses related to the number of recent sexual partners and condom use were restricted to the 4,075 young people who were currently sexually active (i.e., had had intercourse in the previous three months). Specific analyses are based only on respondents who answered the relevant questions.

Analytic Techniques
We used factor analysis to create scales for various risk behaviors. We initially examined items related to drug and alcohol use, weapon carrying and fighting, and age at first sexual intercourse. Males and females showed similar factor structures. Initial factor analysis suggested that risk behaviors clustered into two factors: one for substance use and one including weapon carrying, fighting and age at first intercourse. The second factor showed poor internal consistency and could not be used to create a homogeneous scale.

After orthogonal rotation, substance use could be divided into two factors with eigen values of one or greater. The first factor described alcohol use and included five items: ever-use of alcohol, binge drinking (i.e., five or more drinks in a row) in the past 30 days, alcohol or other drug use immediately before the most recent intercourse, riding with a drinking driver in the past 30 days and driving immediately after drinking in the past 30 days. The second factor described illicit drug use and included three items: ever-use of marijuana, cocaine and other illicit drugs.

These factors were incorporated into scales for alcohol use (Cronbach alpha=.70 for males and .63 for females) and illicit drug use (Cronbach alpha=.71 for males and .68 for females). Scores were determined by the number of behaviors in which the adolescent had participated. A score of zero, for example, meant that none of the behaviors applied.

Because the number of sexual partners is highly skewed, we dichotomized each dependent variable and used logistic regression to estimate the independent influence of the predictors. The number of recent sexual partners was dichotomized as one versus two or more. Lifetime partners was dichotomized as 1–5 versus six or more. In building logistic models, we first examined cross-tabulations to identify potential independent predictors of multiple sexual partners.

We conducted separate analyses for males and females. Regression analyses used SUDAAN software to account for the complex, weighted sampling design. Variables evaluated as potential predictors included demographic characteristics (age; race or ethnicity; marital status; and urban, rural or suburban residence), the scales for alcohol and illicit drug use, and a sexual behavior variable (age at first coitus). Generally, we entered demographic factors first into each logistic analysis. We also assessed interactions between significant demographic variables and each independent variable or scale.

We used direct standardization with sample weights in SUDAAN to demonstrate the independent effect of the alcohol scale on having multiple sexual partners in the previous three months. Probabilities were standardized for age, race or ethnicity, marital status and age at first intercourse. SUDAAN was used to calculate 95% confidence intervals for estimates. All estimates were based on weighted data.

In all, 63% of females and 64% of males in our sample were sexually experienced (Table 1). Most sexually experienced respondents (72% of females and 50% of males) reported having had one partner in the past three months, although sizable proportions reported no recent partners (15% and 24%, respectively) or more than one (13% and 26%, respectively). Among those who were currently sexually active, 35% of males and 15% of females reported two or more sexual partners in the previous three months (not shown).


Table 1. Percentage of 14–22-year-old respondents who were sexually experienced, and percentage distribution of sexually experienced respondents, by number of partners in the past three months, according to gender, Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 1992
Measure Females (N=4,223) Males (N=3,949)</< TD>
% sexually experienced 62.5 (±1.9) 63.5 (±1.8)
% distribution by no. of recent partners
0 15.4 (±1.7) 24.3 (±2.0)
1 71.8 (±2.0) 49.5 (±2.2)
2 8.2 (±1.2) 12.2 (±1.4)
>=3 4.6 (±0.9) 14.0 (±1.5)
Total 100.0 100.0
Note: Figures in parentheses are 95% confidence limits.

At every age, most sexually experienced young people reported two or more lifetime partners (Table 2). A progression to multiple lifetime partners was apparent even among 14- and 15-year-olds. The proportion of sexually experienced youth reporting six or more lifetime sexual partners rose from 8% at age 14 to 31% at age 21 among females and from 14% to 45% among males. Correspondingly, the proportion reporting one lifetime partner declined steadily with age. Among 21-year-olds, only 20% of sexually experienced females and 13% of sexually experienced males reported a single lifetime partner.


Table 2. Percentage distribution of sexually experienced respondents, by lifetime number of sexual partners, according to current age and gender
No. of partners Age
14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21
Females (N=101) (N=185) (N=260) (N=301) (N=320) (N=384) (N=508) (N=503)
1 43.6 41.8 45.6 36.8 33.8 29.4 23.7 19.7
2 31.2 22.6 20.6 20.3 16.5 15.6 13.4 13.9
3 10.3 9.9 11.8 15.1 19.1 12.2 13.8 15.1
4 5.7 6.6 6.1 8.1 7.9 10.3 11.4 11.9
5 1.7 5.1 4.0 6.8 6.9 8.4 7.5 8.2
>=6 7.5 13.8 11.9 12.9 15.9 24.1 30.3 31.1
Males (N=134) (N=198) (N=269) (N=310) (N=329) (N=350) (N=429) (N=407)
1 44.3 38.1 32.5 27.0 28.5 19.3 15.3 13.2
2 16.7 14.8 12.0 16.4 10.5 14.3 14.6 13.8
3 13.5 17.1 15.4 14.3 10.6 15.2 9.8 12.1
4 2.5 8.0 7.2 9.2 9.2 5.6 10.9 8.1
5 9.3 2.5 4.3 8.6 9.8 7.1 4.8 7.8
>=6 13.8 19.5 28.7 24.5 31.5 38.5 44.7 45.0
Total 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0 100.0
Note: The number of 22-year-olds was too small for analysis.

