A University of Sydney researcher has found that some married men who have sex with other men have contemplated suicide at the prospect of their wives or female partners finding out.
Jeff Hudson, PhD candidate with the Graduate Program in Sexual Health, presented findings from his study of married men who have sex with men at the World Congress for Sexual Health, held in Sydney this week.
Mostly recruited through online advertising and at sex-on-premises venues, the 240 participants were predominantly from Western Sydney and in professional occupations.
More than half of those surveyed were having sex with men at least weekly, and 82.5% currently have casual sex with other men.
More that half of the men’s partners did not know about their activities. Despite their sexual behaviour, a large proportion of the currently married men (28%) identified as heterosexual.
Many of the men expressed a strong desire for ‘normalised’ heterosexual relationships and marriages, leading to secrecy about their other sex lives. But this very secrecy makes them (and their female partners) more vulnerable to sexually transmitted disease, Hudson says.
“These men don’t see themselves as at risk or at risk for their wives because they don’t identify with the usual gay man or bisexual man.” To make matters worse, health professionals don’t usually ask married men about homosexual activity.
The pressure to conform to heterosexual norms is so strong that some of these men interviewed said they would rather die than risk losing their families, he said. “A lot of men will commit suicide because they don’t see any other way out.”
“What is needed is for health professionals to be aware of married men who have sex with men and support them in a non judgmental way”, Hudson said. “It’s necessary for the community to accept reality that these sexual activities occur to enable positive support and health education.”
Sixteen staff and students from the University of Sydney’s graduate program in sexual health (offered through the Faculty of Health Science) presented papers at the five-day congress. Their topics ranged from research into the effects of prostate cancer on sexual intimacy, to the use of sex toys as therapeutic and educational aids and the sexual surrogacy.