Sexual Racism Is Associated with Lower Self-Esteem and Life Satisfaction in Men Who Have Sex with Men

Abstract

Men of color who have sex with men (MCSM) commonly experience sexual racism within the community of men who have sex with men (MSM) and are often rejected as potential sexual and romantic partners as a result. The present study quantitatively investigated whether MCSM experience more race-based sexual discrimination relative to White MSM and whether there is an association between experiences of race-based sexual discrimination and two indicators of psychological well-being, namely self-esteem and life satisfaction. Participants were 1039 Australian MSM (774 White MSM, 265 MCSM) recruited from Grindr, a popular mobile geosocial networking app for MSM, who reported their experiences of race-based sexual discrimination, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. Results showed that MCSM experienced significantly more race-based sexual discrimination relative to White MSM, and that race-based sexual discrimination was significantly associated with lower self-esteem and, in turn, lower life satisfaction. These results further corroborate past qualitative work that has long suggested a link between sexual racism and psychological well-being for MCSM. Implications and future directions are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2

References

  1. Bhambhani, Y., Flynn, M. K., Kellum, K. K., & Wilson, K. G. (2018). The role of psychological flexibility as a mediator between experienced sexual racism and psychological distress among men of color who have sex with men. Archives of Sexual Behavior. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-018-1269-5.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Callander, D., Holt, M., & Newman, C. E. (2012). Just a preference: Racialised language in the sex-seeking profiles of gay and bisexual men. Culture, Health & Sexuality,14(9), 1049–1063. https://doi.org/10.1080/13691058.2012.714799.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Callander, D., Holt, M., & Newman, C. E. (2016). ‘Not everyone’s gonna like me’: Accounting for race and racism in sex and dating web services for gay and bisexual men. Ethnicities,16(1), 3–21. https://doi.org/10.1177/1468796815581428.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Callander, D., Newman, C. E., & Holt, M. (2015). Is sexual racism really racism? Distinguishing attitudes toward sexual racism and generic racism among gay and bisexual men. Archives of Sexual Behavior,44(7), 1991–2000. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0487-3.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Campbell, A. (1981). The sense of well-being in America: Recent patterns and trends. New York: McGraw-Hill.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Choi, K. H., Paul, J., Ayala, G., Boylan, R., & Gregorich, S. E. (2013). Experiences of discrimination and their impact on the mental health among African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Latino men who have sex with men. American Journal of Public Health,103(5), 868–874. https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2012.301052.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  7. Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Identity politics, intersectionality, and violence against women. Stanford Law Review,43(6), 1241–1299.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Diener, E., & Diener, M. (1995). Cross-cultural correlates of life satisfaction and self-esteem. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 68(4), 653–663. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3514.68.4.653.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. Diener, E., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The Satisfaction with Life Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment,49(1), 71–75. https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327752jpa4901_13.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  10. Flores, E., Tschann, J. M., Dimas, J. M., Bachen, E. A., Pasch, L. A., & de Groat, C. L. (2008). Perceived discrimination, perceived stress, and mental and physical health among Mexican-origin adults. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences,30(4), 401–424. https://doi.org/10.1177/0739986308323056.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Grindr. (2018). Kindr Grindr. Retrieved January 10, 2019, from https://www.kindr.grindr.com/.

  12. Han, C. S. (2007). They don’t want to cruise your type: Gay men of color and the racial politics of exclusion. Social Identities,13(1), 51–67. https://doi.org/10.1080/13504630601163379.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Han, C. S. (2008a). A qualitative exploration of the relationship between racism and unsafe sex among Asian Pacific Islander gay men. Archives of Sexual Behavior,37(5), 827–837. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-007-9308-7.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Han, C. S. (2008b). No fats, femmes, or Asians: The utility of critical race theory in examining the role of gay stock stories in the marginalization of gay Asian men. Contemporary Justice Review,11(1), 11–22. https://doi.org/10.1080/10282580701850355.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Han, C. S., & Choi, K. H. (2018). Very few people say “No Whites”: Gay men of color and the racial politics of desire. Sociological Spectrum,38(3), 145–161. https://doi.org/10.1080/02732173.2018.1469444.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  16. Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  17. Koc, Y. (2016). Grindr as a participant recruitment tool for research with men who have sex with men. International Psychology Bulletin,20(4), 27–30.