Next, we examined cross-tabulations between an individual's number of recent sexual partners and potential risk factors (not shown). For females and males, age at first intercourse, alcohol use and illicit drug use were related to the number of sexual partners in the past three months. The proportion who had had multiple partners in the past three months increased from 7% among currently sexually active females who reported no alcohol-related behaviors to 61% among those who reported all five behaviors; among males, these proportions were 28% and 65%, respectively.

Married males and females had had fewer recent partners than their single counterparts. Among females, age, race or ethnicity and urban residence showed little relationship to the number of recent partners. Black males and males living in urban areas were somewhat more likely to report two or more partners than were those in other racial or ethnic groups and residents of nonurban areas.

Results of the first set of logistic regression analyses (Table 3) revealed that among those who were currently sexually active, married females were significantly less likely than their never-married counterparts to have had multiple partners in the past three months (odds ratio, 0.4). Alcohol use substantially raised the probability that a female had recently had multiple partners; the odds ratio (1.7) indicates that for each alcohol-related behavior a young woman reported, the likelihood that she had had multiple partners increased by about 70%. Illicit drug use also had a significant, although smaller, effect (1.2). Finally, young women who first had sex before age 14 were about twice as likely to have had multiple partners as were those whose first intercourse occurred at age 16 or later (2.0).


Table 3. Odds ratios reflecting the likelihood that currently sexually active respondents aged 14–22 had two or more sexual partners in the past three months, by various characteristics, according to gender
Characteristic Females (N=2,049) Males (N=1,688)
Age 0.98 (0.91–1.06) 0.98 (0.91–1.06)
Black 1.37 (0.94–1.98) 2.81* (1.86–4.24)
Hispanic 1.11 (0.72–1.72) 1.43* (1.02–2.00)
White 1.00 1.00
Urban 1.22 (0.88–1.69)
Rural 1.01 (0.73–1.39)
Suburban 1.00
Marital status
Married 0.35* (0.22–0.55) 0.11* (0.05–0.22)
Widowed/divorced/separated 0.80 (0.23–2.73) 0.68 (0.17–2.64)
Never-married 1.00 1.00
Alcohol use score‡ 1.68* (1.49–1.91) 1.60* (1.44–1.77)
Illicit drug use score§ 1.22* (1.02–1.45) 0.96 (0.83–1.12)
Age at first intercourse
=<13 1.98* (1.26–3.11) 3.52* (2.46–5.04)
14–15 1.25 (0.85–1.83) 2.18* (1.56–3.03)
>=16 1.00 1.00
*p<.05.†Residence was not statistically significant for females and was therefore excluded from the analysis. ‡Six-point use scale with a range of 0–5. §Four-point use scale with a range of 0–3. Notes: For categorical variables, the reference group consists of currently sexually active youth who had one partner in the past three months. For age, the odds ratio represents the change in likelihood associated with each additional year of age; for the scored variables, the odds ratio represents the change associated with each one-point increase in the score. Figures in parentheses are 95% confidence intervals.

For currently sexually active males, many of the results were similar to those for females. Being married lowered the probability of having had multiple partners (0.1), and alcohol use substantially increased the odds (1.6). Early initiation of sexual intercourse raised the probability of multiple partners, and the effect was greater than for females. However, several notable differences also emerged. Black and Hispanic males were significantly more likely than whites to report multiple partners in the past three months (odds ratios, 2.8 and 1.4, respectively); illicit drug use did not affect the odds.

Urban residence was not significant in the final calculations for males. However, because of multicollinearity between race or ethnicity and urban status, we reran the analyses with race or ethnicity removed (not shown). In these calculations, urban residents were significantly more likely than suburban males to have had multiple partners (odds ratio, 1.5; p<.001).

The analyses estimating the effects of various factors on the odds of having had six or more lifetime sexual partners yielded generally similar results for each gender (Table 4). Alcohol use and illicit drug use showed substantial impact for both (odds ratios, 1.4–1.9). Older current age and earlier age at sexual initiation significantly increased the odds of having had six or more lifetime partners; this finding is not surprising, since both of these factors increase the period of time that a person has been sexually active. Black and Hispanic respondents were significantly more likely than their white peers to report six or more lifetime partners (odds ratios, 1.4–2.6), with one exception: Hispanic females had a reduced probability of this outcome (0.4).


