Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Generational Differences in Sexual Behaviour and Partnering among Gay, Bisexual, and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Generational Differences in Sexual Behaviour and Partnering among Gay, Bisexual, and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men

Article excerpt

Given that different generations of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) have been influenced by substantially different life course events and cultural contexts, we explored differences in sexual behaviour between millennials, Gen-Xers, and baby boomers. Sexually active gbMSM from Metro Vancouver, [greater than or equal to] 16 years, were recruited using respondent-driven sampling between 2012-2015 and completed computer-assisted self-interviews every 6 months, up to 2017. To explore differences between generations (millennials born [greater than or equal to] 1987, Gen-Xers born 1962-1986, baby boomers born < 1962) we used multivariable logistic regression models using baseline, RDS-weighted data. We also examined 6-month trends, stratified by generation, in partner number, prevalence of high-risk sex, and relationship status using hierarchical mixed-effects models. Among 774 gbMSM (190 millennials, 469 Gen-Xers, 115 baby boomers), median age of first anal sex with a male partner decreased from 20 (aQ1,aQ3:17,25) among baby boomers to 18 (aQ1,aQ3:16,20) among millennials ([x.sup.2] (DF = 2, N = 764) = 12.920, p = 0.002). After controlling for relevant demographics, differences were observed for some sexual behaviours (i.e., anal sex positioning, giving oral sex, sex toys, masturbation, sexual app/website use, transactional sex) but not others (i.e., receiving oral sex, rimming, fisting, watersports, group sex). At baseline, millennials reported less high-risk sex than other generations but all trended toward less high-risk sex, fewer partners, and regular partnering over the course of the study. While there was notable similarity across generations, millennial gbMSM reported earlier age at first anal intercourse and less high-risk sex. However, all generations trended towards less high-risk sex, fewer partners, and regular partnering over time.

KEYWORDS: Generations, longitudinal trends, men who have sex with men, respondent-driven sampling, sexual behaviour

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Sexual behaviours of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) have primarily been examined from a risk-reduction perspective (Berg, 2009; Carter et al., 2017). This is understandable from a public health standpoint as identifying and targeting risky sexual behaviour can reduce HIV prevalence (Hallett et al., 2006; Herbst et al., 2005); however, it can also stigmatize certain sexual behaviours and relationships. Furthermore, this narrow focus ignores important sexual motivators such as pleasure and relationship factors.

It has been proposed that an individual's development, including their sexuality and behaviour, is significantly impacted by historical events and context during particular life stages (Elder, 1998; Elder, Johnson, & Crosnoe, 2003). This life course perspective is particularly relevant when considering gbMSM in Canada and elsewhere in North America as there have been significant social, political, and technological changes over the past half century, including the Pride Movement, increases in LGBTQ rights, the AIDS epidemic and subsequent advancement in treatments, the legalization of same-sex marriage, and the proliferation of sex-seeking websites and apps. Each of these is associated with particular social and cultural contexts that are likely to have had varying effects on the development of different generations of gbMSM (Hammack, 2005; Hammack & Cohler, 2011). When applied to gay mens health and identity, Hammack, Frost, Meyer, and Pletta (2018) suggest two critical periods of development: puberty and emerging adulthood, as these correspond with a recognition of sexual desires and an increase in sexual activity and community involvement, respectively (McClintock & Herdt, 1996; Morgan, 2013; Savin-Williams & Diamond, 2000). Through application of the life course theory, three distinct generations of Canadian gbMSM emerge.

First, for the generation of gay and bisexual men born prior to the 1960s, otherwise known as the baby boomers, they experienced puberty or emerging adulthood during a time when the discourse on homosexuality was shifting. …

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