Monday, September 18, 2006

A Couple Odd Studies

Some new relevant research:

Sackoff, J. E., D. B. Hanna, et al. (2006). "Causes of Death among Persons with AIDS in the Era of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy: New York City." Annals of Internal Medicine 145(6): 397-406.

“Non–HIV-related causes of death account for one fourth of all deaths of persons with AIDS.”
Good news there, it seems. But this is the one that struck me as really odd:

Pathela, P., A. Hajat, et al. (2006). "Discordance between Sexual Behavior and Self-Reported Sexual Identity: A Population-Based Survey of New York City Men." Annals of Internal Medicine 145(6): 416-425.

"Of New York City men reporting a sexual identity [gay or straight], 12% reported sex with other men."

"Many New York City men who have sex with men do not identify as gay."
This is from a sample of 4193 men. I wish I had found this while at work, as I won’t be able to see the full text until tomorrow, but a news report on the research, here, says:

“10 percent of men interviewed in New York who identified themselves as heterosexual reported having sex with at least one man during the previous year.”

70 percent of the men [I'd assume of that 10%?] who had sex with other men were married [to women?].”
Wow. Something seems off there, maybe the reporter’s mistake? I’ll have to read the study tomorrow.

Perhaps this just shows how unreliable interviews are, but even if it’s half true… You gays married to women are not that alone.

More data in the comments


santorio said...

so what do you think it is: are they curious [winston churchill was curious about gay sex almost to the point of accepting a proposition of sorts, then backed off worried about his future political career]? or lonely like the sailor or lumberjack? or just horny, looking for the closest/easiest/cheapest warm body? look up men seeking men on craigslist: there are so many that are self-described 'straight' but there they are looking for gay sex.

Chris said...

I think there are just a lot of gay men in denial about their sexuality, even in New York City.

Scot said...


I have to admit, a straight man having sex with men is something I have a hard time understanding and would lean to Chris’ explanation. They are likely gay men who can’t call themselves gay, or bisexuals who’d otherwise be garden-variety philanderers.

It’s likely wrong to assume all straight men are as straight as I am gay, but curiosity doesn’t seem to be enough; other incentives would be needed (and what gay man would’ve propositioned Winston Churchill?! ;-)). Also, one would think there are enough fish in the New York sea for the lonely sailor.

I should be able to take a look at the study in the afternoon. It should shed far more light on these men and the questions they were asked.

Scot said...

I have the study now and it’s pretty much what I pasted. There are 8 questions, all pretty straightforward (but they certainly could be skewed with lies one way or the other).

Of men:
91.3% reported straight or heterosexual
3.7% gay identity
1.2% bisexual
1.7% “not sure or don’t know”
2.1% to answer the question.

70.6% reported having sex with only women,
9.3% sex with only men
0.8% sex with men and women
19.3% no sexual activity during the past year.

9% of all straight men say they’ve had sex with at least one man in the last year.
70% of those are married.
54% of straight-identified men who have sex with women are married.
0.2% of men who say they’re gay have sex with men reported being married.

So the group to most likely to be married are self identified straight men that also have sex with men. They are far more likely to me married than straight men not having sex with men.

0.1% are men claiming to be gay and having sex with women (that’d be about 4.9% of the “gay” group, compared to the 9% of straight men having sex with men).

Any curiosities?

-L- said...

I think this is interesting, but I prefer to emphasize what it doesn't say. It doesn't say anything about society in general (outside New York). It may not even say anything about New Yorkers, depending on randomization and sample size (etc.). It doesn't say anything about how normal or acceptable gay sex is. Prevalence is irrlevant and just annoys me when it is cited as "evidence" for some particular conclusion about what is or should be acceptable. If being left handed were much less prevalent, would that reflect on its acceptability? And "significant" conclusions are still wrong (or based on random results) about 1 in 20 times if you set the p value at .05. Think of all the journal articles and published studies that influence our society. Now realize that 5% are just plain wrong (which is a vast over-simplification, but appropriately dramatizes my point).

Chris said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Scot said...

”It doesn't say anything about society in general (outside New York).”

That’s what’s counterintuitive for me. I’d expect New York to have fewer closeted gay men, than average. Is that what these self-acclaimed married straight men also claiming to have sex with men are? Don’t know.

“depending on randomization and sample size (etc.).”

From their methods (my bold):

The CHS sampled New York residents (>=18 years of age) using a stratified sample design to allow neighborhood estimation. The sampling frame was constructed by using residential telephone numbers provided by a commercial vendor. Households were selected by using a random digit – dialing method, and after all household members were enumerated, 1 adult was randomly selected to be interviewed.

There’s a bit of a problem only including those with telephones; the homeless are certainly excluded.
It should also be noted no major language was excluded.

Also, regarding size:
In 2003, 9802 New York residents participated in the survey (59% cooperation rate), of whom 4193 (42.8%) were men and are the focus of this analysis.

There’s another limitations in the cooperation, but that is a fairly big sample size. Still, bigger would be better.

It doesn't say anything about how normal or acceptable gay sex is.

“How acceptable”, no. But “how normal”, sure. It points toward how normal it is for New York men to claim to be having sex with men within the last year (sex in this study being “oral, vaginal, or anal sex, but NOT masturbation.”). It’s 12.4% of them in this study.

Prevalence is irrlevant and just annoys me when it is cited as "evidence" for some particular conclusion about what is or should be acceptable.

Agreed. I hope I didn’t come across as saying this; I hope I’ve made my position on having sex with other people when you’re married to another clear :-). Have you seen this study used that way?

And sure, there are certainly reasons to be dubious of all research, and more repetition is near always useful. In my area (not social science), I love poking holes in research (other’s research); it’s my duty, as a peer ;-).

Chris said...

70.6% reported having sex with only women,
9.3% sex with only men
0.8% sex with men and women
19.3% no sexual activity during the past year.

For me, these are the most interesting numbers because they tell us how people actually behave rather than how they identify. And behavior is often more revealing.

Less than 4% of men in this survey identify as gay, but more than 9% have had sex with only men over the past year. "Bisexual" is an identity or label that men who are exclusively homosexual in their activities seem to adopt when they are uncomfortable calling themselves gay, whatever the reason.

Also interesting in terms of the percentage of the population that is homosexual--the 9.3% (behavior) number lines up with Kinsey while the 3.7% (identity) is closer to the University of Chicago study from a few years back.

Scot said...

That’s a good point Chris. I feel bad for the mistrust shown to genuine bisexuals, but, at least hear in Utah, it generally goes from coming out as bisexual to coming out as gay.

It’s also important to note that that 9% isn’t just having sex with men in the last year, it’s only having sex with men, or so they claim.

IIRC the Kinsey work defined gays by their behaviors, but could be wrong. Maybe his researchers were just better at getting them to open up (The movie seemed to play that up). I’ll have to look.

(Do you have more info that could lead me to the U of Chicago study you referred to? I collect whatever I find, and missed that one)

Chris said...

Also, there are 19% of respondents who had no sex at all. It's safe to assume that some percentage of these men are gay, but just not getting any.

I read a article in the NYT a few months back that reported on a study that challenged the very idea of a male bisexual orientation. The findings indicated that while there were certainly men who can have sex with both sexes (hello, have we met?), men are very clearly oriented towards one sex or the other. That's certainly the case for me. I was functionally heterosexual for years, but I have always been oriented toward men.

I'll have to look a bit for the U of C study.