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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 Women

  1. Introduction   
    Explanation of Process—talk, raise a few questions, talk about men/women, you (the participants) are the experts.    
    Explanation of taping, mirror, consent form (permission to interview again).
    Self Introduction: Tell us where you’re from, what you like to do in your spare time.
  1. Experiences in Dating   
    Tell us your strategy for meeting new people and describe a specific time when it worked well. 
    What do you call it when you go out with a guy?    
    What was your best date?    
    Describe your disaster date.   
    What do you like about dating? 
    What do you fear about dating?   
    How has dating changed since you started dating? How has your attitude about dating changed?
    How can you explain these changes?
  2. Experiences with Going Out with New People   
    Tell me about the last time you went out with someone new. What     happened?   
    Did the topic of sex come up? When did it come up? How did it come up? Who brought it up?
  3. Definition of Sex   
    (Write it out) Tell me about what sex means to you.
    What was the most pleasurable sexual time you had with someone? Could you describe what was so pleasurable about it?    
    Now I would like you to think about your sex partners and of the men you know. Tell me what you think was their most pleasurable experience with sex.   
    How important is having intercourse compared to other kinds of sex practices?
  4. Nature and Patterns of Sexual Negotiation   
    Did you and your partners ever talk about sex before you had sex? What did you talk about?  
    Who decides WHERE you are going to have sex?   
    Who decides WHAT you are going to do sexually?   
    How have you let your partner know what you wanted to do sexually?    
    Was this easy or hard for you to do?     
    What made it easy? What made it hard?     
    Did your partner usually do what you wanted?   
    How did your partner let you know what he wanted to do sexually? Did you usually do what he wanted?    
    What made you do that?     
    Did you ever do things sexually that you did not like doing?    
    Tell me about the time you did that.     
    What made you do these things?
  5. Sex in Coercive Situations   
    Have you ever had sex with someone when you didn’t want to?    
    Tell me about it. Tell me about the person.   
    Have others ever pressured you to have sex with them?    
    Give me some examples.     
    Have you ever pressured someone into having sex with you?    
    Give me some examples. Were you successful?
  6. Use of “Protection”   
    When you hear the term “protection,” what does it mean to you?   
    Do you use protection?     
    What kinds of protection do you use? When do you use them?   
    What other kinds of protection do you use?   
    What has been the response of men when you ask them to use a condom? Have you ever had to insist?    
    How have you responded when a man asked you to use a condom? Have you responded differently with different men?    
    Has there ever been a time when you wanted to use a condom but didn’t?    
    Who usually supplies the condoms?     
    Is this something that is discussed beforehand?    
    What happens if you don’t have a condom?   
    How do you feel about using condoms?    
    Have you had an ongoing relationship where you started off using condoms and then stopped? Whose idea was it to stop?
  7. Worries When Having Sex with a New Person   
    (Write out) What has been your worry when you started a sexual relationship with a new person?    
    Have the worries changed for you over time?    
    What did you do about these worries?    
    What kinds of worries have you had in long term relationships?   
    Have you ever felt judged during sex?     
    Have you ever found yourself trying to protect a guy’s feelings when you’re having sex? Tell me about it. When did it happen?    
    What did you do or say?    
    Do you think guys try to do this for women? Did anyone ever try to do this for you?
       
  8. Denied Having Sex   
    Have there been times you felt turned off or uninterested in sex?    
    Can you explain what was going on?     
    Are there times when you kept yourself from having sex even though you wanted to have it?    
    What was going on when that happened?
  9. Knowledge of Risky Behaviors   
    Have you ever heard the phrase “know your partner?” What does this mean to you?    
    Do you think it is possible to “know your partner?”    
    Have you tried to find out about any diseases your partner has that he could give to you through sex? Have any partners tried to find out about you?   
    Have you tried to find out about how many sex partners he’s had? About whether he injects drugs? Are you always truthful?    
    Do you trust his answers?     
    How do you know that he is being truthful?    
    Do you think that any of YOUR sexual practices in the past possibly put you at some risk for HIV/AIDS or any other diseases from sex?   
    Have you ever had sex with someone whom you thought might be at risk for AIDS? What made you think this person might be at risk for AIDS? Did you behave differently with this person than you would have otherwise? How?
  10. Knowledge of Safer Sex   
    What do you know about “safer sex”? Are you familiar with the term? Where have you heard about it?     
    How did you learn to use a condom? Do you wish you would have learned it a better way?
  11. 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  -- http://www.goodquestions.com