Study Concludes LGBTQ Sexual Activity Down but Some Who Do Hedge the Truth

Tuesday July 28, 2020

With porn viewing up and hook-up sites encouraging virtual dating, it should surprise no one that sexual activity in the LGBTQ population fell substantially since the start of the pandemic; and a study from Vanderbilt University supports that conclusion.

While the report is underscores how the LGBTQ community has effectively altered their behavior since mid-March, it also says that some who continue to meet up are not being completely truthful if they have had COVID-19 symptoms prior to hooking up.

The 25-page report, available in full at this link, are the results of a survey conducted between April 10 and May 10 during which 1,968 LGBTQ individuals completed an online survey including 728 gay and bisexual men. Participants were recruited using advertisements for LGBTQ adults aged 18 or older on two social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, and on the hookup app Grindr.

Focusing on changes to sexual behavior in response to the pandemic, it found "that many gay and bisexual men made significant changes to their sexual behavior and partner selection. Nine out of 10 men in our sample reported having either one sexual partner or no sexual partner in the last 30 days, which, for many, was a substantial decrease compared to just before the pandemic."

Kinds of behaviors also changed with virtual sex and masturbation becoming more popular. Those who did have sex inquired about their partner's COVID-19 status; but found that despite "widespread expectations that partners disclose symptoms" only 4 in 10 "reported notifying a partner with whom the respondent had had significant contact (more than 15 minutes together, less than 6 feet away) that they had symptoms or had been diagnosed with COVID-19."

Sexual behavior was down significantly. "In the first month of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, more than half (59%) of the sample reported not having sex. For about half (47%) of these men, no sex was less sex than they were having before the pandemic Among men who did have sex, most reported having just one sexual partner (78%) in the last 30 days. Again, for many (26%), this was fewer partners than before the start of the pandemic. About 9% reported having more than one partner in the last 30 days. Many in this group (40%) also reported having fewer partners in the last 30 days compared to before the epidemic. Put another way, about 1 in 5 men report normally having more than one partner (18.7%), while just 1 in 10 (9.4%) report having more than one partner in the last 30 days between April 10 and May 10, 2020."

The report also reported frequency of masturbation is up "with over one third (35%) of men reported masturbating more now compared with before the pandemic."

Some men wrote of having "stress and anxiety decreased the amount of sex they could or wanted to have," which may be why hookup sites use is down. Of the 345 who reported they hook-up sites or apps (n=345) also reported using them less now (53%). Additionally, used such sites, 53% reported they were using them less. And those who do (n=278) "87% reported reducing the number of people they met in person and almost 33% reported using video or chat functions to have virtual sex with a partner in the last week."

How COVID-19 impacts the HIV positive population was also of great concerns by those surveyed. "80% of HIV positive men expressed these concerns." These concerns were also "prevalent among HIV negative men; and "40% also reported concern about how HIV might affect COVID-19 risk, treatment, and recovery."

While acknowledging the study didn't sample the entire LGBTQ population and was of a relatively short duration, the researchers concluded they are "already seeing dramatic changes, noting how the LGBTQ community shifted their behavior during the AIDS epidemic.

"Gay and bisexual men made substantial changes over the last four decades to how they have approached sex. Importantly, these changes were not always consistently implemented or sustainable over time. It will be important to see what new adaptive behaviors develop and how sustainable the changes we have observed here remain as the crisis continues over the next weeks and months."