All of this started with a question. Someone wanted to know whether a massage given by a gay masseur would differ from one given by a bisexual masseur. We answered the question in our last mailing (missed it? subscribe to get the next one) but this gave rise to an interesting topic. How do gay and bisexual men differ? Apart from the obvious, of course. So we’ve done a bit of digging and here’s what research tells us.
Do gay men sleep around more than bisexual men?
A study conducted in 1997, where the researchers interviewed 750 participants, found that there was no difference in the number of sexual partners between gay and bisexual men1. What was different, though, was that gay men were more likely to have a steady relationship of some sort. When it comes to condom use, it seems that there isn’t much of a difference. A research project carried out in 1992 found that gay men were more likely to use condoms than bisexuals2, although some studies in the past had found the opposite. Either way, the difference between the two groups was quite small (about 10%).
Are gay men more likely to take the ‘bottom’ role in sex?
Yes! The 1997 study showed that gay men were more likely to have engaged in receptive sex3 – i.e. ‘bottomed’. This doesn’t necessarily mean that men who are bisexual are more likely to be natural ‘tops’. It can also mean that bisexuals are less likely to have had various experiences, as being a ‘top’ in gay sex is somewhat less daunting for the uninitiated.
Are bisexual men harder on themselves than gay men?
The same study found that bisexual men were more likely to be self-homophobic than gay men. Not only that, they also were more likely to think that other people would judge them. Perhaps with reason: a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Centre found that bisexual men were less accepted by the society than gay men4. Furthermore, a 2014 study found that when compared to homosexuals, bisexuals were more likely to experience sexual and domestic violence5.
Who’s more likely to come out of the closet?
Pew Research Centre analysed a 2017 study by Stanford University and found that bisexuals were much less likely to have disclosed their sexuality to the important people in their life6. The Centre also conducted a survey in 2013 and found that many bisexuals didn’t feel it was important to tell their parents about their sexuality7. They were less likely to feel that their sexuality was a positive aspect of their lives than homosexual respondents. According to a recent European study, two thirds of bisexual men have told about their sexuality to none or few of their friends8.
Are bisexual men happier about their bodies than gay men?
No one will be surprised to know that on the whole, heterosexual men are happier about their looks than non-heterosexual men. But is there a difference between gay and bisexual men? In the past, some research suggested that gay men were less happy with the way they looked and other studies contradicted this. So who’s right? A more recent (2010) study found no link between sexuality and obsession with muscles9. Gay and bisexual men were equally invested in their looks.
Who is engaging in more substance use?
A group of Canadian researchers analysed the data of the Momentum Health Study (2018) and found that bisexual men were significantly more likely to use substances10. They scored higher for stimulants, crystal meth, hallucinogens, opioids and heroin. The only substances they used less of than gay men were poppers and erectile dysfuncion medication (presumably because fewer of them were having anal sex).
Who earns more?
A few studies have found that bisexual men had lower incomes than gay men. You may have seen this bit of information somewhere as it was widely picked up by the media. This doesn’t necessarily suggest discrimination. Men who identified as bisexual within the study samples tended to be younger, so their level of education and income was correspondingly lower as well.
The problem with research into gay and bisexual men
The main issue with research that divides men by their sexuality is that there isn’t enough of it. In research, gay and bisexual men are often bunked into the same category, completely ignoring the issues that this creates. The reason we looked at sexual behaviours separately is that bisexual and gay men have very different sex lives! For one, bisexual men have sex with women. So if we say that “X number of gay and bisexual men use condoms”, what does it even tell us? Scientists are slowly realising that we need to talk about bisexual and gay men separately.
Yet every person is different
Research into the lives of gay and bisexual men gives us some interesting information but that’s all it is: interesting. Scientists interview large groups of people and their findings show differences between these groups. It’s important to remember that individuals within these groups can be entirely different, just like two gay men can be completely different from one another.
And finally, in case you missed our mailing and didn’t see our answert to a question whether a massage given by a gay masseur would differ from one given by a bisexual masseur: it would not. Every masseur has a slightly different style and they adapt it to each client, so in that respect every massage differs. There are many myths about bisexuals – including bisexual men. The male masseurs who work with us do so because they enjoy what they do and are good at it. This is the case for both gay and bisexual masseurs.
Chetwynd, J. , Chambers, A. , Hughes, A. J. (1992) Condom use in anal intercourse amongst people who identify as homosexual, heterosexual or bisexual. N Z Med J Jul 8;105(937), 262-4.
Doll, L. S., Petersen, L. R., White, C.R. et al. (1992) Homosexually and nonhomosexually identified men who have sex with men: A behavioral comparison, The Journal of Sex Research, 29:1, 1-14,
European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014). European Union lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender survey.
Mahoney, B., Davies, M. and Scurlock-Evans, L. (2014) ‘Victimization Among Female and Male Sexual Minority Status Groups: Evidence From the British Crime Survey 2007-2010’, Journal of Homosexuality 61 (10): 1435-1461. Quoted in:
Pew Research Centre survey (2013).
How Couples Meet and Stay Together 2017 Survey, conducted by Stanford University July 13 – August 1, 2017. Data analysed by Pew Research Centre.
Roth, E. A., Cui, Z., Wang, L. et al. (2018) Substance Use Patterns of Gay and Bisexual Men in the Momentum Health Study.
Ryan, T., Morrison, T. & Mcdermott, D. (2010). Body image investment among gay and bisexual men over the age of 40: A test of social comparison theory and threatened masculinity theory. Gay & Lesbian Issues and Psychology Review. 6. 4-19.
Stokes, J.P., Vanable, P. & McKirnan, D.J. (1997) Comparing Gay and Bisexual Men on Sexual Behavior, Condom Use, and Psychosocial Variables Related to HIV/AIDS. Arch Sex Behav 26, 383–397.