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Sexual Behaviour and Risks of HIV Infection

Michel Hubert

II. Qualitative and Quantitative Data Collection Methods in the Study of Sexual Behaviour

Patterns in Homosexual Relations: the Use of the Diary Method

Peter Davies et Tony Coxon

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1The HIV epidemic forces all of us who are sexually active to consider and perhaps to change our sexual behaviour. These changes are potentially of the most profound kind. Much health education that urges these changes has been couched in terms of simple prescriptions or proscriptions: don't fuck; always use a condom. More recently, and with more accurate knowledge of the modalities of transmission of HIV, attempts have been made to introduce generative messages, messages that contain rules that give the individual the means by which to decide whether a particular act is unsafe. Messages such as 'on him not in him' or 'don’t exchange body fluids' are generative in this sense. As sexual behaviour changes in the face of the spread of HIV and the novelty of raspberry flavoured condoms wears off, the need for individuals and groups radically to re-evaluate the ways in which they have sex will become increasingly vital.

2Elsewhere (Davies, 1989), I have drawn the analogy with changing diet. If the unsafe act is not particularly important to the individual's sexual appetite like, say, jam of truffles in the diet, then life without them is not a particular hardship, but if the acts are central to the process of sex, as say meat is to the non-vegetarian diet, then the change will be a more difficult one. As anyone who has changed from a meat-eating to a vegetarian diet will know, the change involves a complete re-appraisal of the process of eating, involving a move from heuristic to explicit rules for meal construction. Similary, longterm changes of sexual practice to encompass safer sex will involve the greater or lesser re-appraisal of sexual activity, sexuality and sexual identity.

3Since we now know that the unsafe acts are vaginal and anal intercourse, we must ask as scientists and as sexual individuals what is the place of these acts in the sexual "meal". If it is the optional extra, like the Parmesan cheese or the after dinner mint, then simply to omit it from the repertoire will not be difficult and simple proscriptive messages may suffice, but if it functions more like the filet mignon or the lobster thermidor, that is as the piece de resistance of the meal, then the omission will occasion more pain and heart searching and more complex messages and strategies will be required.

4Responses to the risk of HIV infection may be classified into two broad types. The first, which involves an individual decision, is a decision to avoid sexual contact; to become celibate or monogamous or, more subtly to avoid those situations in which experience suggests that unsafe sex occurs. The second strategy, which, by contrast, involves negotiation, is an agreement not to engage in high-risk activities or to use a condom or whatever. It is important to note that these two types involve essentially different processes of response. The first is an individual decision and will be influenced by peer group pressure, cultural and sub-cultural norms and individual reserves of will-power but the second, particularly when with occasional partners, involves an actor in a negotiation into which obtrude issues of personal efficacy, power and responsibility in situations which themselves implicitly or explicitly channel power in particular ways.

5Two linked questions arise. Firstly are there particular physical, symbolic or situational contexts in which unsafe sex is more likely to occur than in others? Secondly, are there identifiable types of sexual interaction which are more likely to include unsafe acts than others? This paper is an attempt to begin an answer to the second of these two questions.

  • 1 Project SIGMA (Socio-Sexual Investigations of Gay Men and aids) is a linked set of research project (...)

6In order to gain some leverage on this question, Project SIGMA1 has developed the method of the sexual diary (see Coxon, 1988 for a summary). The method gives a uniquely detailed description of the sequences of sexual action and allows the analysis of the influence of context (both physical and situational) of behaviour.

I. The sexual diary

7It is important to recognise that the logical primitives for the study of sexual behaviour in general and the transmission of HIV in particular are sexual acts, not sexual preference, partners or sexual identity. HIV has a differential probability of transmission for each act, which is why we must be careful to refer to high risk activities rather than high risk groups or individuals. The diary method relies on a coding of sexual acts, both for tire case of the diarist and for succinct computer representation. The appendix contains details of the code as presented to the prospective diarist. This is slightly different from and slightly less complex than the version of the code used for the computer record and diarists are encouraged, in the first instance, to keep their diaries in written or spoken English.

8The acts are identified using a one - or two-letter mnemonic, drawn from the vernacular or street English terms for them. (Incidentally, we found that almost without exception, our respondents preferred to use these street terms rather than the more scientific Latin terms.) Table 1 gives a list of the codes together with their various translations.

