Background: Past research indicates that men who have sex with men (MSM) are increasingly using technology to meet other men seeking sexual contact with men (Grov, Breslow, Newcomb, Rosenberger, & Bauermeister, 2014). This practice allows for anonymity while gaining a sense of control and security not accessible in face-to-face encounters (McKie, Lachowsky, & Milhausen, 2015). However, many negative outcomes of technology use in sex- seeking MSM have also been noted (e.g. jealousy, deception; McKie, Milhausen, Lachowsky, 2016). Research has also shown that MSM are more likely to use non-verbal cues to express their sexual consent (Beres, Herold, & Maitland, 2004). However, no research has examined sexual negotiation occurrences via online modalities in MSM.
Research Questions: This research aims to explore how MSM seek sexual partners on text-based interfaces (phone applications and websites), specifically focusing on how these men negotiate sexual consent and set boundaries. We also wanted to establish which online sources they were meeting other MSM from.
Method: Participants were 317 MSM, aged 18-76 (M = 32) from Canada, the US, and Western Europe. Data were obtained from a larger study on sexual consent challenges of men of varying sexual orientations internationally. The present data were collected using an online qualitative survey, which asked how technology (websites and cell phone applications) was used to seek sexual partners, how technology changed the process of seeking partners, and how sexual boundaries were set on these interfaces. The current analysis utilized Braun and Clarke’s (2006) thematic analysis technique. MSM were also asked which websites and cellphone applications they used to meet other men.
Results: A frequency table was produced using the websites/cellphone applications that MSM reported using most frequently. Further, via the thematic analysis, themes relating to challenges in sexual negation, unique barriers for MSM, and expectations of MSM emerged.
Conclusions: While not all MSM reported having challenges setting sexual boundaries and sticking to them, many did. As such, some MSM face difficulties relating to navigating sexual spaces online.
Implications: The use of text-based and online interfaces to seek sexual partners is rapidly increasing, especially within LGBTQ communities. As such, investigations of both partner seeking behaviours, and sexual consent using these modalities are important. Exploring boundary setting online could elucidate issues with sexual consent on text-based interfaces, and assist in developing strategies to combat sexual coercion in these contexts. Directions for future research will also be discussed.