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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Heterosexuals' use of the Internet for meeting romantic or sexual partners is rapidly increasing, raising concerns about the Internet's potential to facilitate encounters that place individuals at risk for acquiring HIV or other sexually transmitted infections STIs. For example, online sharing of personal information and self-revelations can foster virtual intimacy, promoting a false sense of familiarity that might accelerate progression to unprotected sex. Therefore, it is critical to understand how those who meet sexual partners online attempt to assess the possible risk of acquiring HIV or STIs posed by having unprotected sex with a new partner and decide whether to use a condom.
To investigate this issue, in-depth interviews were conducted with a diverse sample of heterosexual male and female participants from large metropolitan cities who had had unprotected vaginal or anal sex with at least two partners met online in the past 3 months. With few exceptions, participants relied on faulty strategies and heuristics to estimate these risks; yet, most engaged in unprotected sex at their first meeting or very soon afterward. While some seemed to try to make a genuine effort to arrive at a reliable assessment of the HIV risk posed, most appeared to be looking for a way to justify their desire and intention to have unprotected sex.
The findings suggest the need for more HIV and sexual health education targeted at heterosexuals, especially for those who go online to meet partners. I n recent yearsthere has been a proliferation of research on sexual hooking up, that is, casual sex that occurs between relative strangers or very recent acquaintances without the expectation that the partners will form a committed relationship. To date, much of the research on Internet-mediated sexual partnering has focused on the Internet as a risk environment.
Specifically, concerns have been raised about the Internet's potential to facilitate the kinds of sexual contacts that might place individuals at risk for HIV or other sexually transmitted infections STIs by providing access to a large pool of potential partners and thereby creating the opportunity for continually new casual sexual encounters. Sociologists have paid attention to the phenomenon of hooking up among heterosexual men and women 1—329 and are increasingly interested in their use of mobile dating apps. Nevertheless, studies that included heterosexual men and women who seek romantic or sexual partners on the Internet 34—38 and mobile apps 39 found them to also be at high risk for HIV and STIs.
More attention should be paid to online sexual partner-seeking beyond MSM Unprotected sex personals that the practice is becoming more prevalent among the general population. Available data suggest that many Unprotected sex personals the heterosexuals who go online to Unprotected sex personals prospective sexual partners do eventually meet in person and have sex.
Although most people associate HIV and STI transmission between heterosexuals with vaginal intercourse, anal intercourse is also a risk factor for these diseases. Malta 52 found that relationships formed online developed more quickly than those formed in person, but were of shorter duration. The explanation her participants offered for the brevity of the relationships formed online was that the availability of a large of potential partners on dating sites made them less inclined to stick with a relationship p.
Research has also suggested that online mutual self-revelations often occur rapidly over a brief period of time and promote a kind of virtual intimacy 45 —that is, a false sense of knowing a person well as a result of self-revelations exchanged online. She speculated that this might be due to the high level of disclosure and frequency of exchanges with men that provide women with a sense of an intimate relationship that may or may not exist in reality, but may encourage sexual intimacy sooner than it would develop through conventional dating methods p.
The sociodemographic i. Yet, research indicates that misrepresentation of appearance, relationship goals, age, income, marital status, and gender is not uncommon among Internet daters and sex seekers, 1253—58 which suggests they may also lie about their sexual practices as well as history of HIV and STI testing and outcomes.
Most cognitive theories of preventive health behavior include perceived risk or perceived vulnerability as a key construct e. These theories posit that for individuals to be motivated to adopt an action to prevent a health threat, they must both feel vulnerable to the threat and also judge it to be serious. HIV and other STIs are health threats posed by having unprotected sex, especially with casual partners.
Although HIV has become a chronic disease, becoming infected still represents a ificant health risk that people are presumably very motivated to avoid. While other STIs are more easily treated or in many cases curable, they still carry a ificant stigma that people would also presumably want to avoid experiencing. Nevertheless, there is a preference for condomless sex among both many men and many women because they find it more pleasurable. Therefore, it is important to understand the strategies individuals use to assess the risks of having unprotected sex with prospective partners they meet online.