Table 4. Odds reflecting the likelihood that sexually experienced respondents aged 14–22 have had six or more lifetime sexual partners, by various characteristics, according to gender
Characteristic Females (N=2,459) Males( N=2,263)
Age 1.39* (1.31–1.48) 1.43* (1.35–1.52)
Black 1.69* (1.13–2.54) 2.63* (1.91–3.62)
Hispanic 0.42* (0.24–0.73) 1.39* (1.01–1.93)
White 1.00 1.00
Alcohol use score† 1.40* (1.26–1.56) 1.36* (1.23–1.50)
Illicit drug use score‡ 1.94* (1.69–2.22) 1.49* (1.29–1.72)
Age at first intercourse
=<13 6.81* (4.57–10.15) 12.54* (8.86–17.74)
14–15 2.41* (1.81–3.20) 4.99* (3.66–6.79)
>=16 1.00 1.00
*p<.05. †Six-point use scale with a range of 0–5. ‡Four-point use scale with a range of 0–3. Notes: See notes to Table 3.

Next, using direct standardization, we adjusted for the influence of age, race or ethnicity, marital status and age at first intercourse to examine the independent influence of alcohol on having multiple sexual partners. As the alcohol-use scale increased, the probability of reporting multiple partners rose dramatically (Table 5). Only 8% of currently sexually active females reporting no alcohol-related behaviors had had two or more sexual partners in the previous three months, compared with 48% reporting all five behaviors; among males, these proportions were 23% and 61%, respectively.


Table 5. Standardized percentage of currently sexually active respondents aged 14–22 who had two or more sexual partners in the past three months, by alcohol use score, according to gender
Alcohol use score Females Males
0 8.0 (±4.9) 23.3 (±5.6)
1 8.4 (±2.0) 23.8 (±3.6)
2 12.4 (±3.2) 28.5 (±3.7)
3 20.1 (±3.7) 38.1 (±5.0)
4 27.3 (±5.3) 39.6 (±5.1)
5 47.8 (±6.0) 60.8 (±6.8)
Notes: Percentages are standardized by age, race or ethnicity, marital status and age at first sexual intercourse. Figures in parentheses are 95% confidence intervals.

Finally, we examined the association between having multiple partners and condom use. Overall, 35% of currently sexually active females and 53% of similar males said they had used condoms at last intercourse (Table 6). Condom use at last intercourse showed no relationship with the number of partners in the past three months. Respondents who had not had sex in the previous three months were more likely than those who were currently sexually active to have used a condom the last time they had intercourse (not shown).


Table 6. Percentage of currently sexually active respondents aged 14–22 who used a condom at last intercourse, by number of partners in the past three months, according to gender
No. of partners Females Males
Total 35.4 (±2.6) 52.5 (±2.7)
1 36.0 (±2.7) 50.2 (±3.3)
2 30.6 (±7.7) 55.9 (±6.6)
>=3 34.5 (±9.5) 57.8 (±6.2)
Note: Figures in parentheses are 95% confidence intervals.

Our analyses yield findings that will be of use to health care practitioners and health educators seeking to reduce adolescents' risk of infection with HIV and other STDs. We found that most sexually experienced youth at every age have had two or more lifetime sexual partners, and many have had six or more. Many young people have recently had multiple sexual partners, which should not be unexpected, given the instability of many relationships among adolescents and young adults.

Consistent with earlier studies, involving primarily adult samples,14 we find that demographic factors and early age at first intercourse are associated with young people's odds of having had multiple partners. Additionally, however, our analyses reveal that alcohol and drug use are significant determinants of their lifetime number of partners, and alcohol-related behavior is one of the most important risk factors for multiple sexual partners in the recent past.

The association between alcohol or other drug use and risky sexual behavior may be explained through social, physiological or individual mechanisms.15 Alcohol may disinhibit judgment and behavior via physiological or socially learned mechanisms. Alternatively, a youth's personal characteristics (e.g., a risk-taking personality profile) or social environment (situational factors) may lead both to alcohol or drug use and to risky sexual activity.

The relationship between alcohol use and multiple sexual partners meets three criteria for suggesting causation on the basis of epidemiologic data: a strong association, evidence of a dose-response relationship and biological plausibility.16 We believe that these data are consistent with several explanations for the effect of alcohol. Further research is needed into the mechanisms by which alcohol influences the initiation of new sexual partnerships.

