'Coming out' and sexual debut: understanding the social context of HIV risk-related behaviour

Paul Flowers, Jonathan A. Smith, Paschal Sheeran, Nigel Beail

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


This paper explores HIV risk-related behaviour in the context of men's entry into the gay community. It is an exploratory study which employed a qualitative approach to describe men's accounts of the process of acculturation. Twenty in-depth interviews were conducted with working-class gay men from Barnsley. UK. These were translated and analysed, using interpretative phenomenological analysis, for recurrent themes which reflect the way gay men thought about HIV risk-related behaviour, 'coming out' and their sexual debut. As men began to socialize with other gay men in their local community they had much to learn with regard to local gay culture, e.g. a distinct new vocabulary and local sexual mores. By virtue of their lack of experience and the personal impact of first sexual experiences, some men reported feelings of disempowerment with their initial sexual partners. Theoretical accounts relating to gay men's sexual health would benefit from a consideration of the way gay men report the process of acculturation. Sexual debut and the particular vulnerabilities of entry into the gay community highlight a temporal context in which affective experiences are privileged above considerations of sexual health.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)409-421
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Community and Applied Social Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 1998


  • acculturation
  • gay men
  • HIV risk-related behaviour
  • sexual debut


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