To examine the popularity of anonymous sex practices among men using the Internet to find male partners for unprotected sex, and how anonymous sex relates to involvement in other HIV-related risk behaviours, and to investigate the factors associated with engaging in anonymous sex.
Structured telephone interviews were conducted with men who used the Internet specifically to find male partners for unprotected sex. Random sampling from 16 websites was used to obtain a national sample. The data reported in this paper were based on quantitative interviews collected with a cross-sectional study design.
Between January 2008 and May 2009, confidential telephone interviews lasting approximately 1-2 h were completed with 332 men. Participants were paid $35 for their participation.
Most of the men (67.4%) liked anonymous sex, and slightly more than half (51.2%) had engaged in the behaviour during the month prior to interview. Involvement in anonymous sex was associated with greater involvement in a variety of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-related risk practices, such as illegal drug use, number of sex partners, and amount of unprotected sex. Four factors were associated with having vs not having anonymous sex: (1) being HIV positive; (2) answering all of the HIV-related knowledge questions correctly; (3) deriving greater enjoyment from having sex in public places, such as parks, public toilets, or adult book shops; and (4) greater impulsivity. Seven factors were associated with greater vs lesser involvement in anonymous sex among those practising the behaviour: (1) being involved in a relationship with a long-term partner; (2) liking to have sex in public places; (3) using bareback-oriented websites to identify sex partners; (4) greater impulsivity; (5) low level of condom use self-efficacy; (6) greater knowledge about HIV/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome; and either (7a) severe childhood maltreatment or (7b) Caucasian race.
Men in this population often sought anonymous sex, and this practice was related to involvement in a variety of risky behaviours, such as illegal drug use and the number of recent sex partners (among others). Interventionists should address anonymous sex practices among Internet-using, risk-seeking men in order to reduce the overall levels of HIV risk involvement.