Our finding of an association between a past event (early initiation of intercourse) and current behavior (having multiple partners in a three-month period) is consistent with findings from other studies that age at first intercourse is a risk marker for sexual risk behavior, such as failing to use condoms17 and having multiple sexual partners,18 long after sexual initiation. This association suggests the influence of a relatively stable personality characteristic--perhaps "unconventionality," as described in problem behavior theory,19 or a biological predisposition to "sensation-seeking."20

The development of young adults' risk behaviors is influenced by a complex set of biological, social environmental, perceived environmental, personality and behavioral factors.21 Early initiation of intercourse has been related to sexual abuse,22 which may influence personality variables such as self-esteem and perceived value of health that, in turn, could influence decisions about sexual partners.

Our data show both similarities and differences in numbers of sexual partners by gender. Adolescent males were more likely than females to report multiple partners, both in the past three months and over their lifetime. Sexually experienced males were also more likely to report having had no partners in the previous three months. These patterns suggest fundamental differences in the stability of relationships for males and females, and may reflect different approaches to experiencing and understanding sexual relationships. Despite these differences, similar sets of risk factors were associated with multiple partners among males and females.

In considering our results, it is important to be aware of certain limitations of the analysis. The YRBS was designed as a behavioral surveillance tool, not as a method of providing in-depth information about particular behaviors. It offers little information about peer norms, personality traits or factors such as self-efficacy that may influence decision-making about sexual partners, or same-sex sexual behaviors. In addition, although the YRBS had good test-retest reliability, self-reported sexual behaviors are difficult to validate.23

An important limitation of cross-sectional surveys that enumerate respondents' recent or lifetime sexual partners is that they do not distinguish between sequential and concurrent partners. Further, an enumeration of sexual partners provides no information about partner characteristics that may be related to behavioral risk factors associated with STDs. Nor does the number of sexual partners directly translate into the risk of STD infection, which also depends on such factors as STD prevalence and use of barrier protection. On the other hand, the number of partners as a summary measure has emerged in many studies as an important behavioral risk factor for STD transmission.24 Another limitation of cross-sectional surveys is that whereas they can find associations among behaviors, they cannot prove causality.

Thus, although more research is needed, it is clear that health care practitioners and health educators need to stress the connections among alcohol use, multiple sexual partners and the risk of infection with HIV and other STDs. Counseling and education should help adolescents and young adults understand the potentially negative effect of drinking on judgment about partner choice and the connection between the use of alcohol or other drugs and risky sexual behaviors in certain social contexts.

1. Wasserheit JN, Epidemiological synergy: interrelationships between HIV infection and other STDs, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 1992, 19(2):61–77.

2. Kassler WJ and Cates W Jr., The epidemiology and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, Urologic Clinics of North America, 1992, 19(1):1–12.

3. Cates W Jr., The epidemiology and control of sexually transmitted diseases in adolescents, Adolescent Medicine: State of the Art Reviews, 1990, 1(3):409–428; Aral SO and Holmes KK, Epidemiology of sexual behavior and sexually transmitted diseases, in: Holmes KK et al., eds., Sexually Transmitted Diseases, second ed., New York: McGraw-Hill, 1990; and Santelli JS and Beilenson P, Risk factors for adolescent sexual behavior, fertility, and sexually transmitted diseases, Journal of School Health, 1992, 62(7):271–279.

4. Forrest JD and Singh S, The sexual and reproductive behavior of American women, 1982–1988, Family Planning Perspectives, 1990, 22(5):206–214.

5. Smith TW, Adult sexual behavior in 1989: number of partners, frequency of intercourse and risk of AIDS, Family Planning Perspectives, 1991, 23(3):102–107.

6. Durbin M et al., Factors associated with multiple sex partners among junior high school students, Journal of Adolescent Health, 1993, 14(3):202–207.

7. Seidman SN, Mosher WD and Aral SO, Women with multiple sexual partners: United States, 1988, American Journal of Public Health, 1992, 82(10):1388–1394; and Kost K and Forrest JD, American women's sexual behavior and exposure to risk of sexually transmitted diseases, Family Planning Perspectives, 1992, 24(6):244–254.

8. Binson D et al., Multiple sexual partners among young adults in high-risk cities, Family Planning Perspectives, 1993, 25(6):268–272; and Dolcini MM et al., Demographic characteristics of heterosexuals with multiple partners: the National AIDS Behavioral Surveys, Family Planning Perspectives, 1993, 25(5):208–214.

