‘Sometimes people let love conquer them’: how love, intimacy, and trust in relationships between men who have sex with men influence perceptions of sexual risk and sexual decision-making

Tamar Goldenberg, Catherine Finneran, Karen L. Andes, Rob Stephenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations

Abstract

Men who have sex with men account for a disproportionate burden of HIV incidence in the USA. Although much research has examined the drivers of sexual risk-taking, the emotional contexts in which men make sexual decisions has received little attention. In this three-phase, 10-week longitudinal qualitative study involving 25 gay and bisexual men, we used timeline-based interviews and quantitative web-based diaries about sexual and/or dating partners to examine how emotions influence HIV risk perceptions and sexual decision-making. Participants described love, intimacy, and trust as reducing HIV risk perceptions and facilitating engagement in condomless anal intercourse. Lust was not as linked with risk perceptions, but facilitated non condom-use through an increased willingness to engage in condomless anal intercourse, despite perceptions of risk. Results indicate that gay and bisexual men do not make sexual decisions in an emotional vacuum. Emotions influence perceptions of risk so that they do not necessarily align with biological risk factors. Emotional influences, especially the type and context of emotions, are important to consider to improve HIV prevention efforts among gay and bisexual men.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)607-622
Number of pages16
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Volume17
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 28 2015

Keywords

  • emotions
  • HIV
  • men who have sex with men
  • risk
  • USA

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