Words by Stuart Haggas | @GetStuart 
Photos by Chris Jepson | © www.chrisjepson.com @chrisjepson


“Sex now?” Yes, we’re asking. Because for this milestone 150th issue of FS, our aim is to present a snapshot of the kind of sex that gay and bisexual men are having in Britain and Ireland today in all its real glory.

We asked single guys, guys who are dating, guys in open and monogamous relationships, and married/civil partnered guys all about the best sex, the worst sex, the most sex, the least sex, what type of sex… and a whopping 3,141 of you responded.

“This is the biggest survey that FS has ever carried out,” says Ian Howley, Chief Executive of GMFA. “With over 3,000 responses it gives a fascinating snapshot of the kind of sex that gay and bisexual men in the UK are having, what they enjoy and what they are doing, or not doing, to maintain their sexual health.”

SINGLE MEN



42% of the gay and bisexual men who took our survey identified themselves as single. 


When asked when they last had sex: 

  • 6% said they’d had sex today (the day they took the survey). 
  • 33% said in the last week. 
  • 19% said a couple of weeks ago.


Who did they have sex with?

  • 58% of single men said the last man they had sex with was a casual sex partner. 
  • 19% said it was a sex buddy. 
  • 16% said it was someone they were dating or a long-term partner. 
  • 4% said it was group sex, and 
  • 3% said it was a threesome. 
  • 44% met that last partner via a dating/sex app.


When asked how many sexual partners they had in the last year:

  • 9% of single men said they’d had no sexual partners in the past year,
  • 9% had just one partner, reiterating that being single doesn’t necessarily equate to having lots of sex. 
  • 26% said they had 2-4 sexual partners in the past year. 
  • 27% said 5-12 partners. 
  • 15% said13-29 partners. 
  • 11% said 30-99. 
  • 3% said over 100.


So what’s sex like for single gay and bisexual men?

“I have lots of sex but with guys I’m not emotionally involved with,” says Dan, 26 from Essex. “I would like to have intimate, loving sex.”

“I love sex and get a good amount of satisfying, varied sex,” agrees David, 25 from Belfast. “I would like to have a more regular partner though.”

“I have casual sex with guys I meet on Grindr, which might be enjoyable a lot of the time but is ultimately quite unfulfilling,” admits Simon, 39 from Bristol. “I would prefer to be in a relationship.”

“I’m very happy, but sometimes I think I should be monogamous after having two STIs,” adds Jack, 21 from Cambridgeshire. “I love having fun though. Sex is constantly on my mind”. 

“When I’m involved with someone it’s great, and I only engage in anything sexual when I know the person sufficiently well,” says Lee, 34 from Liverpool. “Although my work/life balance always gets in the way of being able to make enough time for that.”

“The reason my sex life is on its arse, and not in a good way, is because I’m a workaholic,” admits Josh, 24 from Sheffield. “I’m a classical musician, and more often than not I put practicing and work before any kind of sex life. Also, I guess on some level, gay sex terrifies me.”

“Because I lack self-confidence I don’t go to gay bars or date,” says Alex, 46 from London. “So the sex I get is through online apps or sites.”

“It’s horribly unpredictable,” says Joe, 22 from Waterford. “You can get lucky with sex buddies and have it a few times a week. On the other hand, you can go weeks or months without it.”

“I am happy but it’s hard not to compare yourself to your peers,” says James, 23 from London. “Sometimes it feels like I’m not having enough, because my friends seem to be having more. Then you actually talk to them and it turns out they’re boasting because they’re also insecure about how much sex they’re having, and the cycle continues.”


RISK OF BEING SINGLE

770 (58%) of these single men said they fucked and/or got fucked the last time they had sex. 

  • 53% used a condom when fucking. 
  • 46% didn’t.
  • 1% couldn’t remember.


- Only 23% of these men asked about his HIV status before having sex.
- 31% said they didn’t need to ask because they already knew – with almost half (44%) not asking.

“I think that people with HIV should tell someone rather than wait to be asked,” says Tom, 25 from Bristol.

“I assume if someone is HIV-positive they would make it known to a sexual partner,” says Hamish, 22 from Glasgow.

“It didn’t cross my mind,” adds Nick, 36 from London. “I’d like to think that someone would be honest enough to admit to being positive before we got undressed and got into bed.”

“Because he was a doctor,” says Chris, 23 from Gloucester. ‘I’m sure he would have been honest, and careful in the past.”

“He was a straight guy with a girlfriend who was curious about being with a guy,” explains Aaron, 22 from Dublin, “so I assumed, as he has been with that person a while, he was negative.”

