If you were one of the gay men having sex last night – or last week, or last month – a new study says chances are that you skipped instead of slipped on a condom before making the sausage delivery.
In fact, nearly three-quarters of respondents in a sex survey of 3,100 gay men say that condoms were not part of the equation the last time they had sex, according to FS Magazine, a publication of Gay Men’s Health Charity in the U.K.
72% of gay men said they didn’t use condoms the last time they had sex.
Are you shocked? Surprised? How does it make you feel? Stats can be great to bring attention to a topic, but they can also be used to manipulate a story. Our survey found that 72% of gay men didn’t use a condom the last time they had sex. But what kind of sex were they having? When we asked about anal sex we got a better picture:
32% of the gay men who topped did not use a condom the last time they had sex.
37% of the men who bottomed did not use a condom the last time they had sex.
That’s a lot, and the only thing that tempers the results is that not all of the respondents engaged in anal sex, so no condom was needed. A full two-thirds of the men say that anal sex was not part of the circumstance of their most recent sexual encounter.
Of the roughly 1,000 gay men who said that they did engage in unprotected anal sex – one-third of those surveyed – they still paint a picture of guys who make assumptions about their serostatus and that of others.
50 percent of the men engaging in unprotected anal sex said they did so with either a long-term boyfriend or their husband or civil partner. 20 percent said they did so with a person they were either dating or with whom they had sex on a regular basis.
The study breaks down the results one more time by men who did know their status at the time of their last encounter.
The men who said they didn’t use a condom the last time they had anal sex with a casual partner, roughly 10 percent were HIV-positive, compared to 90 percent who believed themselves to be HIV-negative.
The magazine used the results to show that statistics can be manipulated to make things seem worse or better than they are. Self-reported results make the outcomes even iffier – people tend to respond in ways that they want to believe are the “right” answers or reflect “how they really are” rather than the whole truth.
That said, even if these self-reported statistics are absolute, it still leaves a full one-third of gay men who hooked up last night most likely engaged in unprotected anal sex. No word on how many of those were on life-saving PrEP. Or whose sex habits are influenced by their friends. Or succumb to institutionalized shaming of Grindr as a “digital bathouse.”
But even if we assume that those and other extenuating circumstances and unstudied factors are in play, the problem at hand is still worth considering. Add the news that at least one-third of gay men take the risk of unprotected anal sex, under any circumstance, to your arsenal of information that shows HIV rates in the U.S. are dropping, unless you're gay. That goes double if you’re also young. And among gay men, uncontrolled cases of the disease are rampant.