Gay men’s relationship agreements reflect beliefs about their friends’ relationships and attitudes

Stream: HIV: Emerging strategies in prevention among MSM
Date: Friday, 1 April 2016
Time: 2.00 pm – 3.45 pm

Abstract

Objective: To examine associations between peer norms regarding relationship agreements in gay male regular partnerships.

Method: Monopoly was a national, online survey on relationships between men conducted in 2013-2014 with 4,215 useable responses. 2,723 respondents provided details on their ‘primary regular partner’ (PRP).

Results: About half (53.6%) had clear, spoken agreements with their PRP about sex with other partners, and 37.5% had agreed to be monogamous. Among the 56.6% of men who considered themselves ‘in a relationship’ with the PRP, 54.9% had monogamous agreements, of whom one-quarter reported having sex with other partners. Men with monogamous agreements were more likely to believe that more of their friends were in monogamous relationships than men with open agreements (mean score=2.44 vs 1.84, p<0.001), and that more of their friends believed that gay relationships should be monogamous (3.07 vs 2.31, p<0.001). Men under 30 years of age were more likely to: have monogamous agreements (74.4% vs 47.1%, p<0.001), believe more of their friends were monogamous (mean score=3.08 vs 2.59, p<0.001), and think that more of their friends believe gay relationships should be monogamous (2.30 vs 2.11, p=0.03). There were no differences between gay-identified and non-gay-identified men in their agreements or beliefs about their friends.

Conclusion: Men's own relationship agreements tended to align with their perceptions about the relationships and beliefs of their gay friends. Younger men perceived monogamy as the norm more than older men. Despite the diversity in gay men's relationships, normative beliefs about relationships are commonplace among gay men.

Authors

Benjamin Bavinton (Presenter), The Kirby Institute
Ben has worked in the field of HIV prevention, research and policy for over 10 years both in Australia and internationally. He is currently the Project Leader of the Opposites Attract Study, an international, multi-site cohort study of HIV transmission and HIV treatments in gay male serodiscordant relationships.

Duane Duncan, University of New England; Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University

Garrett Prestage, The Kirby Institute; Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society