Editor's Letter by Ian Howley | @ianhowley

Hello there. Did that click-bait headline catch your attention? Nice!! But don’t go anywhere. There’s a reason I used this headline. 

To mark our 150th issue we decided to conduct our biggest survey ever. We wanted to take a proper snapshot of gay men’s sex lives in 2015. 

Over 3,100 gay and bisexual men filled in our survey. We asked all sorts of questions to do with sex, sexual health and relationships. 

What we found was that gay men probably don’t have as much sex as you think. We also found some startling differences between the sex lives of HIV-negative men and HIV-positive men. But first, here’s a stat we found about condom use. 

72% of gay men said they didn’t use condoms the last time they had sex. 

Are you shocked? Surprised? How does it make you feel? Stats can be great to bring attention to a topic but they can also be used to manipulate a story. Our survey found that 72% of gay men didn’t use a condom the last time they had sex. But, what kind of sex were they having? When we asked about anal sex we got a better picture:

32% of the gay men who topped did not use a condom the last time they had sex.

37% of the men who bottomed did not use a condom the last time they had sex. 

About two thirds of the men in our survey did you a condom the last time they had anal sex. So what about the ones that didn’t use condoms? 50% of these men had sex with either a long-term boyfriend or their husband or civil partner. A further 20% was sex with someone they were dating or had sex with on a regular basis. It won’t be that in every case they would know each other’s HIV  status (or be right about it) but in many cases they would, including some couples were both partners are already living with HIV.

When we asked about the HIV-status of the men who didn’t use a condom with a casual partner only 10% of HIV-positive men didn’t. However 90% of the men who believe themselves to be HIV-negative didn’t use a condom the last time they had anal sex with a casual partner. 

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the whole ‘All gay men are sluts’, ‘HIV-positive men are not responsible’, and ‘Nobody uses condoms any more’ arguments. The reality is, not all men are sluts. We have a lot less sex than you are made to believe. HIV-positive men are usually more responsible in protecting their casual partners than the men who think they are HIV-negative. And although about 34% of men didn’t use a condom the last time they had anal sex, the majority of these are in long term relationships. That’s not to say that not using a condom in a relationship is the best idea but the chances are they know each other’s HIV status or at least have talked about HIV. 

Stats can be great to use. We love using them. But they can be manipulated to create a headline that doesn’t paint a full picture. With this special issue of FS we wanted to give you a fuller picture - away from the click-baiting headlines. This issue will show you a true snapshot of gay men’s sex habits. Read it. Understand it. This survey has opened up my eyes. I hope you all learn something from it too. 

Ian Howley. Editor, FS magazine  



This article is from FS magazine #150