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An Experiment Using a Sexual Strategies Explanation to Alleviate Internalized Homophobia Among Men Who Have Sex With Men in China
Some men who have sex with men (MSM) having more casual sex and sexual partners is interpreted to be a sign of mental disorder and used to justify negative attitudes toward them by some. MSM may internalize this attitude causing internalized homophobia (IH). According to the sexual strategies theory, MSM having more casual sex is the result of differences between men's and women's sexual strategies and is unrelated to sexual orientation. We investigated whether this explanation would reduce IH and improve mental health in MSM. We recruited 255 Chinese MSM online using Wenjuanxing, Douban, Weibo, Tieba, and Blued and divided them using simple randomization into an experimental group (n = 77; sexual strategies explanation provided), an active control group (n = 99; minority stress explanation provided), and a control group (n = 79; no intervention) with pretest (N = 255); a 1 week post-test (n = 195); and a 1 month follow-up test (n = 170) of outcome measures. IH, mental distress (MD), sort-term mating orientation, and risky sexual behaviors were measured online. The data were analyzed by SPSS 28. IH was associated with MD while being married was associated with IH and sexual contact with women with both more IH and MD as were not being masculine and self-identifying as straight. The sexual strategies explanation reduced IH related to pathologizing sexual behaviors and high-risk sexual behaviors while the minority stress explanation reduced MD. Providing a sexual strategies explanation may be used to de-stigmatize casual sex among MSM.