Studies show that among heterosexuals, partners are often unaware of all the other person's risk behaviors for HIV or other STIs; in lack of evidence to the contrary, they often simply assume that a partner has not engaged in various risk behaviors.
Heuristics are shortcuts for processing information in Unprotected sex personals that convert complex mental tasks into simpler ones. However, they can frequently produce systematic errors and biases leading to faulty assessments of a situation and inferences—for example, whether another individual is likely to be HIV infected or have another STI. A very common heuristic that has been identified in the HIV and STI literature has been labeled implicit personality theories. Another common heuristic is known partners are safe partners or trusted partners are safe partners.
That is, once individuals believe they know a prospective sexual partner well even if what they know is immaterial to assessing the health risk they might pose and no red flags have been identified, they tend to regard the person's self-representation Unprotected sex personals reliable and therefore deem the person trustworthy. Another heuristic, a clean partner is a safe partner, draws on the historically strong symbolic association of STIs with uncleanliness or bodily pollution and the stereotype that people who acquire such diseases have poor personal hygiene.
Risk appraisals can be inaccurate because they are founded on erroneous beliefs or assumptions or they may be biased by the desire to arrive at a particular conclusion. There is some research on the strategies heterosexuals use to evaluate the authenticity of the information provided by people they meet online or to decide who they will meet in person. To address this gap, we investigated the strategies of male and female heterosexuals who meet partners on dating or hookup websites and engage in sexual risk behavior with those partners. The sample consisted of heterosexual adults who meet sexual partners online through dating and hookup websites.
Eligible participants had to 1 be between the ages of 18 and 50; 2 self-identify as heterosexual; 3 have had sex only with persons of the opposite sex in the last 3 years; 4 have had unprotected vaginal or anal sex with at least two different partners in the last 3 months, both of whom were initially met online; 5 self-identify as black, Latino, or white; 6 be fluent in English; 7 have lived in the United States for at least the last 10 years; and 8 have lived for at least the last 3 months from the time of the interview in the metropolitan areas of New York City, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Philadelphia, San Francisco, or Washington, DC.
Given the study's focus on Internet sexual partnering, participants were recruited online. Banner advertisements were placed on dating sites, casual hookup sites, social networking sites, online bulletin boards, and classifieds, stating that researchers wanted to interview heterosexuals who meet romantic or sexual partners on the Internet. The specific focus and eligibility criteria of the study were masked to minimize the risk of fraudulent responses to the screening questionnaire in an effort to gain entry into the study.
It also provided the study team's contact information for those who had additional questions. Finally, this indicated that all respondents must be 18 years of age or older and a resident of the United States. Respondents were asked whether or not they agreed to these terms and would like to proceed to the screening questionnaire.
Clicking on yes was considered to be providing consent to being screened. On completion of the screening questionnaire, individuals were immediately informed whether or not they were eligible to be in the study.
Eligible individuals who indicated they wished to proceed were directed to a with an IRB-approved consent form. Only eligible individuals who indicated their informed consent in this way were able to advance to an online survey that elicited sociodemographic information and a measure of sexual risk behaviors. On completion of this online survey, participants were contacted to be scheduled for an in-depth qualitative interview by telephone.
Since participants never met face-to-face with the researchers all data were collected online and through telephone interviewmeasures were taken to further ensure that the same person did not participate more than once. These included deploying a cookie on the browser of the computer the individual used to complete the screener to prevent subsequent attempts, tracking of IP addresses to disallow identical ones in the sample, and ensuring that those with the same e-mail Unprotected sex personals did not participate in the study more than once.
Of the individuals who completed the screener, met the eligibility criteria. However, as the quota sample de necessitated that we disqualify individuals with certain demographics when their quotas were met, only were notified of their eligibility. The informed consent was ed by of these individuals; of those, failed to complete the study because they withdrew of their own initiative or were lost to follow-up.
Finally, others were removed from the final analytic sample by the researchers for various reasons e. The final sample for analysis comprised eligible participants 75 men and 75 women. The characteristics of the final sample are presented in Table 1. After completing the online consent form, eligible participants proceeded to complete online the Sexual Relationships Questionnaire SRQ.