9. Kost K and Forrest JD, 1992, op. cit. (see reference 7).

10. Lowry R et al., Substance use and HIV-related sexual behaviors among U.S. high school students: are they related? American Journal of Public Health, 1994, 84(7):1116–1120; Leigh BC, Alcohol and unsafe sex: an overview of research and theory, in: Seminara D, Watson RR and Pawlowski A, eds., Alcohol, Immunomodulation, and AIDS, New York: Alan R. Liss, 1990, pp. 35–46; Halpern-Felsher BL, Millstein SG and Ellen JM, Relationship of alcohol use and risky sexual behavior: a review and analysis of findings, Journal of Adolescent Health, 1996, 19(5):331–336; Fortenberry JD, Adolescent substance use and sexually transmitted diseases risk: a review, Journal of Adolescent Health, 1995, 16(4):304–308; and Fergusson DM and Lynskey MT, Alcohol misuse and adolescent sexual behaviors and risk taking, Pediatrics, 1996, 98(1):91–96.

11. Rosenbaum E and Kandel DB, Early onset of adolescent sexual behavior and drug involvement, Journal of Marriage and the Family, 1990, 52(3):783–798.

12. Orr DP, Beiter M and Ingersoll G, Premature sexual activity as an indicator of psychosocial risk, Pediatrics, 1991, 87(2):141–147; Sonenstein FL, Pleck JH and Ku LC, Sexual activity, condom use and AIDS awareness among adolescent males, Family Planning Perspectives, 1989, 21(4):152–158; DiClemente RL et al., Determinants of condom use among junior high school students in a minority, inner-city school district, Pediatrics, 1992, 89(2): 197–202; Upchurch DM et al., Prevalence and patterns of condom use among patients attending a sexually transmitted disease clinic, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 1992, 19(3):175–180; and Orr DP and Langefeld CD, Factors associated with condom use by sexually active male adolescents at risk for sexually transmitted disease, Pediatrics, 1993, 91(5):873–879.

13. Adams PF et al., Health risk behaviors among our nation's youth: United States, 1992, Vital and Health Statistics, 1995, No. 192; and Benson V and Marano MA, Current estimates from the National Health Interview Survey 1992, Vital and Health Statistics, 1994, No. 189.

14. Seidman SN, Mosher WD and Aral SO, 1992, op. cit. (see reference 7); Kost K and Forrest JD, 1992, op. cit. (see reference 7); Binson D et al., 1993, op. cit. (see reference 8); and Dolcini MM et al., 1993, op. cit. (see reference 8).

15. Leigh BC, 1990, op. cit. (see reference 10); Halpern-Felsher BL, Millstein SG and Ellen JM, 1996, op. cit. (see reference 10); Fortenberry JD, 1995, op. cit. (see reference 10); and Fergusson DM and Lynskey MT, 1996, op. cit. (see reference 10).

16. Last JM, Epidemiology and health information, in: Last JM et al., eds., Public Health and Preventive Medicine, 12th ed., Norwalk, CT: Appleton-Century-Croft, 1986.

17. Greenberg J, Magder L and Aral S, Age at first coitus: a marker of risky sexual behavior in women, Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 1992, 19(6):331–334; and Orr DP, Beiter M and Ingersoll G, 1991, op. cit. (see reference 12).

18. Seidman SN, Mosher WD and Aral SO, 1992, op. cit. (see reference 7); Kost K and Forrest JD, 1992, op. cit. (see reference 7); Binson D et al., 1993, op. cit. (see reference 8); and Dolcini MM et al., 1993, op. cit. (see reference 8).

19. Donovan JE and Jessor R, Structure of problem behavior in adolescence and adulthood, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1985, 53(6):890–904.

20. Alexander CS et al., A measure of risk taking for young adolescents: reliability and validity assessments, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 1990, 19(6):559–569; and Zuckerman M, Sensation seeking: a comparative approach to a human trait, Behavior and Brain Science, 1984, 7:413–471.

21. Jessor R, Risk behavior in adolescence: a psychosocial framework for understanding and action, Journal of Adolescent Health, 1991, 12(8):597–605.

22. Nagy S, DiClemente RJ and Adcock AG, Adverse factors associated with forced sex among southern adolescent girls, Pediatrics, 1995, 96(5):944–946.

23. Brener ND et al., Reliability of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey questionnaire, American Journal of Epidemiology, 1995, 141(6):575–580.

24. Aral SO and Holmes KK, 1990, op. cit. (see reference 3).

John S. Santelli and Richard Lowry are medical epidemiologists, and Nancy D. Brener is research psychologist, Division of Adolescent and School Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta. Laurie S. Zabin is professor, and Amita Bhatt is a graduate student, Department of Population Dynamics, Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health, Baltimore. The authors thank Jennifer Hirsch, Janet Collins, Stephen Banspach, Lloyd Kolbe, Diane Rowley and the editorial staff of the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion for their helpful suggestions.

© copyright 1998, The Alan Guttmacher Institute.

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Supreme Court strikes down ban on gay sex

Anne Gearan
Associated Press Writer

June 26, 2003 — 11:06 a.m.
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Supreme Court struck down a ban on gay sex Thursday, ruling that the law was an unconstitutional violation of privacy.

