Differences between Internet samples and conventional samples of men who have sex with men: implications for research and HIV interventions
The Internet is becoming a new erotic oasis for obtaining sex online or in person. We reviewed the literature on cybersex and compared differences in data from samples of homosexually active men obtained on identical questionnaires from a conventional written questionnaire, distributed through the mailing and contact lists of a large national gay organization in Sweden, and through the same organization's website and chat room. A total of 716 written questionnaires and 678 Internet questionnaires were obtained. The Internet sample was younger, more likely to live in small towns or cities, live with parents or a girlfriend, and have lower formal education. They are less likely to have previous sexual experience solely with other men (one in three of the Internet sample vs. 1 in 14 of the written sample defined themselves as bisexual) and more likely to visit erotic oases such as bathhouses, video clubs and erotic movie houses. They also visited Internet chat rooms more frequently (86% of the Internet sample vs. 50% of the written sample). One third of the Internet sample wanted the opportunity to talk with an expert about HIV compared with a quarter of the written sample. Sexual practices between the two samples were generally similar, although the Internet sample reported significantly less body contact, kissing, hugging, mutual masturbation, and more condom use for anal intercourse with steady partners. Over four times as many of the Internet samples reported sex with women in the past year as the written sample. These data indicate that Internet data collection is feasible and that this mode of data collection, despite the nonrandom and self-selected nature of both types of samples, is likely to be more significantly oriented toward the young, geographically more isolated, and more behaviorally and self-identified bisexual respondent than conventionally distributed written questionnaires.
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Volume (Year): 51 (2000)
Issue (Month): 5 (September)
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