Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 47, Issue 4, pp 1221–1230 | Cite as

“It Was Supposed To Be a Onetime Thing”: Experiences of Romantic and Sexual Relationship Typologies Among Young Gay, Bisexual, and Other Men Who Have Sex with Men

  • Stephen P. SullivanEmail author
  • Emily S. Pingel
  • Rob Stephenson
  • José A. Bauermeister
Original Paper


Young gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM) are at elevated risk for HIV infection, highlighting the need to understand the elements of prevention and risk associated with their relationships. We employed a phenomenological approach to explore how young MSM become involved in different romantic and sexual experiences. We analyzed 28 semi-structured interviews conducted with young MSM living in Michigan. Using a phenomenological approach, we analyzed the data using an inductive coding strategy and thematic analysis. Participants defined their romantic and sexual interactions with a limited set of partner classifications (e.g., dating, hooking up, friends-with-benefits), but recognized how these classifications were shifting, sometimes unexpectedly so (e.g., a date turning into a hook up and vice versa). Young MSM described relationships in transition that at times defied available typologies or hybridized elements of multiple partner types at once. Based on our analyses, we underscore the need to acknowledge the fluctuating and contextual nature of young MSM’s romantic and sexual experiences. We discuss the relevance of our findings in terms of the developmental period of young adulthood and the implications our findings have HIV prevention efforts among young MSM.


Young MSM Relationship types HIV Sexual orientation 



Data for this study come from a Career Development Award from the National Institute of Mental Health (K01-MH087242; PI: Bauermeister). Dr. Bauermeister was supported by a R34 grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health (R34MH101997-01A1). Views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of the funding agency.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen P. Sullivan
    • 1
    Email author
  • Emily S. Pingel
    • 2
  • Rob Stephenson
    • 1
  • José A. Bauermeister
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Sexuality and Health DisparitiesUniversity of Michigan School of NursingAnn ArborUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.University of Pennsylvania School of NursingPhiladelphiaUSA

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