When a woman is more attractive, a man is less likely to intend to use a condom during sex with her, a new study finds.
Previous research has suggested that there is a link between perceived attractiveness and a person's willingness to have unprotected sex, the researchers, led by Anastasia Eleftheriou, a graduate student in computer science at the University of Southampton in England, wrote in the new study. Eleftheriou's research focuses on using computer simulations to study and influence attitudes towards sexual behavior.
One earlier study of women, for example, found that the more attractive they considered a man to be, the more willing they would be to have unprotected sex with that man. This was true even though the women believed that attractive men were more likely than less attractive men to have a sexually transmitted infection (STI). [10 Things Every Woman Should Know About a Man's Brain]
In the new study, the researchers focused on men. Fifty-one heterosexual men completed a survey in which they were asked to rate the attractiveness of 20 women in photographs on a scale from 0 to 100. For each woman, the men were asked to indicate, also on a scale of 0 to 100, how likely they would be to have sex with the woman if given the opportunity, and how likely they would be to use a condom, the study said. The researchers also asked the men to estimate how many men like themselves out of 100 would have unprotected sex with the woman if given the opportunity. Finally, the men were asked to indicate on a scale of 0 to 100 how likely it was that the woman in the photo had an STI.
The researchers also asked the men a series of questions about their sexual history, and how attractive they considered themselves to be.
Results showed that the more attractive a man considered a woman to be, the less likely it was that he would intend to use a condom during sex with her.
The researchers also found that if the men said that a high number of other men like themselves would be willing to have unprotected sex with a woman, the respondents were also more likely to say the women had an STI. However, the study found, this did not affect the men's willingness to have unprotected sex with the woman.
The researchers found that men thinking a woman had an STI had no influence on how attractive the men found that woman, the study authors wrote. Some men were more attracted to women who they judged to be STI-free, while others were more attracted to women who they believed more likely to have an STI, the study found. [Hidden STD Epidemic: 110 Million Infections in the US]
A man's perception of his own attractiveness also played a role: The more attractive a man considered himself to be, the less likely it was that he would to intend to use a condom, the study found.
The findings suggest sexual behavior is irrational when it comes to avoiding infections: Men in the study were less likely to intend to use a condom with a woman they found more attractive, even if they thought the woman had an STI, the researchers wrote. Conversely, the men in the study were more likely to intend to use a condom with a woman they considered less attractive, even if she was less likely to have an STI, according to the study.
Based on the findings, a one-size-fits-all approach may not work to educate men about condom use, the researchers wrote. Rather, education efforts may need to differ depending if the men are more attracted to women who they believe are more likely to have STIs or more attracted to women who they believe are less likely to have STIs.
The researchers noted, however, that the study included a small number of men, the majority of whom were white. A larger, more diverse group of men may result in different findings. In addition, the study focused on whether or not men intended to use a condom during sexual intercourse, but not if they actually did use a condom.
The study was published June 17 in the journal BMJ Open.
Originally published on Live Science.