Constructing sexual health: gay men and 'risk' in the context of a public sex environment

Paul Flowers, Graham Hart, Claire Marriott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Citations (Scopus)


This article outlines the importance of conceptualizing 'sexual health' as a pluralistic and context-bound phenomenon. It explores gay men's sexual decision making in the particular context of public parks. Twenty gay men from Glasgow, Scotland, took part in semistructured, in-depth interviews. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was employed to analyse transcripts for recurrent themes - these represent shared understandings across participants. Risk reduction, danger and safety figured frequently in men's accounts of sex and sexual decision making. However, the risks men reported related more directly to the threat of attack or arrest rather than the avoidance of sexually transmitted infections. Indeed, danger itself was occasionally something to be sought and enjoyed. Given these findings, we discuss the appropriateness of traditional health psychological approaches to understanding sexual health. It is hoped that this approach can highlight some issues that a true psychology of sexual health must address in order to represent sexual decision making more accurately and to be useful with respect to both service provision and theoretical development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)483-495
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Health Psychology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 1999


  • danger
  • gay men
  • risk
  • safety
  • sexual health


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