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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Through qualitative interviews with 34 young gay men YGMwe seek to contribute to the literature in this area by focusing on the ways that YGM understand and enact sexual positions during anal sex. Ideas of gender appear to inform part of this process; however, YGM critiqued conventional gender norms and emphasized the centrality of relationships i. HIV prevention researchers have long acknowledged the heightened risk of HIV transmission for sexually receptive partners Kingsley et al.
Examinations of the decision-making around sexual positioning among adult MSM have yielded some important insights into the explicit and understood ways in which gender roles inform negotiations during anal sex. In a formative study with male couples, Kippax and Smith asked participants to characterize men who performed as tops and men who performed as bottoms. The couples gave descriptions heavily steeped in assumptions about the overlap between sexual positioning and gender roles.
Some participants spoke of the receptive partner as possessing effeminate characteristics, linking the preference for anal receptivity to the hegemonic feminine personality traits ased to heterosexual women by traditional gender roles i. These findings suggest that, while attributions of masculinity and femininity are present in MSM sexual encounters, they inadequately capture the dynamics of sexual power between MSM. Recently, researchers have investigated how gender roles may inform negotiations of sexual positioning during anal sex.
These efforts reveal sexual positioning not to be static, but rather to be a dynamic and shifting process with sexual decision-making occurring in relation to traits expressed by sexual partners.
Men believing their partners possessed more masculine physical characteristics e. In that study, men who performed sexually as only a top or only a bottom tended to adhere to those behaviors regardless of the observable gender characteristics of their partners. Some academics have encouraged use of theoretical frameworks outside of gender to understand these sexual dynamics-- Hoppe utilized concepts of power and pleasure to unpack the sexual decision-making of a group of bottom-identified men, a discussion useful in considering how sexually receptive men may be thinking about their sexuality relative to their partners.
Given the ways in which gender roles may inequitably distribute power within heterosexual contexts, we believe it essential to investigate whether the prescriptive use of gender roles similarly create unequal power structures among MSM. With the burden of HIV weighing heavy on young MSM, and little to no research on how gendered dynamics manifest in these younger years, we identified examinations of how gender dynamics operate in the sexual and romantic lives of Older bottom seeking tops as a priority research area. The late teens and early twenties mark a time of transition in the lives of YMSM as they disclose their non-heterosexual identities for what may be the first time to peers and family members.
YMSM are distinct from older cohorts of MSM in many important ways, and their unique identities likely shape the ways they conceive of their sexuality. Coming out as a sexual minority today is associated with a wide spectrum of potential social consequences. Public health researchers have also made the distinction between coming out to friends groups as opposed to family members, as events with different implications Grov et al.
Across the board, the emerging adulthood years appear to be a time of identity development as YMSM come out and contend with the various social reactions to their sexuality.
Recently, investigations of identity among YMSM have showcased ideas of gender as being one area in which these young men construct a self concept distinct from the normative heterosexual narrative. YMSM express an awareness of this friction between their sexual desires and conventional heterosexual gender roles Mustanski et al. For example, YMSM may actively reflect on traditional gender norms modeled to them by male figures during their childhood and look to imbue their own identity with these characteristics, while also adopting feminine-associated traits made permissible by their non-heterosexual identity Mustanski et al.
As a result of this resilience, Older bottom seeking tops assumed gender roles of YMSM today may look very different from culturally mainstream images of manhood. Despite this knowledge base, at present, the public health and sexuality literature remains unclear as to how these shifting ideas of gender among YMSM influence their sexual decisions e.
As a contribution to the literature, using qualitative data, we examined conversations about sexual roles among a sample of YMSM and investigated how, if at all, gender informed their experiences of sexual negotiations.
In this study, we sought to answer three questions:. Thirty-four young gay men participated in semi-structured qualitative interviews investigating their sexual behavior and their use of the internet as a dating tool. To be eligible for participation, recruits had to be between the ages of 18 and 24 i. Participants were primarily recruited through advertisements on two social networking sites i. Social network advertisements were viewable only to men who listed themselves as interested in other men and who fit our age range.
All 34 recruited YMSM self-identified as gay. A third of our sample reported being in a relationship at the time of interview, and over two-thirds i. See Table 1 for detailed descriptive statistics of the sample. Three research assistants trained in qualitative interviewing techniques conducted the interviews over the phone.
The interviewers began by reading a detailed consent that explained the purpose of the study i. YGM were asked to consent both to the interview process and to the use of an audio recorder.