The 6-3 ruling reverses course from a ruling 17 years ago that states could punish homosexuals for what such laws historically called deviant sex.

Laws forbidding homosexual sex, once universal, now are rare. Those on the books are rarely enforced but underpin other kinds of discrimination, lawyers for two Texas men had argued to the court.

The men "are entitled to respect for their private lives," Kennedy wrote.

"The state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime," he said.

Justices John Paul Stevens, David Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer agreed with Kennedy in full. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor agreed with the outcome of the case but not all of Kennedy's rationale.

Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

"The court has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda," Scalia wrote for the three. He took the unusual step of reading his dissent from the bench.

"The court has taken sides in the culture war," Scalia said, adding that he has "nothing against homosexuals."

The two men at the heart of the case, John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner, have retreated from public view. They were each fined $200 and spent a night in jail for the misdemeanor sex charge in 1998.

The case began when a neighbor with a grudge faked a distress call to police, telling them that a man was "going crazy" in Lawrence's apartment. Police went to the apartment, pushed open the door and found the two men having anal sex.

As recently as 1960, every state had an anti-sodomy law. In 37 states, the statutes have been repealed by lawmakers or blocked by state courts.

Of the 13 states with sodomy laws, four—Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri—prohibit oral and anal sex between same-sex couples. The other nine ban consensual sodomy for everyone: Alabama, Florida, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.

Thursday's ruling apparently invalidates those laws as well.

The Supreme Court was widely criticized 17 years ago when it upheld an antisodomy law similar to Texas'. The ruling became a rallying point for gay activists.

Of the nine justices who ruled on the 1986 case, only three remain on the court. Rehnquist was in the majority in that case—Bowers v. Hardwick—as was O'Connor. Stevens dissented.

A long list of legal and medical groups joined gay rights and human rights supporters in backing the Texas men. Many friend-of-the-court briefs argued that times have changed since 1986, and that the court should catch up.

At the time of the court's earlier ruling, 24 states criminalized such behavior. States that have since repealed the laws include Georgia, where the 1986 case arose.

Texas defended its sodomy law as in keeping with the state's interest in protecting marriage and child-rearing. Homosexual sodomy, the state argued in legal papers, "has nothing to do with marriage or conception or parenthood and it is not on a par with these sacred choices."

The state had urged the court to draw a constitutional line "at the threshold of the marital bedroom."

Although Texas itself did not make the argument, some of the state's supporters told the justices in friend-of-the-court filings that invalidating sodomy laws could take the court down the path of allowing same-sex marriage.

The case is Lawrence v. Texas, 02-102.



Multiple Male Sexual Encounters In A Gay Bath House

Warning Note:  This is sexually explicit material!

Note:  Here is an edited version of the data, some of which is sampled below.

A "Gay Bath House" exists for many men to enter, not particularly knowing any of the other men in the house at that time.  Generally there is silence in these bath houses.  A room will have space for 30 or more men at one time.  There is a "bridge" around in the room such that a man can walk along the bridge with his penis at just the right height for a man's mouth -- a man standing on the lower floor.  Men walk along this bridge slowly.  The men on the lower level perform oral sex on the upper level men such that the man on the upper level might have a dozen "partners" during a few minutes walk along the bridge.  He then may go to the lower level and perform oral sex on those on the Bridge.  There is also abundant anal sex -- with the encounter lasting only a short time before the pair breaks up, each to seek another -- in the mouth or anus, going back and forth frequently.

Self-masturbation is common as is masturbation by another, and group sexual positions.

A man can spend an hour in such a bath house without a sound, other than gasps and groans, and have had sex of many different forms with 30 or more other men.  Some bath houses insist that men wear condoms, some don't insist. Even in those that insist it is not unusual for a man to take off his condom and continue his behavior.

The fact that this is generally silent does not mean that all the people are strangers.  Those who frequent these bath houses often go there regularly and recognize other men, even have a name for them, and show their preferences.  It would not be unusual to go to such a bath house for the purpose of picking up a date for the evening, and going to a home or hotel.

But it is possible for a complete stranger to spend an hour or more and have sexual encounters with those other 30 men and never ever see them again.

While the gay men who do this would normally object to the word "promiscuous" this type of sex is certainly the ultimate of promiscuity.


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Speaking Out about Sex in Silent Spaces

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May 1998

Can someone consent to unprotected sex without verbal negotiation?

How are individuals' safer sex boundaries stretched in public sex environments such as sex clubs?

This is the third in a series of discussions on bareback sex, produced by Nicolas Sheon, HIV InSite Prevention Editor.

This discussion was recorded at a public forum entitled The Rubberless Fuck, that took place at UC Berkeley on May 8, 1999. The forum was organized by Paul Cotten, director of the Steamworks Health Information Center, an in-(bath)house prevention program for patrons of the Steamworks sex clubs in Berkeley and Chicago. The forum was co-sponsored by the Steamworks, the Pacific Center for Human Growth, and the Berkeley HIV Prevention Planning Council.


