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This paper provides a qualitative analysis of the explanations given by a sample of 78 gay men in England of the most recent occasion on which they engaged in anal intercourse without a condom. Explanations are analysed and interpreted from the sociological perspective of 'accounts': that is, they are not viewed as exact descriptions of the 'real' motives for behaviour but are seen as a powerful resource that can illuminate the knowledge, assumptions and values that inform behaviour. Four distinct types of accounts were identified from the men's descriptions of the circumstances and motivations surrounding their most recent unsafe sexual encounter. These related to: (i) their emotional needs and drives; (ii) the calculus of risk; (iii) issues of trust; and (iv) lapses of control. Each of these types of account is described and the implications of the typology are considered, both for our understanding of the meanings, considerations and constraints surrounding high-risk sexual behaviour and for developing more relevant health education interventions.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





619 - 630


Adolescent, Adult, Aged, Condoms, Emotions, England, HIV Infections, Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice, Homosexuality, Male, Humans, Internal-External Control, Interpersonal Relations, Male, Middle Aged, Models, Psychological, Risk Factors, Sexual Behavior, Tape Recording