Saturday, 16 September 2017

PhD researcher launches study into sexual health among men who have sex with men

A PhD researcher at Birmingham City University is looking for participants, to take part in a research study.

The researcher is Naomi Pierce, and the study aims to learn about how the social lives of men (specifically men who have sex with men), could help to explain and address unsafe sexual behaviour.

What can research into social lives tell us about sexual wellbeing? 

Sexual transmitted infection (STI) diagnosis rates for men who have sex with men (MSM) in the United Kingdom (UK) are commonly higher than those of the general population.

36% of STI diagnoses in MSM were for gonorrhoea, a disease with reported cases of treatment resistant strains. There has been a 14% increase in syphilis (an STI with potentially serious neurological effects) diagnoses in MSM.

In an effort to tackle this problem, researchers are working to learn more about how the social lives of men could help to explain and address unsafe sexual behaviour.

The size of an individual’s social network, the extent to which men engage with the gay community and attendance at gay bars and clubs are all reported to be associated with unprotected sex.

It is therefore important to understand the relationship between social interaction and sexual health in more detail, and approaching the issue by looking at the role of peer groups (often called sub-cultures or sub-communities) is one way to do this.

Twinks, Bears, Leathers and the numerous other peer groups present with the MSM community are well known to most men, whether or not they are a part of a peer group.

Existing work shows that identifying with a peer group (e.g. feeling part of a community of Bears, Twinks or Leathers for example, having friends in these groups and taking part in associated activities) may contribute to a range of physical, mental and sexual health outcomes.

This furthers our understanding of what is important in helping men in these peer groups to manage their sexual wellbeing, but there is more to be done.

We need to include all MSM in this type of research, including men who don’t identify with a peer group and men with sexual identities other than gay or bisexual.

My research will use the Gay Peer Crowds Questionnaire (GPCQ) to explore the relationship between peer group membership (and non-membership) and sexual health.

The GPCQ has not been used with UK MSM before, and so this is an exciting opportunity to explore whether being part of a peer crowd contributes to men’s sexual wellbeing.

I am currently recruiting men to take part in this study, which involves completing the GPCQ and another questionnaire about sexual behaviour and health.

This should take no longer than 20 minutes. If you are over 16 and would like to take part, you can do so here: CLICK HERE

The study is part of my PhD research, which looks at the role of peer groups and identity in how men understand and manage sexual health risk.

If you would like further information or have any questions or comments on my research, you can contact me via

About Naomi:

I am a PhD researcher in psychology at Birmingham City University, where I am looking at the role of peer groups and identity in how men understand and manage sexual health risk.

My research takes a critical approach to mainstream conceptions of sexual health, through which I hope to challenge stereotypes of MSM as unsafe in their sexual practice, and advocate for increased understanding of the role of social interaction in sexual health.

You can find me on Twitter @PrcNaomi

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