Table 1: A Partial List of Sexual Activity Codes









Anal Insertion



Oro-anal contact









Vaginal Insertion



Digital insertion


9These acts are modulated by prefixing to the code letter/s a single letter modifier drawn from the set S, P, A, standing respectively for Self, Passive and Active, Thus each act may occur, logically if not physically, in one of the three modalities: each may be done to myself, to me by another, or by me to another.

10A further modifier M, standing for mutual, is also sometimes useful as a shorthand for simultaneous A and P. It is important to note that the modality modifiers follow the grammatical sense of the English terms that are indicated by the codes. Thus, the active-passive distinction in the codes docs not follow the insertor-insertee distinction (compare for example AF and AS).

11Where orgasm may occur as the direct result of one of the acts, a further two letters are added to the code, the first indicating the destination of the diarist's ejaculation, the second the destination of the partner's. The codes in each case are one of the letters O, I, C, E, X, which stand, respectively for On a person, In a person, into a Condom, Elsewhere or that there was no ejaculation.

12The next and most important level of description of sexual activity is the session. A session is simply a succession of sexual acts taking place in sequence with the same partner or partners. Acts that occur simultaneously are joined with an ampersand. While in most cases the end of a session is fairly easy to distinguish, there is some residual difficulty in deciding how long a pause in a session has to be before it becomes a period of time between two sessions.

II. Some problems

13Clearly, the diary method, while providing detailed and extensive information about sexual activity, carries along with it some problems.

A. Chunking

14It is clearly unrealistic and undesirable that every physical movement be encoded in the diary. Rather, what happens is that people record activity in 'natural' chunks. This suggests that there exists a language for talking about sexual activity which the diary method can capture. While this language may not be logically water-tight, this is no different from any other language. As Wittgenstein among many others has commented, language is fuzzy at the edges.

15The problem with chunking is that slight differences in sessions may be lost and conflated into stereotypical sequences if the period between the action and the recording of it is at all extended. Although this is a major difficulty if we expect the method to record the reality of the activity, this is not the case if we are interested in the way that people construe sexual sessions. In seeking to influence or to change behaviour, it is the expectations that people have about sexual activity that are almost as important as the actuality.

B. Recall

16As was suggested earlier, although the diary method alleviates the problem of recall in the study of sexual behaviour, it does not solve it. Although diarists are asked to make a record of their sexual activity as soon after the fact as is practicable, it is recognised that the exigencies of the situation may make the prompt recording of details impossible. We surmise from all the work done on recollection and memory that the longer the delay between act and record, the grosser the chunks that will be recorded and the more likely it is that the activity will be conflated to a stereotypical pattern.

C. Scenes and scenarios

17The method as currently contrued is adequate for the description of the physical acts of sexual behaviour. It is less well-adapted to the description of the settings within which that activity takes place. If we take seriously the notion of a language of sexual activity, then we must also consider the indexicality of that language, that is to say the likelihood that the meaning of particular acts or sequences of acts will differ according to the circumstances in which they take place. These circumstances may be physical or psychological. That is to say that particular acts may be more appropriate to certain places (compare, for example, the bed and the outdoor cruising ground) and also to the explicit or implicit scenario of the action. It is common, for example for SM sexual activity to make use of explicitly negotiated scenarios within which sexual activity occurs. Other sexual activity may also take place within less well-defined, less explicit, unnegotiated (that is to say taken for granted) scenarios.

D. Literacy

18Although provision is made in the notes that explain the use if the diary (as in the appendix) for diarists to send in verbal records of their activity on cassette tapes, the likelihood remains that this method will be more suited to the literate, or to those more used to the manipulation of symbolic entities. It is difficult to sec how this might be overcome, but unless there is evidence that ability to work in this way influences the type of sex that a person has, it is a relatively unimportant problem.

E. Invention

19Inevitably, people are going to invent some of the entries in the diary. This may take the form of recording sex which they see as more acceptable, that is for example, leaving out the unsafe or the unsavoury, or either adding or omitting sessions so as to conform to a perceived notion of the 'right' amount of sexual activity.

20It is assumed that when sessions are invented the invention will flow with the pattern of real sessions, so that if the focus of interest is the expectations of sexual activity or what I have referred to as the language of sex, then this is less of a problem than it would be if the focus was the incidence of sexual activity.



