Unique study examines feelings of love tied to sex between gay and bisexual men

February 5, 2014 by Tracy James, Indiana University
Unique study examines feelings of love tied to sex between gay and bisexual men
Debby Herbenick. Credit: Indiana University

(Medical Xpress)—A first-of-its-kind study by researchers at George Mason University and Indiana University Bloomington draws some conclusions to an age-old question: What does love have to do with sex, in particular, among gay and bisexual men in the United States?

While most research about love has been conducted among heterosexual-identified individuals or opposite-sex couples, the focus of this study on same-sex couples suggests experiences of love are far more similar than different regardless of .

The study, published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, finds nearly all (92.6 percent) men whose most recent sexual event occurred with a relationship partner indicated being in love with the partner at the time they had sex.

"This study is important because of myths and misunderstandings that separate men from love, even though the capacity to love and to want to be loved in return is a human capacity and is not limited by gender or sexual orientation," said Debby Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington.

This is the first time a study has described sexual behaviors engaged in by those men who report being in love, or not, during a given sexual event with a same-sex partner.

"Given the recent political shifts around the Defense of Marriage Act and same-sex marriage in the United States, these findings highlight the prevalence and value of loving feelings within same-sex relationships," said lead investigator Joshua G. Rosenberger, professor at George Mason University's Department of Global and Community Health.

Researchers collected data from an Internet-based survey of almost 25,000 gay and residing in the U.S. who were members of online websites facilitating social or sexual interactions with other men.

"Given the extent to which so much research is focused on the negative aspects of among gay men, particularly as it relates to HIV infection, we were interested in exploring the role of positive affect (in this case, love) during a specific sexual event," Rosenberger said.

Additional key findings include:

  • Nearly all men in the study, 91.2 percent, were "matched" when it came to their feelings of love and their perceptions of their partner's feelings of love.
  • With regard to age, having been in love with their during their sexual event was experienced most commonly by men age 30 to 39 years. Uncertainty of love for a sexual partner was less frequent in older cohorts, with a greater proportion of young men reporting that they were unsure if they loved their sexual partner or if their sexual partner loved them.
  • Men in love with their partner were significantly more likely to endorse the experience as being extremely or quite a bit pleasurable compared to sexual events in which the participant was not in love.

"We found it particularly interesting that the vast majority of men reported sex with someone they felt 'matched' with in terms of love, meaning that most people who were in love had sex with the person they loved, but that there were also a number of who had sex in the absence of love," Herbenick said. "Very few people had sex with someone they loved if that person didn't love them back." This "matching" aspect of , she said, has not been well explored in previous research, regardless of sexual orientation.

Explore further: New study finds gay and bisexual men have varied sexual repertoires

Related Stories

New study finds gay and bisexual men have varied sexual repertoires

October 18, 2011
A new study by researchers at Indiana University and George Mason University found the sexual repertoire of gay men surprisingly diverse, suggesting that a broader, less disease-focused perspective might be warranted by public ...

Women with a high economic status claim to have better sex

January 15, 2014
An analysis based on the first Spanish National Sexual Health Survey, carried out in 2009, confirms that socioeconomic factors affect sexual satisfaction. People with a lower economic status claim to be less sexually satisfied, ...

Love matters: Internet hookups for men don't always mean unsafe sex

May 23, 2011
If a gay or bisexual man seeks sex or dating online, the type of partner or relationship he wants is a good indicator of whether he'll engage in safe sex, a new study suggests.

New study finds clients want real love from sex workers

August 8, 2012
While it is commonly believed that men who pay for sex are attempting to avoid emotional commitment, a new study finds that men who become regular clients of sex workers often develop feelings of romance and love. This study ...

Recommended for you

Best of Last Year—The top Medical Xpress articles of 2017

December 20, 2017
It was a good year for medical research as a team at the German center for Neurodegenerative Diseases, Magdeburg, found that dancing can reverse the signs of aging in the brain. Any exercise helps, the team found, but dancing ...

Pickled in 'cognac', Chopin's heart gives up its secrets

November 26, 2017
The heart of Frederic Chopin, among the world's most cherished musical virtuosos, may finally have given up the cause of his untimely death.

Sugar industry withheld evidence of sucrose's health effects nearly 50 years ago

November 21, 2017
A U.S. sugar industry trade group appears to have pulled the plug on a study that was producing animal evidence linking sucrose to disease nearly 50 years ago, researchers argue in a paper publishing on November 21 in the ...

Female researchers pay more attention to sex and gender in medicine

November 7, 2017
When women participate in a medical research paper, that research is more likely to take into account the differences between the way men and women react to diseases and treatments, according to a new study by Stanford researchers.

Drug therapy from lethal bacteria could reduce kidney transplant rejection

August 3, 2017
An experimental treatment derived from a potentially deadly microorganism may provide lifesaving help for kidney transplant patients, according to an international study led by investigators at Cedars-Sinai.

Exploring the potential of human echolocation

June 25, 2017
People who are visually impaired will often use a cane to feel out their surroundings. With training and practice, people can learn to use the pitch, loudness and timbre of echoes from the cane or other sounds to navigate ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.