What Do You Call a Man Who Has Sex with Men?

More straight men have sex with men than men who identify as gay

Loren A Olson MD
An Idea (by Ingenious Piece)
8 min readNov 6, 2020
Close-up of leather pants with rainbow colors for gay Pride
wernerimages/111937942/DepositPhotos/licensed to author

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls men who have sex with men, “Men who have Sex with Men” (MSM).

If you ask some MSM, “Are you gay?” they will respond, “Absolutely not.” If you ask them, “Have you ever had sex with a man?” the response is apt to be “Well, maybe.”

Most studies suggest that gay people make up about 4% of the population. Some researchers have reported that 10% of married men say they’ve had sex with another man in the preceding year. They also report that up to 10% of men who say they are heterosexual are having sex exclusively with other men.

It appears that more straight men have sex with men than gay men.

In the late 1940s, Alfred Kinsey reported that 46% of men reported sexual attraction to both genders. He also said that 37% of men had at least one same-sex experience during their adult lives. The public condemned Kinsey’s report. No one wanted to believe it was true.

Sexual identity is abstract but sexual behavior is concrete

The mission of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is to prevent and control disease. One of their goals is to prevent disease transmission among all MSM by changing their behavior. The CDC uses the awkward label of MSM because they want to alter the behavior of a defined population.

The CDC isn’t concerned about how MSM identify themselves. Behavior is definitive. Sexual identity — being gay or bisexual — is an abstract and ambiguous concept.

Many — perhaps most — children “play doctor.” It happens regardless of their later, self-defined sexual identity. Boys engage in mutual masturbation. Children are curious about their bodies and the bodies of others.

Most children integrate this experience without being traumatized by it. For the most part, adults ignore this as part of growing up. It arouses their concern only if it persists too long into adolescence or if it involves coercion.



Loren A Olson MD
An Idea (by Ingenious Piece)

Gay father; Psychiatrist; Award-winning author FINALLY OUT. Chapter excerpt here: Top writer on Medium. Not medical advice.