What's Gay About Being Single? A Qualitative Study of the Lived Experiences of Older Single Gay Men
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AbstractThis paper contributes to the theorization of 'choice' within sociological understanding of singlehood. Previous sociological research on singlehood has largely focused on the lives of heterosexual singles. A choice narrative permeates such literature, depicting singlehood as a celebratory story that brings about the potential to disrupt the couplehood culture in society. Based on in-depth interviews with 25 self-identified single gay men over the age of 50 in England, this article finds that although gay singles share similarities with straight singles, there are gay-specific features of singlehood that can be identified, in terms of the limit of 'choice'. Although some older single gay men drew on the cultural discourse in the gay community, which decentres the conjugal couple, and claimed freedom of sexual exploration as a positive aspect of being single, there was also a strong sense that many older gay men's status of being single was shaped by a larger history, and hence, they were afforded no choice in choosing whether to be single or not. Taking these findings together, this paper suggests that there are ideological, historical and cultural factors that distinguish the lived experiences of single gay men as being different from those of heterosexual singles. This paper argues that although the discourse of 'choice' helps sociologists to understand that singlehood need not be understood as necessarily a negative experience, older gay men's experiences of singlehood caution that the choice narrative shall not mislead the analysis to focus singlehood merely on the individual level. Instead, singlehood needs to be understood as deeply socially and historically embedded.
All Author(s) ListSuen YT
Journal nameSociological Research Online
Volume Number20
Issue Number3
LanguagesEnglish-United Kingdom
KeywordsIntimacy; Qualitative; Sexuality; Singlehood
Web of Science Subject CategoriesSociology

Last updated on 2021-10-09 at 00:28