DAVIES P.M. (1989), Some Notes on the Structure of Homosexual Acts, in AGGLETON P., HART G. & DAVIES P. M. (eds), AIDS: Social Representations and Social Practices, London, Falmer, 147-159.

COXON A.P.M. (1988), Something Sensational...: The Sexual Diary as a Tool for Mapping Detailed Sexual Behaviour, in Soc. Rev., 36(2): 353-367.


Appendix: Notes for a sexual diary (Project SIGMA)2

I. Introduction

Please read these Notes before starting your diary.

In your diary we want you to keep a daily record of your sexual activities, written in terms of what happened from your position. The Diary is to be written down on the weekly Diary Sheets as soon as you can after they occur and, if at all possible, on the same day. The accurate detail of your sexual behaviour is very important, and you must be completely honest or it isn't worth doing the diary. Although we are mainly concerned with homosexual behaviour, please make sure that you also record any sex you have with females during the month, describing it in the same detail.

You will probably find it useful first to get a sheet of paper and write down in your own words exactly what you can remember of the last time you had sex. Then read these Notes and check whether you got down all the significant information. You may write your diary cither in ordinary words, or in a coded form (explained later), or in a mixture of the two. A word about language: in the Notes we shall usually refer to sexual activity using everyday terms, like "wank", rather than "masturbation", but in your Diary feel free to use whatever words you are comfortable with. Describe the sexual act as simply and accurately as you can, following the rules mentioned below.

(If you have a cassette recorder, and prefer to record rather than write down your sexual diary, this is quite alright by us; just make sure you give the same information and follow the same rules. Use your own cassette, and we shall return it to you after it has been transcribed).

The basic entry in the diary is what we call the "session". By "session" we mean: "one or more sexual acts with the same person (or persons) at one time". It might be a long session of different sexual acts, or simply be a quick wank by yourself. Within each session each "sexual act" (such as sucking off) is described separately, in terms of "who did what to whom, and who came".

Over the page we give an example of a day's entry in someone's sexual diary, consisting of one "session" at 8 am and another at 6 pm; it is written in ordinary language. Following this, the same day's entry is given, written in code.



8 am: Had a wank by myself at home, reading porn, but didn't come
6 pm: my regular boyfriend (P1) and I had a session when he came home.

First I sucked him (but he didn't come). Then he fucked me, using a condom and KY,

16 May

and came in me. After that he wanked me off, using his spit.
During all this, we used poppers

(You wil find a longer example of a full week's diary on page 6).

You might find it useful to adopt the coding scheme, which is like the one we use in the project. It looks a bit complicated, but is much shorter and actually very easy to get used too. Here is a coded version of the same diary entry:


8am / home / SW

16 May

6pm / Pl’s flat / P1 (AS + PFXO/c.l + PWOX/l) / p

The Code and suggestions for its use are described in SECTION THREE (CODING SCHEME FOR SEXUAL ACTS) following these notes. You might like to look at it after reading through this first section. It contains a coded version of the same full week’s diary.

Please do your best to keep your sexual diary on a daily basis, and keep it for the full month if you possibly can, because this is the shortest time in which it is possible to get an idea of your "typical" behaviour. If you cannot (or do not) complete a full month, return it just the same. Needless to say, if you are prepared to keep it either for a longer period than a month or every few months, this will be even more valuable. Mention this on the front sheet of the Diary.

II. What needs to be described

It is important that for each session you record:

- the time

- the place

- the participant/s (if any, other than yourself)

- what actually happened, including details of who came, and

- "accompaniments" (other things that are used or done, like using poppers).

Let me explain each one in turn:

A. Time

Give the hour at which the session occurred if you can, or at least indicate whether it was morning, afternoon, evening or night.

B. Place

The reason for giving the place is that it is important to know where the sex took place-at your place or his, or somewhere else, such as outside (parks, heaths, toilets, etc.). Be honest!

C. Other person(s)

First of all, we do not want to know the names of your sexual partners, but we do ask you to describe each of them by:

i) whether you have sex with him on a regular, occasional or "one-off'(one-night stand) basis

ii) his age

iii) how long you've been having sex with him

iv) where you met him (if he’s a "one-off" casual partner)

v) other details (job, where he comes from, what attracts you about him)

v) HIV status of your partner/s (if you know)

If you don't say otherwise, we assume your partner is male.

