Gay couples say 'I agree,' not 'I do'

Sexual agreements are a healthy trend amongst gay couples according to a new study published in the journal
AIDS Care on July 15.

The researchers found gay couples tend to set ground rules concerning sex with others and the act of the 'agreement' itself is about strengthening relationships rather than preventing HIV.

Colleen Hoff, PhD, a clinical psychologist, professor of sexuality studies and the director of the Center for Research on Gender and Sexuality at San Francisco State University (SFSU), led the study and told Relaxnews on July 7, "it is hard to say" if the need for sexual agreements stems from not being able to say ‘I do'.

"However, 19 percent of the couples [566 gay male couples] who participated reported that they were married (gay marriage was legal for a short time in California) and 29 percent reported that they were registered as domestic partners."

The sexual agreements fell into three categories: open (sex with others), closed (monogamous) and discrepant (where one partner thinks the agreement is open and one partner thinks it is closed) and 99 percent of the couples had an agreement.

"Agreements (whether they are open or closed) play a central role in gay men's relationships,  future HIV prevention efforts could help couples discuss and negotiate robust sexual agreements - thus capitalizing on the motivations and desires we found gay couples have - their desire to build strong, healthy relationships," said Hoff.

"This approach would also address couples who have discrepant agreements. In our gay couples study 8 percent reported discrepant agreements.

"HIV prevention efforts aimed at reducing the number of couples with discrepant agreements would likely reduce sexual risk for HIV among these couples."

Of greatest interest is that "we found that couples make sexual agreements because they want to build a strong relationship rather than for HIV protection" which is what the trend began as.

The study is to be available via the journal AIDS Care on July 15, however "Sexual Agreements among Gay Male Couples" can be accessed here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2855749/

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