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Perceived Challenges and Rewards of Forming a Sexual Agreement Among HIV-Negative Male Couples

Abstract

Sexual agreements, explicit mutual understandings made between two partners about which sexual and related behaviors they agree to engage in within and/or outside of their relationship, are common among male couples. However, little is known about the perceived rewards and challenges partnered men face in the process of forming a sexual agreement. Such knowledge may be useful for the development of future HIV preventive and sexual health programs that encourage male couples to establish a sexual agreement in their relationship. By using qualitative dyadic data from a sample of 29 self-reported concordant HIV-negative male couples who had a sexual agreement, the present qualitative study sought to assess partnered men’s perceived rewards and challenges of forming a sexual agreement in their relationship and examine whether both men in the couple concurred about their perceived rewards and challenges of forming a sexual agreement. Themes for perceived rewards were (1) being honest, (2) improving communication, (3) increasing understanding about expectations and permitted behaviors, (4) enhancing intimacy and relational bond, and (5) building trust. Themes for perceived challenges were: (1) stigma about having an open agreement; (2) awkwardness about the topic and talking about it; (3) jealousy; and (4) no perceived challenges. Few couples had both partners concur about their perceived rewards or challenges toward establishing a sexual agreement. The variety of perceived rewards and challenges highlight the need for tailoring given that a variety of factors may influence partnered men’s establishment of a sexual agreement in their relationship.

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Acknowledgments

This work was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health under Grant R34MH102098 (PI Mitchell, J.). The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. Special thanks are extended to the participants for their time and effort.

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Correspondence to Jason W. Mitchell.

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Mitchell, J.W., Lee, JY., Woodyatt, C. et al. Perceived Challenges and Rewards of Forming a Sexual Agreement Among HIV-Negative Male Couples. Arch Sex Behav 45, 1525–1534 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0701-y

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0701-y

Keywords

  • Male couples
  • Sexual agreements
  • Sexual orientation
  • HIV prevention