A survey of 4,193 men living in New York City conducted by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene found that nearly 10 percent of male participants who identified themselves as straight reported having sex with at least one man during the previous year.
The study, “Discordance between Sexual Behavior and Self-Reported Sexual Identity: A Population-Based Survey of New York City Men,” is published in the Sept. 19, 2006, issue of Annals of Internal Medicine.
Compared to men who identified themselves as gay, these men were more likely to belong to a minority racial or ethnic group, be foreign-born, have a lower educational level, and live outside Manhattan. Seventy percent reported being married. This group also was less likely to have been tested for HIV infection during the previous year and less likely to have used a condom during the last sexual encounter than men who identified themselves as gay.
“Doctors need to ask patients about specific sexual practices instead of relying on self-reported sexual orientation to assess risk for unsafe sexual practices and risk for sexually transmitted diseases,” said Preeti Pathela, DrPH, lead author of the study. “Public health prevention messages should target risky sexual activities, such as unprotected receptive anal sex, and should not be framed to appeal solely to gay-identified men.”
This study is one of the largest U.S. population-based surveys to report on the contrast between a man’s self-identified sexual identity and his actual sexual behaviors.