“It was with my ex partner,” says Adam, 28 from Liverpool. “We had split up a month previously, but still live together at the moment. I’m certain he’s not slept with anyone else yet.”

Leon is 20, from Ipswich and HIV-negative. “I’ll ask if he has any STIs and when the last time he went for a screening was,” he says. “Usually when I’m dating someone I don’t have penetrative sex until a couple of months into it. And I date people who go to get screened all of the time.” The last time Leon had sex was with a guy he’s been dating for three months, and they fucked without a condom. “I bottomed. It was good sex, positions changed, but he came quicker than I wanted him to and he didn’t help me cum afterwards.”

Can is 29 from London and HIV-negative. He asked his last sexual partner what his HIV status was. “Because I wanted to make sure he was undetectable, and he was,” he says, “so I agreed to participate in bareback sex.”

John is 36 from London and HIV-negative. He also asked his last sexual partner what his status was. “I asked about his status in order to have a better idea of the chances of catching HIV, and to decide whether to have protected or unprotected sex.” They met via a dating app, and they had unprotected sex. “I was a bit tipsy and horny, so I decided to meet up with this guy after a night of clubbing. He was older than my usual age range, but sexy. He fucked me. As soon as I came I just wanted to go home! Luckily he came soon afterwards. I had a quick shower and ran home.”

“By just asking about the most recent sex that they had, we can see that a lot of men didn’t use condoms,” acknowledges GMFA’s Ian Howley. “For some that may be because they’re in long term relationships and are confident that they have the same HIV status as their partners. But there’s a significant number of men fucking unprotected with casual partners, in addition to the risks that men may be taking when they assume that their regular partner shares their status.”

DATING


262 (8.3%) of gay and bisexual men said they’re currently dating, of which: 

  • 14% said they’d had sex the day they took the survey. 
  • 55% said in the previous week.
  • 14% said a couple of weeks ago.

Who was it with?

  • 69% of these guys said the last man they had sex with was the guy they’re dating (23% describing this person as a boyfriend or long-term partner).
  • 21% said it was a casual sex partner. 
  • 8% said a sex buddy. 
  • 1% said it was a threesome.
  • 1% said it was group sex.

When asked how many sexual partners they had in the last year:

  • 20% of men who said they’re dating had just the one sexual partner in the past year. 
  • 29% said they had 2-4 sexual partners in the past year. 
  • 30% said 5-12 partners. 
  • 11% said 13-29 partners. 
  • 7% said more than 30. 
  • 3% said more than 100.

So what’s sex like for men who are dating?

“I am currently happy with the amount of sex I have, but it would be better if I loved/was loved back by my partner, rather than just fun as usual,” says David, 24 from London. “But yes, my sex life itself is good.”

“We have been dating for about six weeks and not done anal yet,” says Sam, 37 from Birmingham. “He is openly quite inexperienced sexually, so it’s been all about intimacy and touching so far”

“I literally just learned how to bottom with this guy I’ve been dating,” says Matt, 25 from Manchester. “My arse is really tight, and I’m really not much of a top – so I’d always considered anal sex to not be for me. But my mind has been blown! Some of the best orgasms I’ve had have been when I’m bottoming. I can’t accommodate big penises though. I’m just glad I’ve discovered this at 25 and not later – I already feel like I’ve lagged behind.”

“I have started dating one guy. We are not committed yet, but I want an open relationship,” says Alex, 40 from London. “I don’t want to be in a committed relationship only to find a year later it fails due to sexual from urges. I differentiate being in love from the need for the occasional anonymous shag. Many don’t. Society views gays wanting open relationships as immoral and bad. My last 13 year relationship ended recently as my partner wanted to remain monogamous for life and I didn’t. So although I am happy with my current sex life with the guy I’m dating for a month, I will want more interactions with other people in the future. In fact, whilst I’ve been dating him, I’ve has two hook ups with regular fuck buddies.”

DATING DECISIONS

170 of these respondents said they fucked and/or got fucked the last time they had sex, of which: 

  • 43% said they used a condom
  • 57% said they didn’t.
  • Only 22% of these men asked about his HIV status before having sex.
  • 47% said they didn’t need to ask because they already knew, with 
  • 28% not asking, 
  • 3% couldn’t remember.

“I stupidly assumed that he was negative without ever discussing it beforehand,” says Jemal, 25 for London.

“I couldn’t be bothered asking him,” says Dave, 26 from Limerick.

“I never asked because he’s 21,three years younger than me and has only been having gay sex for a year,” says David, 24 from London, “and I thought he would be safe.”

