Written by Guest Contributor: Michael Alvear
There was a big surprise in a recent University of Michigan survey of gay and bisexual men – we’re having more sex with more partners during the pandemic than before it.
Before we analyze the surprising results of this study–and make predictable comments about drunk terror sex–let’s profile the study itself:
Who Did The Study?
Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA
When Was The Study Published?
518 gay and bisexual men, age 18+ recruited through ads in Grindr, Facebook and Instagram. Caption in their ad: “Still getting those DMs during quarantine? Take this survey about COVID-19 and sexual behaviors”.
What Did They Measure?
Participants were asked to report their sexual behavior for two periods: the 3 months prior to the COVID-19 epidemic (November 2019-January 2020 ) and the time since the beginning of the epidemic (February – April 2020).
What were they asked?
To report pre and post-pandemic sexual activity:
- The number of sexual partners
- The number of anal sex partners
- The number of unprotected anal sex
- If they had transactional sex (sex for money).
MY ANALYSIS OF THE STUDY
KEY FINDING: Gay Men Are Having MORE SEX During The Pandemic Than They Did Pre-COVID
There was a mean increase of 2.3 partners.
Why would gay and bisexual men be having more sex during a pandemic when, as of today, 250,000 people have died of COVID-19? Seems like injuries in our community are being caused by gay men falling off their egos onto their IQs.
Looks can be deceiving, though. The University of Michigan study also revealed factors that may be driving this self-destructive behavior. Let’s take a look:
Factor #1: We’re Drinking & Drugging Big Time
Substance use went up by 21% and binge drinking by 30%. We’re drinking and drugging like it’s the Civil War and the doctors are coming to saw our legs off. Correlation doesn’t always mean causation but the authors of the study see a clear link between increased sex and increased drug use:
“Men who reported that their substance use had increased during lockdown were significantly more likely to report increases in number of sex partners, anal sex partners and unprotected sex partners, but there was no significant associations with reporting decreases in substance use.”
At least this makes sense–the higher or drunker you are the more likely you’re going to make harmful decisions. The authors delved into this further when they said:
“These increases in substance and alcohol use may reflect more opportunities for use (while confined to the home and not in a work place settings) and may also reflect an increase in negative coping behaviors in response to high levels of stress and uncertainty during the epidemic.”
Factor #2: We’re Science Deniers
The study reveals that half of all gay men do not believe they can get COVID-19 through sex. Whaaaaa? If that doesn’t make you want to pronounce all 4 e’s in shit I don’t know what will.
Trying to understand this baffling finding, the authors believe that gay men have made a distinction between kissing ( 94% believed you could get infected kissing) and sex (50% believe you can’t get infected through anal, oral or manual as long as there’s no kissing).
Here’s what they said:
“…while participants almost universally agreed that COVID-19 could be transmitted through kissing, only about half of respondents believed it could be transmitted through other sex acts. There is currently no evidence that the COVID-19 virus is transmitted through semen , however, each of these sex acts obviously requires men to be in close physical contact with another person, and it is possible that men are focusing on the perceived lower risk of transmission via the sex act at the expense of the risk of transmission by being physically close to a partner.”
Here’s what they didn’t say: Our collective common sense has hit rock bottom…and started digging.
Factor # 3: We Believe It Can’t Happen To Us
A lot of us believe the pandemic is happening to other people in other places, and that somehow our potential sex partners in the cities we live in are immune. We believe as the authors put it, “that COVID-19 exists elsewhere and happens to other people.”
In other words, Denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.
Factor #4: We Ain’t Doing So Well
11.8% reported food insecurity, 1.4% reported having transactional sex for the first time in their lives, 4.1% experienced homelessness. And we’ve already talked about the rise of alcohol and drug use. The authors of the study believe these circumstances account for a big portion of the increased number of sex partners.
Our sad and unsettling circumstances are influencing our decision-making. What’s another glass of water to a drowning man?
Factor #5: We Have More Opportunities To Play Hide-The-Sausage
Study: “Stay-at-home orders have disrupted daily routines for many, and it is possible that for some this may create more opportunities for sexual activity (i.e. sex when they normally would have been in the workplace).”
Makes sense. Got laid off? Time to get laid.
Mix stress, drugs, alcohol, and across-the-board life disruptions and what do you get? Terror sex as a coping strategy.
As the authors noted, “Both increased sexual activity and substance use may be coping strategies for the stress of living in lockdown.”
Indeed. But let’s not forget the role of stupidity. Seems like half of us are drinking from the fountain of knowledge while the other half is gargling.
Michael Alvear has been writing about gay sex for over twenty years. He starred in an international hit TV show called The Sex Inspectors that aired in 12 countries, including HBO in the U.S. and Channel 4 in the UK. He’s authored many books, including Amazon’s top-selling gay sex guide, How To Bottom Like A Porn Star