Technologies, Safer Sex, and the Inscription of Boundaries Around Young Gay and Bisexual Men’s ‘Personal Communities’’

Boydell, N. , Buston, K. and McDaid, L. (2015) Technologies, Safer Sex, and the Inscription of Boundaries Around Young Gay and Bisexual Men’s ‘Personal Communities’’. In: Centre for Research on Families and Relationships 5th International Conference, Edinburgh, UK, 13-15 June 2016, (Unpublished)

Full text not currently available from Enlighten.


Successful HIV prevention efforts among communities of gay men have been linked to strong collective, or ‘community’, responses and the establishment of, and adherence to, safer sex practices. Recent research suggests that men’s relationships with, and to, gay communities are changing, related in part to shifts in the ways in which men connect socially, and sexually, with other men. Online technologies for engaging with potential partners have been cited as key facilitators of these changes, with online social networks and gay-specific social media continuing to proliferate, and becoming increasingly embedded in the everyday practices of many gay men (Reynolds 2007; Mowlabocus 2010). Within this changing context, it has been noted that some gay men, particularly young men, are ambivalent about ‘gay communities’. Such ambivalence around the concept of ‘gay communities’ has led some scholars to suggest that applying the lens of ‘personal communities’ (Holt, 2011; Spencer & Pahl, 2006) may provide a useful way of exploring gay men’s personal and social relationships. The aim of this qualitative study was to explore young gay and bisexual men’s ‘personal communities’, and the role of those within them in shaping and informing men’s understandings, and practice, of ‘safer sex’. Drawing on in-depth interviews carried out with 30 young gay and bisexual men (aged 18-29) from across Scotland, this paper explores the ways in which young men articulated the role of digital technologies in enabling and facilitating the creation, and maintenance, of affective ties between themselves and those within their ‘personal communities’ and wider gay communities. We focus on the ways in which shared understandings of sexual risk developed in the context of men’s ‘personal communities’, shaping and informing their responses to the concept, and practice, of ‘safer sex’. We aim to provide insight into men’s accounts of the social practices of HIV, highlighting the ways in which some young men resisted and challenged the individualising effects of HIV testing, using digital media to bring together groups of friends to ‘test together’. By examining young men’s use of social media to ‘collectivise’ HIV testing practices, we emphasise the ways in which the boundaries of communities, personal or otherwise, are imagined and inscribed through the use of online technologies, as well as who, and how, this serves to include/exclude. We conclude by considering the implications, both positive and negative, of sharing such experiences of HIV testing in the public intimacy of digital spaces.

Item Type:Conference Proceedings
Additional Information:Funder: Medical Research Council (MRC). Studentship Award Reference: 978281. Title: Gay Community Norms and Sexual Health (Personal Communities and Safer Sex: A Qualitative Study of Young Gay and Bisexual Men in Scotland)
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Boydell, Dr Nicola and McDaid, Professor Lisa and Buston, Dr Katie
Authors: Boydell, N., Buston, K., and McDaid, L.
Subjects:H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Health and Wellbeing > MRC/CSO SPHSU
Research Group:MRC/CSO SPHSU, University of Glasgow

University Staff: Request a correction | Enlighten Editors: Update this record

Project CodeAward NoProject NamePrincipal InvestigatorFunder's NameFunder RefLead Dept
656571Sexual Health and Families ProgrammeLisa McDaidMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/2IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU
727631SPHSU Core Renewal: Relationships & Health Improvement Research ProgrammeLisa McDaidMedical Research Council (MRC)MC_UU_12017/11IHW - MRC/CSO SPHU