You write each week of the diary on a single page (but feel free to write on the back of the page, or design your own diary form if it doesn’t suit you for any reason). You enter details about each sexual partner on the Partner List when they first appear in your diary, and then use that same number throughout the month.

D. The sexual acts

Your accurate description of the sexual acts which took place are the core of the sexual diary, so please pay a special attention to this part.

Each "session" consists of one or more sexual acts. For each sexual act we need to know:

- exactly what was done

- whether you did it by yourself; or you did it to him; or he did it to you; or you both it to each other at the same time

- whether it resulted in orgasm ("coming")

- anf, if so:

- who came

- whether the orgams was "in" or "on" the person

- whether a condom was worn, poppers used, etc.

People sometimes withdraw their cock before coming, when sucking and fucking, as in example (5) below. Here, his partner pulled out before coming to orgasm, but then came on him. If this happens to you, or your partner does this with you, please be especially careful to mention it.

Here are some examples:


I wanked myself off.


I sucked P1 off and he came in my mouth


P3 fucked me, but I didn't come


I fucked P2 and at the same time I wanked him off; he came, I didn't


He fucked me and came (on me, but not in me.)


P2 fucked me, but he pulled out before he came Then he took a shower and/sucked him and he came.


I rubbed myself on P1's stomach until I came


We wanked each other, but only he came.


He wanked off onto my chest.


PI screwed me and came inside me. P2 then rimmed me.


P1 rimmed me, then screwed me and came inside me.


P2 fucked me and came inside me, then he fucked me with a dildo. Then I fucked him with the same dildo.

Note in these examples:

- that sexual partners are referred to as "P1", "P2", etc.

- that "wanking / sucking off, or "wanking / sucking and coming" are taken to mean that the wanking / sucking resulted in orgasm.

E. "Other things" (condoms, lubricants, poppers, drugs and toys)

There are other things you may do when having sex which also need mentioning. Here are some common accompaniments:

i) Preparations. It's often important to know what happened before you had sex - whether you met at a club or in a cottage, or after being out drinking, for instance. But also, some people get themselves in the mood by having a joint, or giving themselves an enema (douche). Other people like to use porn magazines or videos, and so on. Mention any of these if they apply to you.

ii) Condoms and lubricants. It is especially important to know whether you or your pamer/s use a condom, or any other form of protection. Mention the sexual act/s in which it was worn, and who wore it. Say, too, what type it was (e.g. Durex, Red Stripe) and what lubricants you use with it (e.g. KY, 121, Vaseline) at the bottom of the page. Sometimes you may begin to use a condom and then decide not to, or it might break or tear; mention this too. For example:

He fucked me, wearing a condom.

P1 (wearing a condom) screwed P2, then P1 (wearing the same condom) screwed me.

Whilst fucking we tried to use a condom (Durex), and I had to use spit, but it broke in use after I came.

I wanked myself using baby oil as a lubricant.

ii) Poppers and drugs. If you ever use poppers (or any other drug/s) when having sex, mention this (and the name of the drug if it’s not poppers). Once again, make it clear which sex act you use them in. For example:

First I wanked P1, then we had a "69" (mutual sucking), then I was fucked by P1... we both used poppers throughout.

He gave me poppers. First he rimmed me, and then he fucked me till he came.

After oiling each other down, we had a "69" (neither of us came).

Then we had a joint each, and then went on to...

iv) Toys, dildoes, etc. If you use any toys (such as a dildo, or equipment used in S&M), mention this, and when you use them. For example:

I was gagged and blindfolded, and then P1...

P2 sat on my stomach, and fucked me with my dildo, using KY.

To make it easier, there's a note at the bottom of each diary page where you can write in exactly what sort of condom, lubricant, poppers, toys etc. you use, or you can just put in when relevant.

Three (and more) somes

When there are three or more people involved in a sexual session, things sometimes get more complicated. Always remember to say which person did what to whom. It’s easiest to use "P1", "P2", "P3" etc to do this. You won’t always know what the other people are doing, but if you do, mention it. For exemple:

I fucked P2, whilst he was fucking P3 at the same time

Whilst P3 and I were having a "69", P2 wanked off over me

P1 was sucking P2 whilst P2 was wanking me

Example of a full diary (Week beginning: Sunday II May)


9 am at my home, with Pl. He fucked me (without coming), then I fucked him and came in him. Both of us wore a condom (always Red Stripe) and used KY. Then 1 was Sunday wanked off by him.