Using a semi-structured interview guide, researchers then conducted an in-depth interview covering topic areas such as relationship expectations, experiences using the internet for dating, sexual behavior with partners met online, sexual roles with partners met online, and HIV prevention. Study data was protected by a Certificate of Confidentiality.
Participants were provided with the opportunity to ask questions or obtain clarification. Participants were then asked to describe their ideal partners and to discuss the characteristics of their last relationship.
Next, we questioned participants about their use of the internet for dating. These prompts investigated the reasons for initially beginning to use the internet as a dating tool, which websites participants preferred, how participants selected a potential partner online, and the advantages and disadvantages to internet dating versus meeting men in public venues i. Participants then walked the interviewer through a play by play of their last sexual experience with someone they had met online, and outlined their beliefs about sexual roles among MSM.
We read the transcribed interviews seeking to understand the ways in which the YGM made meaning of their sexual decisions, as well as how these decision-making descriptions related to societal understandings of gender and sexual Older bottom seeking tops. To begin the analytic process, we created a draft codebook based on the principles of thematic analysis Luborsky, In this stage, the codes developed were deed to identify themes at the semantic level i.
To create this draft codebook, we used our interview questions as a rubric to generate potential codes i. As a research team, we used this draft codebook to review the same pilot transcript independently. Then, we came together to discuss the merits and deficits of these codes in identifying semantic themes.
This triangulation process allowed for the opportunity to address concerns with the codebook and to make appropriate amendments. Once finalized, this codebook guided our first round coding the data corpus i. Subsequently, two members of the team coded each transcript independently, and then came together to resolve any discrepancies between their codes. After resolving coding discrepancies, transcripts and codes were Older bottom seeking tops into NVivo to allow for systematic extraction and reviewing of codes of interest.
Throughout this process, we treated the codebook as a living document—we continually updated the codebook to incorporate semantic themes identified as missing from the original codebook. The end result codebook included themes, definitions, and inclusion and exclusion criteria. At the time we operationalized our data set, we also formulated the research questions that guide this manuscript. After codifying the final data set and specifying our research questions, we sought to identify the latent themes related sexual decision making and gender roles, our particular analytic area of interest.
We acknowledge that there may be other salient issues and themes around sexual decision-making e. Discussions with YGM about sexual positions i. First, YGM described the terms associated with sexual positions as social identities, each with a constellation of gender- and sexuality-based attributes. Second, YGM considered the social value ascribed to men who performed sexually as tops, bottoms, and versatiles.
Finally, YGM narrated the multifaceted ways in which knowledge of gender roles was used in the negotiation of sexual positioning during anal sex. We expand on these domains below. When asked about the meaning of top and bottom, most participants were able to quickly offer two lists of dichotomous identity characteristics that they believed or had heard to be associated with each sexual position.
For some participants, the terms top and bottom referred to highly gendered identities reflecting an essentialist, heterosexual construction of inserting and receiving during a given sexual encounter. As Jaime 1 Age 22, Equally likely states.
However, gender was Older bottom seeking tops the only assumed binary to be at play in the narratives. As Robert Age 20, Equally likely notes. I just fuck people. When describing men who liked to top in relation to men who bottomed, the social deations of gender and sexual orientation were frequently used interchangeably. Freddy Age 22, Top interweaves these two intersecting concepts of gender and orientation in his observation. The bottoms are the softer ones, the feminine ones. Those are usually the bottoms. The tops, I find are more conservative in their ideals of what the role of the man should be.
As a man who prefers to top, he distances himself from bottoms not through their sexual behaviors, but from a critical description of the open, counterculture ways that he believes men who bottom perform gender. Along with the socialized gender attributes linked to sexual postitioning, YGM discussed how sexual positions influenced power relations within a given sexual experience. Many YGM regarded the primary distribution of power as one where tops were the dominant players, structuring the rules of a sexual encounter, and bottoms were passive players, relinquishing control of their sexual experiences.
As Marc Age 22, Bottom states. I actually do not voluntarily top. Marc expresses how the pd dominance of tops plays out in terms of sexual negotiation. In a few cases, the result of this power differential was the bottom forgoing sexual safety along with the sexual control.
Matthew Age 22, Bottom states.Older bottom seeking tops
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“Butch Tops and Femme Bottoms”?: Sexual Roles, Sexual Decision-Making, and Ideas of Gender among Young Gay Men