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‘Their type of drugs’: perceptions of substance use, sex and social boundaries among young African American and Latino gay and bisexual men

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Studies of sexuality have increasingly shifted their attention towards understanding the social contexts that inform and organise sexual behaviour. Building on this work, we examine how substance use and sex are socially organised and meaningful activities for young African American and Latino gay and bisexual men who use substances with sex. Drawing on 30 qualitative interviews in Los Angeles and New York, we identify the ways in which social boundaries inform substance use among these young men. We find that many of them view the gay and racial/ethnic communities they belong to as differentiated by patterns of substance use. Further, they see these communities as actively constructing group boundaries through substance use, sanctioning the use of particular substances while simultaneously discouraging the use or discussion of others. For these young men, racial/ethnic and gay communities provide salient contexts in which the use of certain substances and not others is socially meaningful. Findings demonstrate the important and heretofore unrecognised ways that perceived social boundaries inform these young men's use of substances. As both protective and marginalising influences, perceptions of communities and social identities have real consequences for the sexual health of young African American and Latino gay and bisexual men.
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Keywords: community; identity; race; sexuality; substance use

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Sociology,University of California, Los Angeles, USA 2: Community Based Research Program, AIDS Project Los Angeles, USA 3: Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2012

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