Identity, connectedness, and sexual health in the gay sauna

Jaspal, R. ORCID: 0000-0002-8463-9519 and Papaloukas, P., 2020. Identity, connectedness, and sexual health in the gay sauna. Sexuality Research and Social Policy. ISSN 1868-9884

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Introduction: This study focuses on the meanings and experiences that men living in Leicester, UK attribute to the gay sauna, the role of the gay sauna in their sense of identity, and how they construe their sexual behavior in this context.

Methods: In 2015, twenty male sauna users participated in a qualitative interview study. Data were analyzed using thematic analysis.

Results: The analysis yielded four themes: (1) identity authenticity in the gay sauna; (2) social connectedness among sauna users; (3) sexual risk and sexual health in the sauna; and (4) protecting the identity functions of the gay sauna. The themes show that engagement with the gay sauna can enhance feelings of identity authenticity and belongingness, and that individuals seek to protect these identity functions of the gay sauna despite recognizing the gay sauna as a “high-risk” environment. To protect identity, the notion of sexual risk is distanced from their own identities.

Discussion: Sauna users may experience better psychological health as a result of frequenting the sauna – it may promote identity authenticity and belongingness, and alleviate isolation, loneliness, and depression. The promotion of sexual health information and services in gay saunas may enable us to access individuals who might not ordinarily engage with sexual health services.

Social Policy Implications: There must be closer collaboration between sexual health services, sexual health outreach, and gay saunas in the area of sexual health, and identity concerns must be incorporated into the design of interventions.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Sexuality Research and Social Policy
Creators: Jaspal, R. and Papaloukas, P.
Publisher: Springer Nature
Date: 24 February 2020
ISSN: 1868-9884
Rights: © 2020 Springer Nature Switzerland AG. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 02 Apr 2020 13:44
Last Modified: 02 Apr 2020 13:44

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