The panelists and a few audience members offered personal narratives about maintaining safer sex boundaries in relationships and in anonymous situations. Many of the narratives centered on the problems of negotiating risk taking in situations where spoken language is not an accepted form of communication. The nexus between sex and silence points to a contradiction at the core of prevention messages that are based on disclosure of serostatus, negotiating risk reduction with partners, and engaging in counseling about risk with outreach workers.

What I found most intriguing about the narratives is the elusiveness of notions such as consent, premeditation, and decision making around unprotected sex. For example, several panelists related their rationale for tacitly allowing their partners "decide" whether condoms will be used. When their partners do not use condoms, panelists assumed that their partners had consciously decided to expose themselves to HIV. This rationale depends on a number of prior assumptions:

    1. that their partners are aware of the risk of HIV (re)infection and
    2. a conscious decision making process has occured prior to having sex and
    3. people know their own status and use serostatus as a criteria for choosing their partners

But how can we talk about consensual risk-taking when negotiation is non-verbal? How can prevention educators promote dialogue about sex in spaces defined by non-verbal forms of communication? How can we expect people to maintain safer sex barriers in situations defined around transgression and the pursuit of intimacy.

The narratives point to the inadequacy of our notions of individual agency and desire when discussing sexual encounters. Are we dealing with seamlessly integrated psyches endowed with agency and control over their desires and behaviors? An alternative model is that we are all made up of distinct sexual personas, each acclimated to the multiple social contexts we experience at work, in bed, in clubs, etc. Our actions in each context flow from a context-dependent disposition or what sociologist Pierre Bourdieu calls "habitus." The "habitus,"

ensures the active presence of past experiences, which, deposited in each organism in the form of schemes of perception, thought and action, tend to guarantee the "correctness" of practices and their constancy over time, more reliably than all formal rules and explicit norms (The Logic of Practice, Stanford UP, 1990).

The issue is less who I am and what limits I impose on "my" desires but more a question of how desires and actions are situationally produced and acted upon. For example, one of the panelists relates an experience of fragmentation after crossing the very boundary that defines his professional identity as a prevention worker.

So it was a weird thing, we're fucking with a condom but we're talking about "yeah, I'm going to come inside you and I'm gonna fuck you without a condom, fuck you raw", that sort of thing. And it was just really hot and very compelling...I'm getting fucked, we pull off the condom, we start jerking off, well in about a moment later, I'm sitting on his bare cock.

And you know I'm not high, I'm on no drugs. I am who I am. I know what's going on, and it's really hot, it's really compelling. He comes inside me, it's really brief, he pulls out. I get off and I'm nearly in tears now, it's all hitting me like "How could Ido this, what did I just do, oh my god. I just broke this intense barrier. I went on the other side."

Clearly there is a complex relationship between who he is and how his desires were shaped in this particular situation. In this narrative, we see how the intensity of desire is shaped in large part through a direct parody of prevention messages.

Conceptually, desire is perhaps best located outside the individual. After all, desire is socially mediated through pornography, gendered power relations, and in dyadic encounters between two destabilized subjectivities. We can also see how the notion of the integral, self-protecting individual fails us when one of the panelists describes his girlfriend's ambivalence about becoming infected.

And she's a smart person, you know. She knows that she really doesn't want to get infected. But she was calling attention to those parts of her that were attracted to these ideas of getting contaminated, and getting polluted, and this romanticized idea of, kind of a heroic PWA life.

This transgressive gray area -- the other side -- beyond the limits of rationality and prudence may be precisely what many people seek out in public sex spaces. If so, then we need to look beyond notions of consent and rational decision making as models for negotiating risk.

The forum also illuminated some of the ways the silence of sex clubs can impact sexual negotiation. Patrons who are less conversant with the non-verbal codes involved in the practice of cruising will be at a disadvantage when negotiating risk. Visual clues -- such as condoms and prevention workers -- seem to serve as more effective messages than texts or verbal messages.

Sex clubs are characterized by a lack of speech and clothing -- two elements that define our identity in the everyday world. Despite the absence of these social markers, public sex environments are far from egalitarian. The constantly shifting economy of body types -- the ratio of "studs" to "trolls" on a particular night -- can also lead men to take risks. As one self-described "troll" put it,

if you have a chance with a really hot guy, you're not going to be like, "uh, sorry stud muffin, but can we talk about your positive status?... I'm more willing for instance to take a guy in the mouth, for instance, oral sex if he's really hot, and maybe even up the ass.

The open-ended nature of public sex encounters enables safer sex boundaries to quickly disolve. For example, one participant described a group situation.