    Google Scholar 

  18. Meyer, I. H. (2013). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity,1(S), 3–26. https://doi.org/10.1037/2329-0382.1.s.3.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Meyer, I. H., Schwartz, S., & Frost, D. M. (2008). Social patterning of stress and coping: Does disadvantaged social statuses confer more stress and fewer coping resources? Social Science and Medicine,67(3), 368–379. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2008.03.012.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Paul, J. P., Ayala, G., & Choi, K. H. (2010). Internet sex ads for MSM and partner selection criteria: The potency of race/ethnicity online. Journal of Sex Research,47(6), 528–538. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224490903244575.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  21. Phua, V. C., & Kaufman, G. (2003). The crossroads of race and sexuality: Date selection among men in internet “personal” ads. Journal of Family Issues,24(8), 981–994. https://doi.org/10.1177/0192513X03256607.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Plummer, M. D. (2007). Sexual racism in gay communities: Negotiating the ethnosexual marketplace (Doctoral dissertation, University of Washington). Retrieved from https://digital.lib.washington.edu/researchworks/handle/1773/9181.

  23. Rafalow, M. H., Feliciano, C., & Robnett, B. (2017). Racialized femininity and masculinity in the preferences of online same-sex daters. Social Currents,4(4), 306–321. https://doi.org/10.1177/2329496516686621.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Ro, A., Ayala, G., Paul, J., & Choi, K. H. (2013). Dimensions of racism and their impact on partner selection among men of colour who have sex with men: understanding pathways to sexual risk. Culture, Health & Sexuality,15(7), 836–850. https://doi.org/10.1080/13691058.2013.785025.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Robinson, B. A. (2015). “Personal preference” as the new racism: Gay desire and racial cleansing in cyberspace. Sociology of Race and Ethnicity,1(2), 317–330. https://doi.org/10.1177/2332649214546870.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Rosenberg, M. (1965). Society and the adolescent self-image. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Schmitt, M. T., Branscombe, N. R., Postmes, T., & Garcia, A. (2014). The consequences of perceived discrimination for psychological well-being: A meta-analytic review. Psychological Bulletin,140(4), 921–948. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0035754.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  28. Shrout, P. E., & Bolger, N. (2002). Mediation in experimental and nonexperimental studies: New procedures and recommendations. Psychological Methods, 7(4), 422–445. https://doi.org/10.1037/1082-989X.7.4.422.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  29. Stember, C. (1978). Sexual racism: The emotional barrier to an integrated society. New York: Harper & Row.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Thai, M., Stainer, M. J., & Barlow, F. K. (2019). The “preference” paradox: Disclosing racial preferences in attraction is considered racist even by people who overtly claim it is not. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 83, 70–77. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jesp.2019.03.004.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Wilson, P. A., Valera, P., Ventuneac, A., Balan, I., Rowe, M., & Carballo-Diéguez, A. (2009). Race-based sexual stereotyping and sexual partnering among men who use the internet to identify other men for bareback sex. Journal of Sex Research,46(5), 399–413. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224490902846479.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

The author would like to acknowledge Lachlan Macqueen, who assisted with the literature review for this study.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Michael Thai.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution at which the study was conducted.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 35 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Thai, M. Sexual Racism Is Associated with Lower Self-Esteem and Life Satisfaction in Men Who Have Sex with Men. Arch Sex Behav 49, 347–353 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-1456-z

Download citation

Keywords

  • Sexual racism
  • Psychological well-being
  • Self-esteem
  • Life satisfaction
  • Men who have sex with men
  • Sexual orientation