May 11

11 at night, my place, reading porn, I had a wank by myself and came.



9 pm. Hampstead Heath. With P2 we both wanked each other off (at the same time) and Tuesday, both came. We shared poppers.



7 pm at P1's flat. I sucked him, then he sucked me. Then I fucked him (using R/S & Thursday KY). Then I was wanked off by him, and I then wanked him and he came.


7 am at home. A quick wank to orgasm.
11.30 pm, at my place, with P1. I was fucked by him and he came (but not in me). Then I fucked him without coming (KY but no condom in either case). Then I was wanked off.


9 am, at home with P1: mutual wank, followed by me fucking him and wanking him at the same time (he came; I didn't). Then I wanked myself off.
4 pm, in this guy's (P3) car. I fucked him and came in him (with R/S & KY), then I wanked him to orgasm.
11 pm, with P1 at my place. I wanked him, then he wanked me; neither of us came. Then we had a 69, and both of us came. We used poppers.

Type/s of:
Condoms used: always Red Stripe
Poppers used: Rush, Locker-Room
used: KY
Drugs used: (none)


If you aren't having much sex at the moment, please don't invent sexual activity; your diary is just as important to the research as those who are very sexually active. Remember, too, that we are concerned with what you do, not with what you think you should do, nor even with what you would like to do! In these days, there's sometimes a tendancy to describe our sexual behaviour as more safe than it really is. Please be completely honest.

Have a look now at the example of a week's diary which follows: then off you go! By the way, any resemblance between what's in the Diary and what you do is pure coincidence. The example has been written to give examples of different things that have been discussed earlier, and so there's lots more sexual activity in it than many people have in a month.

In section Two, which follows, there is a brief introduction to the Coding Scheme. You might like to have a look through it, and then decide whether you want to write all your diary in it, or use bits of the code, or ignore it entirely. It's up to you.

MANY THANKS FOR YOUR UNIQUE AND VALUABLE INFORMATION. IT WILL BE KEPT ENTIRELY ANONYMOUS AND CONFIDENTIAL. Please write any additional information or explanation on the Diary forms, on the back of them, or on an enclosed piece of paper. Your thoughts, reactions and additional information are very valuable in understanding what is happening. Remember, too, that you may write to us (no stamp) at the Project at any time using the address given on the FREEPOST envelope.

Take care-and thanks again.

III. Coding scheme for sexual acts (Version of October 1st 1987)

Each sexual act is described basically in terms of what is done (type of act, e.g. sucking); which "way" it was done (i.e. by whom and to whom); whether and how orgasm occurred, and what accompaniments were used.

A. Type of act (what sexual act is done)

The first letters are used to stand for the type of sex act, as follows:


means "wanking"

[i.e. masturbation]


means "sucking"

[i.e. fellatio]


means "fucking"

[i.e. anal intercourse]

A fuller list of sex acts is given on page 75.

B. Which "Way" (who does what to whom)

The "way" is coded by a letter put before the sexual act, to show how it was done.


means "self

[i.e. you did it by yourself]


means "active"

[i.e. you dit it to him]


means "passive"

[i.e. he did it to you]


means "mutual"

[i.e. he dit it to you and at the same time you dit it to him]

So, for isntance:


means "Self-wank"

i.e. you wanked yourself


means "Active-suck"

i.e. you sucked his cock


means "Passive-fucked"

i.e. you were fucked by him


means "Mutual-sucked"

i.e. you sucked each other's cock at the same time ("69")

C. Orgasm

It's important to be very specific about orgasm. In particular, we need to know:

- if anyone came to orgasm. And if so, who did;

- whether the orgasm was "in" or "on" the other person, and

- if "in", whether a condom was worn,

- what other accompaniments were used.

If no orgasm occurred, then nothing needs to be added to the sexual act, so that, for instance, AF simply means you fucked him, and neither of you came to orgasm in that act.

If orgasm did occur, the details are coded by adding two letters to the end of each sexual act: this first to describe your orgasm, and the second to desbribe his orgasm. To describe the obvious alternatives in each position, we use three different letters:


is used to mean you (or he) came to orgasm


is used to mean you (or he) did not come at all


is used to mean you (or he) pulled out before coming, i.e. came "on" rather than "in".