“I was confident that he was negative,” says Joseph, 22 from London. “It is very rare to ask, very common for me and my friends to assume that guys our age are extremely unlikely to be HIV-positive.”

OPEN RELATIONSHIP


228 respondentS (7.3%) said they were in an open relationship. When asked when they’d last had sex.

  • 16% said they’d had sex the day they took the survey. 
  • 59% said in the previous week.
  • 14% said a couple of weeks ago.

Who was it with?

  • 34% of these guys said the last man they had sex with was their boyfriend or long-term partner. 
  • 35% their most recent sex was with a casual sex partner. 
  • 12% was with a sex buddy. 
  • 8% was as part of a threesome. 
  • 6% was group sex.  
  • 5% was with a date.

When asked how many sexual partners they had in the last year:

  • Only 5% of men in open relationships have had just the one sexual partner in the past year. 
  • 21% said they’ve had 2-4 sexual partners in the past year. 
  • 29% said 5-12 partners. 
  • 24% said13-29. 
  • 25% said 30-99. 
  • 5% said more than 100.

So what’s sex like for men who are in open relationships?

“I’ve got a wonderful long-term partner, and a happy and active sex life,” says Rob, 26 from Dorset. “We’re open and occasionally get involved in threesomes with mutual friends, in addition to our own extra-curricular activities.” 

Rob most recently had sex with a guy he first met nine months ago on Grindr. “It quickly moved to WhatsApp, regular chats, but we were but both in open relationships so never had time to meet,” he explains. “We eventually found a time to get together at his place and had a fun hook-up. Always prefer it when it’s more than just physical and you can have a chat/laugh at the same time.”

“My current partner and I have an open relationship, so if I want sex with other people I can have it,” says Alois, 17 from Plymouth. “We’re both really communicative, so we both know what the other one is in to. Plus it’s really respectful. I always use a condom.”

“Sex is not totally fulfilling in the relationship, though other aspects of it are,” says Geoff, 48 from London. “I feel the desire to look for sex outside the relationship, hence we’ve agreed a level of openness.”

 “I think I could make more time for sex,” says Simon, 27 from Milton Keynes. “We do make time for threesomes and fun with others, but don’t always make enough time with each other.”

“I have a lot of sex, but I virtually never have sex with my boyfriend,” admits John, 32 from London. “Which is sad.”

“I am happy with the fact that I am now, finally, in an open relationship with my partner of four years,” says Michael, 35 from London, “but he doesn’t seem to be dealing well with it. It might actually cost our relationship as he is giving indications we might have to break up. That said, I am 100% secure in my need to have an open relationship – monogamy is definitely not for me.”

OPEN FUCK

151 of these respondents said they fucked and/or got fucked the last time they had sex of which:

  • 57% said they didn’t use a condom. 43% of men did you a condom.

“My boyfriend and I have been tested together and only bareback with each other,” says Cian, 29 from Manchester. “If we play with others then condoms are always brought in.”

“I never have sex without a condom and feel no desire to,” says J, 26 from London. The last time he had sex was with a casual sex partner he met in a pub. “I’m mainly top. I was using a condom, and he said he used them regularly.”

Sam is 22, from Chesterfield. His most recent sex was with a guy he met via a sex app. They didn’t use a condom, but Sam did ask what the other guy’s HIV status was. “Just to know whether to use protection,” he explains, “but we were both negative so we agreed that it was hotter to do without.”

Rob is 45, from Cheltenham. His most recent sex was an anonymous threesome in a sex club, and they fucked without using condoms. “I’m currently using PrEP with no side effects. I need to shop around as it’s a fraction of the price in the USA. PrEP helps reduce the chances of catching HIV – and yes I know there are other risks.”

MONOGAMOUS


781 respondents (24.9%) said they were in a monogamous relationship. When asked when they’d last had sex: 

  • 21% said they’d had sex the day they took the survey. 
  • 58% said in the previous week.
  • 11% said in the last couple of weeks. 

Monogamous gay men have had sex more recently than any other category.

Who was it with? 

Now you may think, what a stupid question! For almost everyone in monogamous relationships, the last man they had sex with was their boyfriend/husband/civil partner. However: 

  • For 3% their most recent sex was with a casual sex partner. 
  • 1% was as part of a threesome.
  • 1% was with a sex buddy.

So 5% of gay men in a monogamous relationship had sex with someone who wasn’t their partner. 

When asked how many sexual partners they had in the last year:

  • 58% of men currently in a monogamous relationship have had just the one sexual partner in the past year. 
  • 22% said they had 2-4 sexual partners in the past year.
  • 11% said 5-12 partners. 
  • 7% said more than 12. 

