Sexually Explicit Media Use by Sexual Identity: A Comparative Analysis of Gay, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Men in the United States

Abstract

Advances in production and distribution of sexually explicit media (SEM) online have resulted in widespread use among men. Limited research has compared contexts of use and behaviors viewed in Internet SEM by sexual identity. The current study examined differences in recent SEM use (past 6 months) by sexual identity among an ethnically diverse sample of 821 men who completed an online survey in 2015. Both gay and bisexual men reported significantly more frequent use of Internet SEM compared to heterosexual men. Although most participants reported viewing SEM at home (on a computer, tablet, or smartphone), significantly more gay men reported SEM use at a sex party or commercial sex venue than either heterosexual or bisexual men. Sexual identity predicted viewing of high-risk and protective behaviors in separate logistic regression models. Specifically, compared to heterosexual men, gay and bisexual men had increased odds of viewing condomless anal sex (gay OR 5.20, 95 % CI 3.35–8.09; bisexual OR 3.99, 95 % CI 2.24–7.10) and anal sex with a condom (gay OR 3.93, 95 % CI 2.64–5.83; bisexual OR 4.59, 95 % CI 2.78–7.57). Compared to gay men, heterosexual and bisexual men had increased odds of viewing condomless vaginal sex (heterosexual OR 27.08, 95 % CI 15.25–48.07; bisexual OR 5.59, 95 % CI 3.81–8.21) and vaginal sex with a condom (heterosexual OR 7.90, 95 % CI 5.19–12.03; bisexual OR 4.97, 95 % CI 3.32–7.44). There was also evidence of identity discrepant SEM viewing as 20.7 % of heterosexual-identified men reported viewing male same-sex behavior and 55.0 % of gay-identified men reported viewing heterosexual behavior. Findings suggest the importance of assessing SEM use across media types and contexts and have implications for research to address the potential influence of SEM on sexual behavior (e.g., investigate associations between viewing condomless vaginal sex and engaging in high-risk encounters with female partners).

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We examined differences in participant characteristics and Internet SEM use between complete and partial cases. Several differences were noted after applying a Bonferroni correction. A greater proportion of bisexual-identified men had partial surveys (45.6 %) compared to heterosexual-identified men (32.4 %) (p = .003). No other sexual identity differences were noted. Men with complete surveys were significantly older (M = 38.08, SD = 12.16) than those with partial surveys (M = 34.48, SD = 11.24), F(1, 1467) = 32.31, p < .001. A greater proportion of men who identified their race as White (71.8 %) completed the survey compared to men who identified as Black (54.2 %, p < .001) or Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American or Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, or Other (44.8 %, p < .001). Further, significantly fewer men reporting up to a high school degree or GED completed the survey (46.1 %) compared to men with some college, Associate’s degree or Technical degree (59.3 %, p < .001), a 4-year college degree (67.8 %, p < .001), or a professional or graduate degree (68.6 %, p < .001). Significantly fewer men reporting an annual income of less than $10,000 completed the survey (50.0 %) compared to those who earned $40,000–$79,999 (63.1 %, p = .002), $80,000–$119,999 (73.2 %, p < .001), or $120,000 or more (68.7 %, p = .003). Similarly, significantly fewer men who preferred not to answer the item about annual income completed the survey (51.7 %) than men who reported earning $80,000–$119,999 per year (73.2 %, p = .001). A significantly greater proportion of men who reported a zip code corresponding to a US state in the West region completed the survey (73.3 %) compared to men in the Northeast (58.8 %, p = .001), Southeast (55.2 %, p < .001), and Midwest (60.4 %, p = .001) regions. There were no differences between complete and partial cases in relationship status, HIV status, current residence, or use of Internet SEM in the past 6 months (yes, no).

    There were significantly more completed surveys among men who viewed SEM at home on a computer (67.6 vs. 40.3 % of men who did not view SEM at home on a computer, p < .001), at work on a computer (73.8 vs. 59.9 % of men who did not view SEM at work on a computer, p < .05), or while attending a commercial sex venue (72.4 vs. 58.5 % of men who did not view SEM while attending a commercial sex venue, p < .001). Further, there were significantly more completed surveys among men who viewed vaginal sex with a condom (87.9 vs. 54.4 % of men who did not view this behavior), vaginal sex without a condom (89.1 vs. 49.6 % of men who did not view this behavior), anal sex with a condom (87.9 vs. 39.3 % of men who did not view this behavior), and anal sex without a condom (89.3 vs. 26.2 % of men who did not view this behavior), p values <.001. Lastly, we observed no differences between complete and partial cases in the types of Internet SEM viewed in the past 6 months.

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Correspondence to Martin J. Downing Jr..

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This research was supported by a grant from the Foundation for the Scientific Study of Sexuality to Martin J. Downing, Jr., Ph.D. (no award number provided). The authors declare that they have no other conflicts of interest.

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Downing, M.J., Schrimshaw, E.W., Scheinmann, R. et al. Sexually Explicit Media Use by Sexual Identity: A Comparative Analysis of Gay, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Men in the United States. Arch Sex Behav 46, 1763–1776 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-016-0837-9

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Keywords

  • Sexually explicit media
  • Pornography
  • Internet
  • Sexual identity
  • Sexual orientation