If the sex act is "single", i.e. only you were involved, then there is no need to include the second position, and only O applies, as in:


means "single-wank-orgasm" [i.e. you wanked yourself to orgasm).

If the act is Active, Passive or Mutual, add two letters, for "ME" and "HIM", and fill in the appropriate position. First, using O for "Orgasm" and X for "Didn't come":



Only I came to orgasm:



Only he came to orgasm:



Both he and I came to orgasm:







"mutual-wank; I came, he didn't”




"mutual-suck; I didn't come, he did"




"mutual-wank; we both came"




"active-fuck; I came, he didn't"




"active-fuck; I didn’t come, but he did" [i.e. he came as a direct result of me fucking him)

Now, using P, as well as O



"mutual-wank; I pulled out before coming, and he didn’t come at all"



"mutual-suck; I came (in his mouth) but he pulled out before coming"



"active-fuck; I came in him and he came too"

D. Other

The most important "accompaniments" of a sexual act are condoms, lubricants, poppers and/or drugs and toys. These "other bits" are coded after the sexual act, using a slash (/), with the appropriate small (lowercase) letters, so:


for condom


for lubricants


for poppers (or the name of the drug)


for dildo (inserted anally)

If they are used in the act. For instance:


means "Active-fuck/condom and lubricant"


means "Active-suck/poppers"; i.e. whilst you sucked him, poppers were used.

Coding a session

If more than one sexual act was performed in a "session": put the various acts together (with a "+" between each) in the order in which they occurred, then put brackets round the session. For instance:

(PS + AFOX/c + PF) / p

In words: you were sucked by him, and then you fucked him and came (you were wearing a condom for that act). Then you were fucked by him (but neither of you came). During the whole session, poppers were being used.

If this coded version all seems too complicated, just use your own words-but be sure to mention the things mentioned here. You may, if you wish, mix the "full form" of reporting your diary and the coded form. In this case, use the codes for the main description, and put in full any bits you're unsure about. A coded version of the week-long diary, a Reference Guide to Coding and on Appendix (giving details about encoding complex acts and 3-somes) follows.

Example of a (coded) week's diary (Week beginning: Sunday 11 May)


9 am / home / P1 (PF / c.l + AFOX /c.l + PWOX)

May 11

11 pm / home / SWO



9 pm / park / P2 (MWOO) / p



7 pm / his flat / P1 (AS + PS + AFOX / c,l + PWOX +AWXO)


7 am / home / SWO
11.30 pm / home / P1 (PFXP/1 + AF/1 + PWOX)


9 am / home / P1 (MW + AF&AW XO + SWO)
4 pm / car / P3 (AFOX / c,l + AWXO)
11 pm / P1 (AW + PW + MSOO) / p

Type/s of:
Condoms used: always Red Stripe Lubricants used: KY
Poppers used: Rush, Locker-Room Drugs used: (none)

Remember: Each entry should specify: Time / Place / Other person [code] / [what happened viewed from YOUR position]

Please list the characteristics of each other person at the foot of the sheet

N.B. Any resemblance between this week and your activities (or those of any known person) is pure chance. The examples are chosen only to illustrate the use of the code.

IV. List and code of sex acts

The Code for each act consists of three parts:

- how it was done (Self, Active, Passive, Mutual)

- what was done (Wanking, Sucking, Fucking, etc)

- whether and how orgasm occurred, for me and for him, and what accompaniments were used.

A. List of more common sexual acts



Self Wanking


Active (you did it to him) Wanking


Passive (it was done to you by him) Wanking


Mutual Wanking (you both did it to each other at the same time)



Active Sucking


Passive Sucking


Mutual Sucking ("69")

[fucking (anal intercourse)]


Active Fucking


Passive Fucking


Mutual Fucking

[fucking (vaginal intercourse with a woman)]


Active (vaginal) Fucking

Note: Several other variations are possible, but uncommon, like SS (self-sucking) and SF (self-fucking): if you do it, put it down in code!

[other sexual acts]

Two letters are used to stand for the other sexual acts:


Body Rubbing (face-to-face, as in "Princeton Rub")


Corporal Punishment (belt, whip, hands)


Fingering (insertion of finger into anus)


Fisting (anal insertion beyond knuckle)




Rimming (oral-anal; need not be insertion)


Scat (shitting)


Thigh Fucking (cock between his thighs/legs/armpits, etc.)