Of course some of these sexual partners may have been prior to deciding to have a monogamous relationship.

So what’s sex like for men who are in a monogmous relationship?

“As it is my long term partner, I always feel satisfied and safe to explore with him in the bedroom,” says Mikey, 31 from Birmingham. “I know what he likes and he knows what I like, so we feel comfortable enough to enjoy sex from mutual masturbation to oral to anal.”

“I had a great time last time I had sex,” says Tyler, 24 from London. “My boyfriend was kissing me all over, biting my neck, paying my nipples lots of attention while wanking me off. Then I was bent over and lightly spanked while he rimmed me, fingering me, before sliding his cock inside me. We both like it pretty rough so he fucked me hard. Then he lay down and I climbed on top, riding his cock so he could wank me off at the same time. We both shot a load at the same time. He came inside me while I came all over his chest.”

“It’s not something I’d rate!” says Tim, 32 from London. “It’s OK, I guess. Our relationship is more than just that. Although sex is rateable I don’t see the point of giving it a rating as different times we have sex it’s different. It’s like rating a restaurant meal you’ve had; they’re all different.”

“I am in a happy monogamous relationship and enjoy a great active sex life,’ says David, 29 from London. “I always like to try new things in the bedroom and keep an element of surprise. Lots of sex with someone you love is the best sort of sex – far better than a sexual encounter/hook-up with a random guy.”

MONOGAMY CHOICES

The vast majority (86%) of those in monogamous relationships didn’t use a condom the last time they had sex.

 “We are in a committed monogamous relationship of four years,” says Arron, 23 from Shrewsbury. “We are both open and honest and get checked regularly as we practice non-safe anal sex.”

“We have been together a long time, and get checked together,” says Sam, 23 from London.

“We were tested together and received our results together, so we know each other’s status,” adds Jay, 35 from Swindon.

“I make sure that a new boyfriend goes with me to get a full STI screen, and then repeat it three months later when the window period has passed,” says Gareth, 28 from Stoke-on-Trent.

“We checked our HIV status when we both started dating,” explains Jonathan, 28 from Manchester. “I’ve been positive for 11 years, and always use a condom with casual partners even though I’m undetectable. My partner was much more recently diagnosed. We asked my consultant to check if we had similar strains of the virus, so we had little to no chance of viral mutations. Once we had that information we felt comfortable to have more adventurous sex without condoms, and continued to explore and play more in the bedroom, building our intimacy and trust.”

MARRIED/CIVIL PARTNER



261 respondents (8.3%) said they were married or civil partnered. When asked when they’d last had sex:

  • 20% said they’d had sex the day they took the survey. 
  • 48% said in the previous week   
  • 16% said in the last couple of weeks.

Who was it with?

For the majority (75%) of these guys, the last man they had sex with was their husband/civil partner. However: 

  • For 12% their most recent sex was with a casual sex partner.
  • 5% was with a sex buddy.
  • 4% was as part of a threesome.
  • 4% was group sex.

When asked how many sexual partners they’ve had in the last year?

  • 53% of married /civil partnered men have had just the one sexual partner in the past year. 
  • 16% said they’ve had 2-4 sexual partners in the past year. 
  • 10% said 5-12. 
  • 11% said 13-29. 
  • 9% said more than 30.

So what’s sex like for married or civil partnered men?

“It had been a while since we last had anal sex so it hurt a bit to start off with,” says JJ, 24 from Oxford, “but when we got into a rhythm – my husband knows what he is doing – it was the normal great sex we usually have. My husband is a top. I am versatile. It can be frustrating when I am feeling dominant and he isn’t feeling passive, but we are talking it through and trying to find alternatives. We have had a successful threesome: it was spontaneous and enjoyable, and was the last time I was a top.”

“It was with my husband and we’ve been having sex for a long time. So it wasn’t awkward, it was good and it was loving,” says Edward, 45 from London.

“It was with my husband in bed on Sunday morning,” says William, 56 from Plymouth. “He fucked me. We both enjoyed it. It was as much an affirmation of the love we share as it was physical. Sometimes the frequency drops off but then it comes back again. It’s only a minor concern for me, and I don’t think it concerns my husband at all. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have sex with other men, but my husband would never go for it, and I think it’s best kept as a fantasy. No situation is perfect but a happy, faithful marriage comes closest in my honest opinion.”

MARRIAGE VOWS

147 of these respondents said they fucked and/or got fucked the last time they had sex, with 74% of married guys saying they didn’t use a condom.