The SRQ elicited information about participant demographics, preferences in sexual partners met online, online sexual activities, sexual health, and the characteristics of two sexual partners met online with whom participants had had unprotected vaginal or anal sex in the past 3 months and their sexual activities and relationships with these Unprotected sex personals.
At the end of the survey, participants provided contact information to enable the researchers to schedule an in-depth qualitative telephone interview within the following 2 weeks. Interviews lasted an average of 2. Interviewees and interviewers were matched by gender. The IRB of the university the authors were affiliated with approved the study. The qualitative telephone interviews relied mainly on unstructured questions and a nondirective interview approach.
While an interview guide was used, the guide was not intended to serve as a formal interview schedule, but rather as a kind of conceptual roadmap that enabled the interviewer to elicit the participant's own frame of reference and reveal factors unanticipated by the researchers that influenced participants' experiences and beliefs. The interview guide covered topics such as the participants' history of using the Internet to meet sexual partners, descriptions of their online profiles, involvement in various online sexual activities e.
The majority of Unprotected sex personals interview, however, was spent discussing the relationships with the two recent partners met online with whom the participant had had unprotected vaginal or anal sex in the past 3 months and had been identified on the SRQ. While the SRQ obtained basic primarily quantitative information about these relationships e. All interviews were transcribed verbatim for analysis. Each of the three interviewers prepared an analytic profile for each participant they interviewed.
The profile was an extensive summary of the interview findings organized around the study's specific aims. As a measure of quality control, throughout the data collection, a random subsample of profiles was reviewed by a senior investigator for completeness. One of the study aims was to identify the strategies participants used to assess the potential sexual risk a prospective partner posed.
In the interviews, participants were asked how they tried to assess how risky or safe it would be to have unprotected sex with a partner they met online. While most of the data related to this aim were offered in response to this question, any other comments relevant to how they appraised these risks that appeared in other parts of the transcript were also included in the write-up for this aim for each participant. Each interviewer's write-up of the findings related to this aim was closely read and provisionally coded to identify the different strategies participants used to assess the sexual risk their partners might pose.
A master list of all the different types of strategies elicited from the summaries was produced and a table organizing participant IDs under each of them was generated. The relevant portions of the interview transcript that substantiated the write-ups for all cases included in the analysis were rereviewed while preparing this report and, for a subsample extracted, as a final check on the coding from the profiles.
If new strategies were identified at that point, they were added to the table. The analysis below is based on the final data Unprotected sex personals that was developed through this process. A more common procedure in analyzing interview data is to code the transcripts and we have ly done so in other studies.
However, we found over time that this can have the effect of fragmenting and decontextualizing the data too much and often not allowing us to appreciate the connection between segments of text related to the same aim, but coded separately because they appeared in different parts Unprotected sex personals the data.
We have found that the creation of analytic profiles for each case ultimately provides a more comprehensive and integrative synthesis of the findings. We have described our rationale for this data analytic strategy in a report 92 we used it for and a very similar strategy has been used by others. All participants claimed to be HIV uninfected. As noted above, participants discussed at length two recent partners they met online and with whom they had engaged in unprotected vaginal or anal sex in the past 3 months.
All had had unprotected vaginal intercourse with both partners. Participants were asked to discuss why they felt it was safe to have unprotected sex Unprotected sex personals these partners, which in many cases had occurred on a first or second date. Most participants were aware that behaviors such as unprotected vaginal or anal sex, multiple sexual partners, being MSM, exchanging sex for money, or engaging in injection drug use could put one at ificant risk for acquiring HIV or another STI if one's sexual partner or the injection drug user one shared paraphernalia with had HIV or another STI.
Therefore, many asked prospective partners met online whether they had engaged in one or more of these behaviors and typically they would not pursue a meeting with those who did or would not contact or respond online to individuals they suspected might engage in these behaviors. Their suspicions were often based on things such as how sexually forward a person was in his or her profile, whether the person posted sexually suggestive photos online, or whether they indicated they liked to party or go clubbing a lot.
Some did not raise any of these issues with prospective partners because they were not comfortable doing so, were concerned that the person would be offended and break off contact, or considered doing so pointless since they recognized that people often lie about such matters.Unprotected sex personals
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