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December 02, 2008

Gay Men's Risky Sexual Behavior Linked to Feeling Undesirable

TORONTO – Gay men who are not considered sexually desirable are more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior, according to sociological research from the December issue of the Journal of Health and Social Behavior. The study also found that these men may develop psychological problems as a consequence of feeling undesirable.

Adam Isaiah Green, assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, interviewed dozens of gay men in Toronto to determine what qualities made some men more sexually desirable than others, and what the consequences of being undesirable might be on mental and physical health.

"I found that young, white, middle-class men are considered much more sexually desirable than men who are racial minorities, over 40 and poor," said Green. "I also learned that for gay men, being considered sexually undesirable can have serious health consequences ranging from psychological issues to risky sexual behavior."

The study—among the first to examine the link between sex and mental health—found that undesirable gay men face stigmatization, avoidance and outright rejection, which can lead to depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse. It also highlighted cases whereby undesirable gay men will forego safe-sex discussion and, in some cases, condom use, in the context of sex with a more attractive partner.

"We tend to devalue sexual life as something that is extracurricular and frivolous, but this research shows a significant link between sexual desirability and health," Green said. "Men with low levels of 'erotic capital' are systematically marginalized, which can take a real toll both physically and psychologically."

The article, "Health and Sexual Status in an Urban Gay Enclave: An Application of the Stress Process Model," is available to members of the media. Contact Jackie Cooper, media relations officer at the American Sociological Association, at or (202) 247-9871, to request the article or author interviews.

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The Journal of Health and Social Behavior is a quarterly journal of the American Sociological Association.

About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.