Welcome to Wonderland? A Population Study of Intimate Experiences and Safe Sex at a Transformational Mass Gathering (Burning Man)

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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Psychology


Burning man, Transformational festival, Sexual behavior, Mass gathering, Safe sex, Social norms


Transformational festivals are socially immersive artistic mass gatherings that are said to promote a strong feeling of belonging and experiences of personal transformation. The purposes of the present study were (1) to investigate the social and intimate experiences of Burning Man participants and (2) to study the factors predicting safe sex practices in the context of that transformational festival. The study was based on data from two consecutive cycles (2013 and 2014) of the yearly post-event online survey done in collaboration with the Burning Man Project. Participants consisted of people who attended the event (N = 19,512). The results were weighted based on the sociodemographic characteristics of the population. A typology of social and intimate experiences was created using a k-means cluster analysis. Predictors of having had unprotected sex with someone met during the event were identified using a nested logistic regression. Five profiles of social and intimate experiences were identified. Profiles with high levels of emotionally and physically intimate experiences were associated with a strong feeling of belonging and a high proportion of personal transformation. Predictive analyses showed that unprotected sex was mainly predicted by variables associated with one of three factors: (1) a lower lever of preparation and practice in using protection, (2) sex education and/or subcultures, and (3) the perceived costs and benefits associated with protection. The results also indirectly suggest a positive effect of the event on safe sex. Implications in terms of public health intervention are discussed.

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Copyright is held by Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature. User is responsible for all copyright compliance. This article was originally published as:

Beaulieu‑Prévost, D., Cormier, M., Heller, S. M., Nelson-Gal, D., & McRae, K. (2019). Welcome to wonderland? A population study of intimate experiences and safe sex at a transformational mass gathering (burning man). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 48(7), 2055-2073. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-019-01509-9

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English (eng)


19 pgs

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674 KB

Publication Title

Archives of Sexual Behavior





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