A survey conducted in New York City has revealed that a significant number of men who identify as straight have sex with other men.

Conducted by the New York City health department and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine journal, the survey was conducted in 2003 among 4,193 over the age of 18. The respondents in the survey were asked about their sexual behaviour and if they identified as straight, gay, or bisexual.

Just over ninety-one percent reported straight or heterosexual identity, 3.7% reported gay identity, 1.2% reported bisexual identity, 1.7% responded “not sure or don’t know,” and 2.1% declined to answer the question.

Interestingly, of men who answered the questions regarding the number and sex of their sex partners, 70.6% reported having sex with only women, 9.3% reported having sex with only men, 0.8% reported having sex with men and women, and 19.3% reported no sexual activity during the past year.

The survey found that of the men who considered themselves heterosexual, nearly 10 percent had had sex with a man, but no woman, in the past year. Of the respondents who said that they had sex with another man, almost 73 percent said that they considered themselves to be straight.

The researchers wrote that, “although some discordance between sexual identity and sexual behavior is to be expected in any population… our analysis suggests a larger discrepancy than has been noted previously in population-based studies.”

The team that undertook the survey suggested that cultural background may play a role in the results; foreign born men were more likely to call themselves heterosexual even if they have had sex with men, compared to respondents that were born in the US (43% vs. 15%).

The survey suggests that doctors and medical authorities should not rely on a patient’s self-identified sexual orientation to assess his HIV risk status, and should rather ask specific questions about his sexual behaviour.

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