I was standing up but facing to my right and playing with a guy on my right. Before I knew it, somebody was on me and I was inside of them and I thrust once and my brain went to mush. And everything that I know like flushed out of me and I wanted to thrust again. It felt incredibly good. And I had to shut my brain off, and just stop thinking, cause I knew that would get me in trouble. I had to push out. And I turned the guy around and whispered in his ear, "I don't do that," and he said, "Yeah, right." And he was right.

The paucity of science on the risks of reinfection was also a theme among the panelists (see for example the First and Fourth Narrative). This question may never be resolved by future scientific studies. The reinfection debate is merely a distraction from underlying question that is rarely discussed -- what does it mean to want poz semen? The meaning of what used to be "just sex" is now enmeshed in a complex spiral of scientific and ethical discourses centered serostatus testing (See Visual AIDS: Gay Porn and Safer Sex Pedagogy). If these discourses produced "barebackers" and "bug chasers," it is conceivable that the reinfection debate and routine phenotype testing may produce desires and identities around sharing specific viral strains. Perhaps a new hanky code will evolve to signify communal affinities based on a shared drug-resistant strains or drug combination. The fundmental need to experience intimacy and belong to a community can be projected onto anything. That people should project this onto a virus should not be surprising.

More than anything, this forum demonstrated how the polemical and divisive debate on barebacking can be harnessed to create a constructive space for men to discuss the meaning of intimacy and community in their own lives. Many thanks to the participants for granting permission to record and post this forum on HIV InSite.

An audio recording of the discussion has been made available since the transcript alone cannot possibly capture the nuances of the discussion. The transcript that follows is meant to help in those areas where phrases are difficult to hear, but for the sake of accuracy, we have refrained from over-editing the transcript.

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HIV InSite is a project of the UCSF Center for HIV Information. Copyright 2003, Regents of the University of California.

The above report, on the University of California -- San Francisco web site, is indexed among the several other articles on gay bath houses, as shown here:

Speaking Out about Sex in Silent Spaces
... The Gay Bareback Phenomenon November, 1997. ... organized by Paul Cotten, director of
the Steamworks Health Information Center, an in-(bath) house prevention program ...
hivinsite.ucsf.edu/InSite.jsp?doc=2098.berkeleyfull  - 26k - Cached - Similar pages

Protease Dis-Inhibitors? The Gay Bareback Phenomenon
... Relapse To Unsafe Sexual Behaviour Among Gay Men - A ... Some of the more inflamatory
rhetoric in the debate on bath house closures in New York was written by ...
hivinsite.ucsf.edu/InSite.jsp?doc=2098.3445 - 40k - Cached - Similar pages

[PDF]CAPS news (new)
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
... goal is to increase the retention rate of TGs at Walden House by hiring ... N EW & U PCOMING
www.caps.ucsf.edu/capsweb/ November%202001%20CAPS%20News.pdf - Similar pages

... The current licensed residences, Leland House, Richard Cohen, and ... Among homeless gay/bisexual
male youth (=<24 years ... at minimum a studio with kitchen and bath. ...
hivinsite.ucsf.edu/InSite.jsp?doc=2098.3743 - 42k - Cached - Similar pages

Bareback Sex: Implications for the Future of HIV Prevention
... top down, where they're closing bath houses or ... who are the most disadvantaged within
gay male communities ... a bareback party at somebody's house maybe constitutes ...
hivinsite.ucsf.edu/InSite.jsp?doc=2098.418e - 101k - Cached - Similar pages

[PDF] Page 1
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
... behavior. For example, gay and bisexual men report that the norm is
bathhouses is to not talk and to not disclose HIV status. It ...
ari.ucsf.edu/pdf/USCA10.pdf - Similar pages

[PDF]CET Wkbk Preface
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
... When I am seated at the dinner table at her house with all the
relatives present.” When: When did this last occur? “About ...
www.caps.ucsf.edu/pdfs/CET%20Workbook.pdf - Similar pages

[PDF]CAPS Research Portfolio
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
... 35 The Mpowerment Project: A Community Level HIV Prevention
Intervention for Young Gay/Bisexual Men ...
www.caps.ucsf.edu/portfolio/ Research%20Portfolio%202002.pdf - Similar pages

Speaking Out about Sex in Silent Spaces: Transcript, part 2
... that." And somebody in the back of the house said, "well ... in the first part of the
epidemic the gay community relied on ... and decide to treat it as a bath, you know ...
hivinsite.ucsf.edu/InSite.jsp?doc=2098.berkfulltrans2 - 64k - Cached - Similar pages

[PDF]Research Portfolio
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - View as HTML
... 42 The Mpowerment Project: A community level HIV prevention
intervention for young gay/bisexual men ...
www.caps.ucsf.edu/portfolio/resportfolio.pdf - Similar pages


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