Water-sports (pissing)

(Invent your own 2-letter symbol for any acts not included here, but explain them). As in the previous set of acts, put an "S" before the act for "Self", put an "A" before the act for "Active" and "P" for "Passive", and put an "M" before the act for "Mutual". For example:



you massaged him



you were thigh-fucked by him



you both rimmed each other at the same time

Two (or more) different acts which occurred at the same time are joined by "&" (AND) (e.g. AF & AW), and three-somes are encoded using Partner numbers (see APPENDIX at the end).

B. Coding orgasm

Add to the relevant sex act two letters representing the orgasm of ME and HIM [or, for 3-somes, for the two partners involved, e.g. (P2, P3)]



Only I came to orgasm:



Only he came to orgasm:



Both he and I came to orgasm:



In the case of Single sex acts, only one letter need be added, as in:


meaning "I wanked myself to orgasm"

Instead of O, the following variants should be used when appropriate:


is used to mean you or he did not come at all


is used to mean you or he pulled out before coming, i.e. came "on" rather than "in"

C. Accompaniments

Add to the relevant sexual act or session:


means a condom was used


means a lubricant was used


means a dildo was used


means poppers (or name of drug) were used


means a toy was used

D. Other

Spaces and brackets can be used whenever necessary to make clear what happened (e.g. whether poppers were used throughout a session or only in a single act).

V. Note on coding simultaneous acts and threesomes

A. Two different acts at the same time

Sometimes two (or more) different sexual acts are done together at the same time. If so, link them by an meaning "AND". They then count as a single act. Thus:


means "Passive-suck-AND-Active-wank" i.e. he sucked you and you wanked him at the same time


means "Active-fuck-AND-Active-wank" i.e. you fucked him and you wanked him at the same time

Mutual sexual acts are simply the same sex act done at the same time by two people, and sometimes it might help to use the to make clear exactly what happened. Consider:


which means "Active-fuck-AND-passive-fuck" i.e. you fucked him and you were fucked by him at the same time

We believe (so far!) that this sexual act is physically impossible so MF can't be used to describe it But it could have been a threesome, where there would be two partners involved with you at the same lime. If this is so, make it clear by adding their numbers, e.g.


means "Active-fuck (by P1) -AND- passive-fuck (by P2)" i.e. in a 3-some you fucked P1 and at the same time, you were fucked by P2

A quite different act is coded by PF(P1)&PF(P2), which is possible, if unusual:


means "Passive-fuck (by Pl)-AND-passive-fuck (by P2) i.e. you were fucked by P1 and you were fucked by P2 at the same time.

When orgasm occurs, simultaneous acts are encoded in exactly the same way, so:


means "(active-fuck-AND-active-wank); I came, he didn't"

[in this case I was fucking him and wanking him, and it was as a result of wanking him that he came.

B. Threesomes

In the case of three-somes when orgasm/s occur, it is sometimes difficult to make clear exactly who came, and here it sometimes becomes necessary to include the orgasm information with each constituent act, and specify the partner. Consider the following three-some involving me, P1 and P2:

PF XO (P1) & PS OX (P2) & AW (P1,P2) XO

i.e. I am fucked by P1 (and P1 comes) AND at the same time I am sucked by P2 (and I come) AND at the same time P1 wanks P2 (and P2 comes).

The only new rule is using (P1, P2) to show who the orgasm information refers to when it doesn't include me, so AW (P1, P2) XO translates as "Active-wank (involving P1, P2); P1 didn't come, P2 came".

We recognize that a code such as this cannot be complete, but the applications of these rules mean that almost every session can be encoded. Clearly, if you are in a three-some you will not necessarily know what the others are doing, but if you encounter a situation which you think cannot be encoded, please inform us.


1 Project SIGMA (Socio-Sexual Investigations of Gay Men and aids) is a linked set of research projects, funded by the Medical Research Council and the Department of Health whose assistance is gratefully recognised.

2 Version of 17th November 1987


Project SIGMA, Department of Social Sciences, South Bank Polytechnic, London.

Research Centre on Microsocial Change, University of Essex, Colchester.

© Presses de l’Université Saint-Louis, 1990

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