Send to

Choose Destination
Arch Sex Behav. 2017 May;46(4):869-884. doi: 10.1007/s10508-016-0738-y. Epub 2016 May 13.

Sexual Positioning Among Men Who Have Sex With Men: A Narrative Review.

Author information

Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 90032, USA.
Division of Global Public Health, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA, USA.
Department of Preventive Medicine, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, 90032, USA.


Sexual positioning practices among men who have sex with men (MSM) have not received a thorough discussion in the MSM and HIV literature, given that risks for acquiring or transmitting HIV and STIs via condomless anal sex vary according to sexual positioning. MSM bear a disproportionate burden of HIV compared to the general population in the United States; surveillance efforts suggest that HIV and STIs are increasing among domestic and international populations of MSM. We conducted a narrative review, using a targeted literature search strategy, as an initial effort to explore processes through which sexual positioning practices may contribute to HIV/STI transmission. Peer-reviewed articles were eligible for inclusion if they contained a measure of sexual positioning identity and/or behavior (i.e., "top", "bottom," etc.) or sexual positioning behavior (receptive anal intercourse or insertive anal intercourse), or assessed the relationship between sexual positioning identity with HIV risk, anal sex practice, masculinity, power, partner type, or HIV status. A total of 23 articles met our inclusion criteria. This review highlights dynamic psychosocial processes likely underlying sexual decision making related to sexual positioning identity and practices among MSM and MSM who have sex with women (MSMW), and ways these contexts may influence HIV/STI risk. Despite limited focus in the extant literature, this review notes the important role the contextual factors (masculinity stereotypes, power, partner type, and HIV status) likely to play in influencing sexual positioning identity and practices. Through this review we offer an initial synthesis of the literature describing sexual positioning identities and practices and conceptual model to provide insight into important areas of study through future research.


HIV; Insertive anal sex; Men who have sex with men; Receptive anal sex; Sexual orientation; Sexual positioning

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center