Mastery, Isolation, or Acceptance: Gay and Bisexual Men's Construction of Aging in the Context of Sexual Embodiment After Prostate Cancer

J Sex Res. 2017 Jul-Aug;54(6):802-812. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2016.1211600. Epub 2016 Aug 12.


Age is the predominant risk factor for developing prostate cancer, leading to its description as an "older man's disease." Changed sexual embodiment is a concern for men who develop prostate cancer, often compounding experiences of age-related sexual decline. Although research has examined heterosexual men's experiences of aging in the context of sexual embodiment after prostate cancer, gay and bisexual men have received little attention. This qualitative study used a material-discursive analysis, drawing on positioning theory and intersectionality, to explore constructions of aging following prostate cancer in 46 gay or bisexual men. Thematic decomposition of one-to-one interviews identified three subject positions: "mastering youth," involving maintaining an active sex life through biomedical interventions, accessing commercial sex venues, or having sex with younger men; "the lonely old recluse," involving self-positioning as prematurely aged and withdrawal from a gay sexual scene; and "accepting embodied aging," involving the incorporation of changed sexual function into intimate relationships and finding pleasure through nonsexual activities. These subject positions are conceptualized as the product of intersecting masculine and gay identities, interpreted in relation to broader cultural discourses of "new aging" and "sexual health," in which sexual activity is conceptualized as a lifelong goal.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Bisexuality / psychology*
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*