Why gay men are having more sex during the pandemic

Why would gay men go on a hook-up spree when there's a raging pandemic? The answers will surprise you.

Love + Sex Hooking Up Brian Webb

This article was published on December 17th, 2020

Gay and bi guys have been hooking up more during the pandemic. No surprises there. As they say, a crisis is a very precious thing to waste. However, these sexual activities come with numerous risks, including exposure to the COVID19 pandemic. Indeed, half of the men remain unaware that you can pass the virus during sex.

Why would gay men go on a hook-up spree when there’s a raging pandemic? The answers will surprise you.

Who’s smashing who?

According to new research by the Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities at the University of Michigan, gay and bi men had at least 2.3 more sexual partners during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers surveyed 518 gay and bi men from the US, aged 18 years and above, through ads on Facebook, Grindr and Instagram. From this sample, only 50% of the men recognized that the COVID-19 virus is transmissible through sex. On the other hand, 64% of them didn’t see the need to have a reduced number of sexual partners.

The study, published in the AIDS and Behavior Journal, sought to emphasize the access of HIV prevention options during the lockdown period and the effect of the pandemic on sexual behaviour. It noted that stay at home orders had given room to opportunities for sex with sexual partners at home instead of outside the home.

The drug connection

During this period, researchers observed an increase in the use of substances and binge drinking, which they perceived to have been “coping behaviours in response to high-stress levels during the lockdown.”

According to the study, “Men who reported that their substance use had increased during lockdown were significantly more likely to report increases in the number of sex partners, anal sex partners and unprotected sex partners.”

“These increases in substance and alcohol use may reflect more opportunities for use, while confined to the home and not in a workplace setting. They may also reflect an increase in negative coping behaviours in response to high levels of stress and uncertainty during the epidemic.” the report stated.

COVID-19 and the gay community

94% of the respondents admitted that there were high chances of spreading the virus through kissing, while half of them opined that it was impossible to contract it through anal sex.

Although semen cannot pass on the virus, the very fact that there is physical contact during sexual intercourse makes a case for easy transmission.

The report also observed that while some of the men weren’t in denial of the pandemic’s existence, they suggested: “that COVID-19 exists elsewhere and happens to other people.”

The heightened sexual activities among the gay and bi men during the pandemic paints a gloomy picture for a country that has been severely affected by the virus. Figures from the John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center indicate that over 17 million people have been infected, with over 300,000 others losing their lives at the time this article was published.

Aside from substance use and binge drinking, the researchers attributed other factors to the rise in sexual activities among gay and bisexual men during the pandemic.  

For instance, 11.8% of them revealed they had suffered food insecurity, while another 4.1% experienced homelessness during the lockdown period. A further 1.4% of the respondents said they engaged in transactional sex for the first time.

Even then, the research had a few limitations, and as such, it may not be completely accurate. For instance, the data only captured feedback from online users leaving out a relatively huge offline audience. Likewise, men using sex-networking apps such as Grindr may not necessarily have the same sexual behaviour patterns.

Be Responsible 

Altogether, the researchers stress the need for more mental health services for gay men living in lockdown. As mentioned above, lockdown distress has brought forth the heightened sexual activity and substance use. They also call for incorporating strategies to ensure the continued delivery of HIV prevention and care services during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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