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The following are two outlines of focus group questions (Focus Group Questions for Young Women and Focus Group Questions for Young Gay/Bisexual Men), the first for young women who have sex with men, and the second for young men who have sex with men. They are taken from the following research study conducted at the Center for AIDS Prevention Studies (CAPS), University of California San Francisco: “Sexual Negotiations Among Young Adults in the Era of AIDS.” Funded by the Universitywide AIDS Research Program, R94-SF-050.

NOTE: These questions are presented here in an effort to show what kinds of questions could be asked in a focus group. These questions can be used by any agency, but should be adapted and revised to fit the specific needs of the local community.

Focus Group Questions for Young Gay/Bisexual Men

  1. Introduction   
    Explanation of process: talk, raise a few questions, talk about your relationships with men, you’re the experts; not here to judge anyone. Rules: respect and honesty. This is one of many groups.     
    Explanation of taping, mirror, consent form.   
    Self Introduction: Tell us where you’re from, what you like to do.
  2. Meeting New Men   
    Tell us how you meet new men. Where, what kinds of places?    
    Are there different places for different purposes?   
    What are your strategies?    
    What kinds of things do you look for in men? What characteristics are important to you?   
    What are some of the things that come up when you meet someone and decide to have sex?   
    Tell me about the last time you met a new guy you had sex with.    
    How did you meet? What happened?    
    How did sex get started, happen? Who started it?   
    What did you talk about?
  3. Relationships   
    Let’s talk a little about relationships. What kinds of relationships with men have you had?   
    Are there differences in the way you meet men for casual sex versus for longer relationships?   
    How does meeting men for longer relationships happen?   
    How long-term are these relationships?    
    What are some of the problems in maintaining and breaking off long-term relationships?   
    What kinds of commitments are expected in these kinds of relationships?   
    Have you had experiences where one person is more in control than the other? (Where there are inequalities between partners?)
  4. Sexual Experiences   
    I want you to tell me about different sexual experiences you’ve had.
    First, what are you looking for in sex? What does sex mean to you?
    What’s the best sex you’ve had? Describe the situation.   
    What’s the worst sex you’ve had? Describe the situation.   
    Are there some sexual activities more important to you than others? (anal/oral; top/bottom)   
    Where is sex in your life? How much of your life revolves around sex?
  5. Nature and Patterns of Sexual Negotiation (communication, how work things out, decision-making)   
    Think about the last time you had sex with a man, did you and he talk about sex before having sex?    
    What kinds of things did you talk about? What were some of the things you thought about but didn’t talk about?    
    In what ways do you let someone you are having sex with know what you want to do sexually? Do you get your way?    
    In what ways does someone you are having sex with let you know what he wants to do sexually? Did you want to do what he wanted you to do? Did you usually do what he wanted?    
    Were there times when you kept yourself from having sex even though you wanted to have it?    
    What was going on when that happened?
  6. Coercive Situations (pressured to have sex)   
    Have you ever had sex with someone when you didn’t want to?     Tell me about it. Tell me about the person.   
    Has someone pressured you to have sex with him? How did you decide what to do? Give me an example. Was he successful?    
    You’re having sex with someone and you did things sexually that you did not like doing or didn’t want to do. Tell me about the last time you did that. What was going on?   
    What about times when you put pressure on someone to have sex with you or do something sexually with you they didn’t want to do?   
    Give me some examples. Were you successful?
  7. Condom Use   
    How do you feel about using condoms?    
    In what situations do you feel you need to use them?   
    What are some of the things you consider before having unprotected anal sex? Tell me about one of those situations.    
    How have you responded when a partner asked you to use a condom? Do you respond differently with different men?    
    Think about a time you wanted to use a condom but didn’t. Tell me about that time.    
    Have you had an ongoing relationship in which you started off using condoms and then stopped? Whose idea was it to stop? What were some of the things that may have made you (or your partner) uncomfortable about stopping?   
    Tell me about the last time you had sex and didn’t use a condom.  
    Tell me about the last time you were successful in convincing someone who didn’t want to use a condom to use one.
  8. Safer Sex   
    How do you think about “safe sex”?
    What are some of the most difficult parts of practicing safer sex?  
    How easy is it to be safe?    
    What are the different problems you have with maintaining safe sex with different men?   
    Have you had experiences where drugs or alcohol were an issue in trying to have safe sex?
  9. Gay Community/Identity Networks, Friendship Network   
    How do you feel about the gay community? What about differences between San Francisco and the East Bay?    
    What are the messages that come out of the gay community related to sex?   
    Are there pressures in the community to have sex?   
    How does age work in the gay community?   
    How would you define yourself (gay/bisexual/queer)? Are most of your friends gay/bisexual/straight/women/men?     
    How out are you? How involved are you in the gay community?  
    How out are you to friends, family, people at work?
  10. Final Question
    If you could change one thing about your relationships with men, what would it be?

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Good Questions, Better Answers --  1998 California Department of Health Services and Northern California Grantmakers AIDS Task Force  --