Gay Men's Masculinities: Implication for Sexual Health Promotion
This presentation will analyze the implications of traditional masculinity in relation to public policies aimed at the sexual health of young gay men. The examination of gay men as gendered subjects who perform gender acts in relation to sexual health practices is critical to addressing issues of diversity in this sector of health care. Despite the growing attention given to the theory and practice associated with gay men’s sexual health behaviors, there remains a gap in the literature and a lack of understanding of dominant or hegemonic masculinity as it influences the sexual health practices of young gay men. Traditionally, there is a paradoxical relationship between gay men and the notions of masculinity. While gay men hold a subordinate position in the hierarchy of heterosexual masculinity, there exists a similar masculine hierarchy within the gay male community which in turn has an erotic association. That is, gay men are often ranked according to their ability to “measure up”, both in relation to other men and as sexual objects, to the standard of hegemonic masculinity which entail power, dominance, invulnerability and more. This situation along with the recent theorizing of men’s practices of masculinity being associated with their poorer health leads to the logical conclusion that gay men’s poorer sexual health practices can be linked to a systemic hegemonic masculinity. If the full breadth and depth of sexual health among young gay men are to be considered in the development of health policy and health promotion, the intersections of gender, sex and sexuality must be explored. The aim of this argument is to present issues of diversity within the category “men”, and to illustrate the multiplicities and intersections of identity within the category “gay men”.
Keywords: Masculinities, Health Promotion, Gay Men, Identity, Sexual Health
Interdisciplinary PhD Student/ Research Assistant, Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Dalhousie University