The LGBT Health & Development Program

Youth Blog > Sex Partners and (Un)Safe Sex

Posted on March 22nd, 2013 by Gayle in Featured, Sexual Health Blog, Youth Blog. No Comments

group of colorful condomsYoung guys who have sex with other guys have to make some serious choices about sex, relationships, and sexual risk. Using condoms, talking about monogamy and outside partners, and getting tested are all part of minimizing your risk for diseases like HIV.

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to protecting yourself and your partners from HIV and other STIs. To help you think through your level of risk in different kinds of relationships, here are a few tips from IMPACT!


Sex in a Serious Relationship – Would you use condoms in a serious relationship?

• Studies (from IMPACT and others) have shown that more unprotected sex happens in serious relationships than in casual relationships.[1,2] There are a lot of possible reasons for this, like maybe guys want to show their partner that they trust them, and may choose not to use condoms. They may also think they don’t have to use condoms because they are “serious.”

IMPACT Advice: Serious relationships can mean a lot of things to different people, so it’s important to talk about your relationship with your partner. If you’re really getting serious, conversations about monogamy, STD and HIV testing, and sexual history can help you think through your risk—before you stop using condoms.

Sex with an older partner – If you are having sex with someone who is older than you by more than a few years, you may be at higher risk.

• Studies have shown that younger guys having sex with older men report more unprotected sex than those with partners of the same age.[1,2] Maybe it’s harder for a younger partner to speak up about using condoms and lowering risk in these relationships, or maybe the younger partner doesn’t know how to talk about safe sex.

IMPACT Advice: Even though conversations can be difficult, make sure that your health needs are respected, no matter what the age of your partner.

Sex with someone who you think is having sex with other people – If you or your partner are having sex with people outside the relationship, you could be putting each other at higher risk.

• One study found that people who have multiple sexual relationships may have 4 times the odds of getting an STI.[3]
• Studies also show that people who believe or know that their partner is having sex with other people report being more likely to use condoms.

IMPACT Advice: If you don’t know, or are unsure about whether there are outside partners involved, using condoms can help you stay safe.

Safe sex is for serious relationships, not just casual hook-ups, so it’s important to think about times when you’re less likely to use condoms. That way, you can think ahead about how you would respond to a sex partner who did not want to practice safe sex. There are a lot of ways to show love and trust that don’t involve putting yourself and your partner at higher risk!


[1] Mustanski, B., Newcomb, M. E., & Clerkin, E. M. (2011). Relationship characteristics and sexual risk-taking in young men who have sex with men. Health Psychology. doi: 10.1037/a0023858

[2] Newcomb ME, Ryan DT, Garofalo R, Mustanski B. (Under review) The Effects of Sexual Partnership and Relationship Characteristics on Three Sexual Risk Variables in Young Men Who Have Sex with Men.

[3] Gorbach, P. M., Drumright, L. N., & Holmes, K. K. (2005). Discord, discordance, and concurrency: Comparing individual and partnership-level analyses of new partnerships of young adults at risk of sexually transmitted infections. Sexually Transmitted Diseases, 32(1), 7-12.

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