Philip is 36, from Aberdeen, and he most recently had unprotected passive anal sex with his husband. “He’s my partner of eight years, we have an honest relationship with similar views. The relationship is based on trust.”

“We knew each other’s status when we got together,” adds Lukas, 29 from Winchester, who also has unprotected sex with his husband. “We have been together ten years. We have a general health check-up every few years whenever we can.”

Derek is 39 from Westmeath. He’s passive and he and his husband use condoms when they fuck. “So we both know where we are.”

HAPPY SEX LIFE?



Who is having the better sex life? We asked everyone who took the survey if they were happy with their current sex life. Overall 47% said they were happy while 37% said they were not. 15% weren’t sure. But when we broke it down:

Only 27% of single men were happy with their sex life, compared with:

  • 58% of men who are dating.
  • 65% of men who are in monogmous relationships.
  • 53% who are in open relationships.
  • 63% of men who are married or in a civil partnership.

Why are single gay men so unhappy with their sex lives?

“I just feel that everyone is having better sex that me,” says James from London. “Sometimes it can be difficult to have the sex that I want. It’s easy to find sex but it’s not always great so I end up feeling dissapointed or sad afterwards”. He adds: “Ideally I would like to be in a relationship. The last time I was really happy with myself and my sex life was when I was dating.”

Simon from Cardif agrees. “The last time I was really happy with my sex life was when I had a partner. Don’t get me wrong, it can be great to be single but sex without a connection is just sex, I have a lot of sex I just miss the connection.”



HIV/STI CHECK UP

Regarding STIs, we asked everyone surveyed when they last had a sexual health test. 

  • 15% said in the last month. 
  • 30% said 1-6 months. 
  • 14% said 6-12 months. 
  • 17% said 1-3years.
  • 10% said over 3 years.
  • 14% said never. 

Almost half have had a sexual health test in the past six months. We then asked when was the last time they had an STI: 

  • 3% said in the past month.
  • 7% said 1-6 months. 
  • 6% said 6-12 months. 
  • 14% said 1-3 years. 
  • 20% said over 3 years. 
  • 44% said they’ve never had one 
  • 6% said they weren’t sure. 

The most common STIs were gonorrhoea, chlamydia, crabs, warts, syphilis. This suggests that the majority of gay men have regular sexual health checks, and the majority never or rarely catch STIs.

Who tests the most?

  • 65% of single men have tested for HIV and STIs within the last year.
  • 71% of men who are dating have tested in the last year.
  • 49% of men in a monogamous have tested.
  • 70% of men in an open relationship have tested. 
  • Only 36% of men married or in a civil partnership have tested for STIs/HIV in the last year.

Gay and bisexual men dating or in an open relationship test most often for STIs/HIV. Just under two-thirds of single men have tested.

GAY MEN’S HEALTH

Considering a potential of 14% of gay and bisexual men have never tested for STIs or HIV, is there enough being done to encoursge gay men to look after their sexual health? We asked Public Health England’s Luis Guerra for his thoughts. 

“I do believe Britain’s sexual health services are doing a fantastic job... with those who are able to gain access to it,” says Luis.

 “And yes, we absolutely must worry about minority groups who do not have the same opportunities to access services, since they are the most affected by the epidemic. We need to remember there are considerable inequalities in the distribution of STIs across the population. All our prevention efforts should include equal access to sexual health services for all, with strong emphasis on the most affected communities including young people, ethnic minorities and the LGBTQ community.”

Ian Howley of GMFA says: “The results of the survey demonstrate that many gay men do well in relationships. Often we are portrayed as being promiscuous, and we do tend to have more sexual partners than our heterosexual brothers, but most of our respondents were in a relationship of one sort or another and these men were having more sex, and were usually happier with their sex lives, than the men who were single. The idea that gay men can’t have fulfilling or long-term sexual relationships doesn’t ring true.

“The sexual safety strategies that some men adopt does give cause for concern though. It’s very easy in the heat of lust or love to assume that your partner shares the same HIV status as you, and you might find clues, such as their past sexual behaviour or age, that makes you think these are true - but this isn’t reliable. Testing and continuing to talk honestly with each other about the sex you have, with each other and with other people, is necessary if you’re not going to take other precautions.” 


Useful links:

Know what’s risky and what’s not. Visit GMFA’s ‘How risky is’ section at www.gmfa.org.uk/how-risky-is.

Condoms and lube: www.gmfa.org.uk/condoms-and-lube.


This article is from FS magazine #150


INTERACTIVE: