Academic journal article Central European Journal of Public Health

The Gay Men Sex Studies: Design of an Online Registration of Sexual Behaviour of Men Having Sex with Men and Preliminary Results (Gamesss-Study)

Academic journal article Central European Journal of Public Health

The Gay Men Sex Studies: Design of an Online Registration of Sexual Behaviour of Men Having Sex with Men and Preliminary Results (Gamesss-Study)

Article excerpt

SUMMARY

Background: There has been limited investigation of the sexuality and sexual dysfunction in homosexuals by the sexual medicine community. The purpose of this article is to describe the methodology of the online GAy MEn Sex StudieS (GAMESSS) on the sexual behaviour and sexual dysfunctions of Belgian men who have sex with men (MSM).

Aim: To describe the methodology of an online study that investigate sexual behaviour and sexual function and dysfunction in a sample of Belgian MSM.

Methods: An internet-based survey on sexual behaviour and sexual dysfunctions was administered to MSM between April and December 2008. The questionnaire was a compilation of the Kinsey Scale for Sexual Orientation, the Index of Premature Ejaculation (IPE), the Erection Quality Scale (EQS), the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI), the Brief (Male) Sexual Function Inventory (BSFI) and the Gay Men Sexual Addiction Screening Test (G-SAST). The analytic sample comprised 1,830 Belgian men aged 18 years or older, who reported having sex with men.

Conclusion: The use of an online questionnaire is a convenient way to gather information from a hidden population such as MSM. The anonymity of the participants is guaranteed. The collected data can be easily analyzed. With this online study, we aim to detect variables in sexual behaviour (SB) and sexual dysfunction (SD) that can help to improve care for MSM. Belgian MSM have a very active and varied sex life. They are rather promiscuous and do not always practice safe sex. This behaviour poses a high risk of spreading sexually transmitted diseases. Additional research in this MSM population is needed.

Key words: homosexuality, bisexuality, internet, sexual behaviour, sexual dysfunction

INTRODUCTION

The worldwide expansion of access to and use of the internet over the last two decades has made the World Wide Web a prominent mode of communication. Nowadays, the internet is being recognized as a research tool to conduct quantitative and qualitative research. Internet-based data collection is receiving increasing attention in the social and health sciences (1). Data from the National Institute of Statistics (NIS) shows that Belgium had 2.81 million internet connections in the last quarter of 2008. These figures relate to most, but not all Belgian internet providers. The number of connections does not necessarily match the number of users. One connection can be used by different users and one user can have access to different connections. About 71% of households in Belgium have one or more computers. In 2009, 67% had access to the internet. In the European context, Belgium is an average performer, before France (63%), but behind Germany (79%), and the Netherlands, the European frontrunner with 90% of the households connected to the internet. It also appears that the group of users is still increasing. Nowadays, there are 3,28 million internet connections in Belgium. The quick rise of the internet use opens new areas for social science researchers to investigate.

Homosexuals are a hidden population. The measurement of prevalence and incidence of sexual activity and sexual dysfunctions in sub-populations such as men who have sex with men (MSM) is hampered by the unknown size and regional distribution of this "hidden" population. First of all, MSM are not at sight distinguishable from heterosexuals and there is no "list of all gay people in Belgium". Taking a random sample is impossible. Gays are not a homogeneous group. They are men and women, young and old, individuals from lower and higher socio-economic classes. They do not necessarily identify with the stereotypical images of gay life or the gay community. MSM do not all experience their sexuality in the same way. MSM have a wide variation in sexual techniques to satisfy themselves and their partner(s). Not all MSM practice anal sex, some only prefer masturbation and/or oral sex. Some expose their sexual orientation in their way of clothing; others are still living "in the closet". …

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