CAHSS Faculty Articles

Without Women: Masculinities, Gay Male Sexual Culture and Sexual Behaviors in Miami, Florida



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Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences



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Recent studies have reported alarmingly high rates of HIV infection and risky sexual behaviors among gay men in Miami, Florida. Previous research has suggested that the risky sexual behaviors of many gay men reflect the pursuit of intimacy and love, and that barriers to intimate relationships among gay men may stem from traditional masculinity norms. This dissertation examines the meanings which gay men ascribe to their sexual behaviors, as well as the intersections of those meanings with both traditional masculinity constructions and Miami's gay male sexual culture.

The study is based upon participant observation, print media content analysis, surveys and ethnographic interviews of a purposive snowball sample of 30 Cuban American, Puerto Rican, African American and Anglo gay men who reside in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Analysis of research questions was accomplished through grounded theory methods and descriptive and non-parametric statistics, including Pearson chi-square, Fisher's Exact and Mann-Whitney U tests.

The study shows that culturally-specified masculinity norms vary in the relative importance ascribed to heterosexual prowess, economic providership and competitiveness. These cultural differences appear important not only to the timing of sexual awareness and to the strength of homosexual stereotyping as effeminacy, but also to men's strategies in coming out as gay. The meanings men attributed to their sexual behaviors were, however, constructed in response to both inherited masculinity norms and the hypermasculine structure of Miami's gay male sexual culture. In addition to providing an ethnographic account of this subculture, the study elaborates men's issues relative to casual sex and committed relationships. Unprotected anal intercourse with casual partners during the previous twelve months was associated with growing up without one's father in the home, having been teased for effeminacy during childhood, being defensive about one's masculinity, not trusting men, having been cheated on by boyfriends, and believing that long-term gay male relationships are problematic.

It is concluded that the continuing epidemic of HIV infections among local gay men, as well as the hypermasculine form of the gay sexual subculture itself, are nihilistic symptoms embedded in the masculinist gender structure of the larger society.





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