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Gay dads focus less on sex

July 1, 2012 - Washington

Gay men with kids become less interested in sex and more focussed on their little ones, a small sample on how child-rearing impacts same-sex partnerships has found.

An estimated one in five gay male couples is raising kids, and as expected they focus more on their kids than on things like sex and communication.

"When gay couples become parents, they become very focused on the kids, they are tired, there is less time for communication and less desire for sex," Colleen Hoff, from San Francisco State University, said.

"They go through a lot of the same changes as heterosexual couples who have kids," Hoff said.

Overall, men did say parenthood put a damper on sexual satisfaction, though many didn't let it taint their relationship satisfaction.

While men who were in "open" relationships before kids continued to agree that sex outside of the partnership was still OK, there often wasn't time for such affairs.

These findings suggest the switch to parenthood may also reduce HIV risk for these gay men.

Hoff and colleagues hypothesized that becoming parents could change the gay couple's lifestyle in such ways that would reduce risky sexual behaviour and as such reduce their risks of contracting HIV.

Conversely, the stress of parenting could lead to more risky behaviours, such as infidelity and unprotected sex with outside partners, they surmised.

(In 2006, men who identified themselves as gay accounted for 48 percent of HIV/AIDS cases overall, and men who said they have sex with men represented 51 percent of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the United States.)

Gay parents speak

To find out, the researchers interviewed 48 gay male couples who were raising kids together in either Salt Lake City or San Francisco.

Raising kids seemed to bolster couples' commitments to one another and deepen their relationships.

Along with the emotional bond, the couples also noted less frequent sex, which most attributed to the demands of parenthood.

"It's almost like we have to schedule it. It's not as spontaneous as it used to be and there's no spark when we do it. It feels so structured and it happens so infrequently ... Because before we didn't have to worry about any interruptions; now it's like ... I'm always constantly like 'Oh gosh is she gonna walk in?' ... But sometimes we're so tired it doesn't matter that she's not here; we're so tired we just want to go to bed," a 30-year-old participant said.

One surprising finding is that becoming parents did not affect the couples' sexual agreements.

The study has been published in the journal Couple and Family Psychology.


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