The Impact of Sexual Arousal on Sexual Risk-Taking and Decision-Making in Men and Women (2016)

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Arch Sex Behav. 2016 Jan;45(1):33-42. doi: 10.1007/s10508-015-0589-y.

Skakoon-Sparling S1,2, Cramer KM3, Shuper PA4,5.


Sexual arousal has emerged as an important contextual feature in sexual encounters that can impact safer-sex decision-making. We conducted two experiments that investigated the effects of sexual arousal among male and female participants. Experiment 1 (N = 144) examined the impact of sexual around on sexual health decision-making. Sexually explicit and neutral video clips as well as hypothetical romantic scenarios were used to evaluate the effects of sexual arousal on sexual risk-taking intentions. Men and women who reported higher levels of sexual arousal also displayed greater intentions to participate in risky sexual behavior (e.g., unprotected sex with a new sex partner).

Experiment 2 (N = 122) examined the impact of sexual arousal on general risk-taking, using the same videos clips as in Experiment 1 and a modified version of a computerized Blackjack card game. Participants were offered a chance to make either a risky play or a safe play during ambiguous conditions. Increased sexual arousal in Experiment 2 was associated with impulsivity and a greater willingness to make risky plays in the Blackjack game.

These findings suggest that, in situations where there are strong sexually visceral cues, both men and women experiencing strong sexual arousal may have lower inhibitions and may experience impaired decision-making. This phenomenon may have an impact during sexual encounters and may contribute to a failure to use appropriate prophylactic protection.

KEYWORDS: Risk-taking; Safer-sex behavior; Sexual arousal; Sexual decision-making; Sexual risk-taking intentions

PMID: 26310879

DOI: 10.1007/s10508-015-0589-y