People Think Sex Is Riskier Than It Really Is

People Think Sex Is Riskier Than It Really Is

There's a scene in the movie Mean Girls in which high school health teacher Coach Carr gives his students a lesson in sex education. It pretty much consists of him saying: "Don't have sex, because you will get pregnant...and die!"

As much as I wish I could say Coach Carr's class bears no resemblance to how we teach kids about sex in the real world, the sad fact of the matter is that the primary message many U.S. educators are sending out about sex is to be afraid. Be very afraid. Unfortunately, it turns out that this approach to sex education is problematic on multiple levels.

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Do Men Really Take More Risks And "Show Off" In The Presence Of Sexy Women?

Do Men Really Take More Risks And "Show Off" In The Presence Of Sexy Women?

Several studies have found that when heterosexual men are around attractive women, they become prone to engaging in risky behaviors and spend their money more freely than usual. For instance, one study reported that when male skateboarders performed in front of a female observer, they attempted more dangerous stunts that increased their likelihood of crashing. Other studies have found that, when primed with photos of sexy women, guys are willing to spend more money on luxury goods (e.g., cars and watches).

Some scientists have argued that there’s an evolutionary reason for these effects: the presence of an attractive women stimulates men’s testosterone levels, thereby leading guys to engage in sexual displays that "demonstrate their value.” In other words, these behaviors are thought to convey a man’s status in such a way that he will attract more female mates.

Although several studies have appeared over the years that would seem to support this theory (often referred to in the literature as “romantic priming”), a new paper published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General has called this whole phenomenon into question and suggests that previous researchers may have overstated the effects.

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People Think Sex Is Much Riskier Than It Really Is

People Think Sex Is Much Riskier Than It Really Is

There's a scene in the movie Mean Girls in which high school health teacher Coach Carr gives his students a lesson in sex education. It pretty much consists of him saying: "Don't have sex, because you will get pregnant...and die!" As much as I wish I could say Coach Carr's class bears no resemblance to how we teach kids about sex in the real world, the sad truth of the matter is that the primary message many educators are sending out about sex is to be afraid. Be very afraid. 

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Does Pornography Promote Risky Sex?

Does Pornography Promote Risky Sex?

When it comes to pornography, many have argued that we have a tendency to imitate the sexual behaviors that we observe on screen. In other words, we take a "monkey see, monkey do" approach to porn. This belief has led to widespread concern that viewers might mimic the risky sexual acts that they see porn stars doing (e.g., having unprotected sex with multiple partners), thereby creating a public health risk. However, is this concern really warranted?

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Why Monogamy Isn't Necessarily Safer Than An Open Relationship

Why Monogamy Isn't Necessarily Safer Than An Open Relationship

There is a widespread belief that monogamy is inherently safer and healthier than consensual nonmonogamy (which occurs when partners openly agree to have multiple sexual and/or romantic relationships simultaneously). Indeed, it would only seem intuitive to think that people who have agreed to be monogamous would have a much lower risk (or perhaps no risk at all) of contracting any kind of sexually transmitted infection (STI), while those who are consensually nonmonogamous (and who are therefore having more sexual partners) would be at significantly higher risk. Research has found that this isn't necessarily the case, though.

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Sexual Arousal Can Put Us In A Risk-Taking State Of Mind

Sexual Arousal Can Put Us In A Risk-Taking State Of Mind

Why do people take sexual risks? Obviously, there's not a simple answer to this question. Numerous factors can play a role, including some that are biological (e.g., substance use), psychological (e.g., personality traits), and social in nature (e.g., pressure from a partner). However, one very important and often overlooked factor has to do with the cognitive changes that occur when we enter a state of sexual arousal.

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Medicated Sex: How Many People Use Drugs To Enhance Their Sexual Performance?

Medicated Sex: How Many People Use Drugs To Enhance Their Sexual Performance?

Using drugs to enhance one’s libido or sexual performance is nothing new, but there are certainly more options today than ever before. This includes prescription drugs (e.g., Viagra for erectile dysfunction and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors for premature ejaculation), as well as recreational drugs (e.g., crystal meth for heightening arousal and amyl nitrate/“poppers” for enhancing the experience of anal sex). Surprisingly little research exists regarding the prevalence of “medicated sex,” not to mention who does it and the factors associated with it; however, a new study published in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections provides some revealing insight.

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Teen Sexting May Predict Who Has Sex, But Not Who Engages In Risky Sexual Behavior

Teen Sexting May Predict Who Has Sex, But Not Who Engages In Risky Sexual Behavior

A number of research studies have emerged in the last few years reporting a link between sexting and sexual behavior among teenagers. However, the inherent weakness of this body of research is that most of these studies involved surveying teens at one point in time and asking about both sexting and sexual behavior, which makes it impossible to know which one came first. That is, does sexting increase the odds of future sexual activity, or is it just the case that being sexually active predisposes teens to sexting? A new study published in the journal Pediatrics provides our first clue to this “chicken and egg” question by analyzing data from a longitudinal study of teen sexting.

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In-Home HIV Testing Is Here

The first in-home HIV testing kit, OraQuick, was approved for use less than a year ago. The kit retails for $40 and is available for purchase from Amazon and most major pharmacies. The test itself is completely painless (no need for blood and needles) and simply involves taking a quick swab inside the mouth. Results are provided in just 20 minutes and are pretty accurate (although, as with any medical test, it is not perfect). All of this certainly sounds good; however, there are some who are asking just what effect this test will ultimately have on people's health and behavior.
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Is Sexual Content In Movies Related To Sexual Risk Taking?

Over the past two decades, sexual content in the movies and on television has become more explicit than ever before. These graphic depictions of sex have become a source of social concern for many parents, who worry that the increased visibility of sex in the media may lead adolescent viewers to imitate the behaviors they see on screen. This concern is compounded by the fact that most media depictions of sex portray it in risky and unrealistic terms. For example, an analysis of sexual content from the most popular movies released between 1983 and 2003 revealed that the vast majority of sex acts depicted (70%) occurred among people who had just met, and almost every scene (98%) failed to address the topic of contraception in any way.1 Not only that, but virtually none of these sexual acts resulted in negative consequences (e.g., unintended pregnancies, STIs, etc.). So is parents' concern warranted? Do such media depictions of sex have the potential to generate risky sexual behaviors among adolescents? A recent study published in Psychological Science suggests that they might.
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Are Men Evolutionarily Wired To Stay Away From Their Friends’ Wives?

Research has found that when heterosexual men are around an attractive woman, they experience a natural increase in testosterone and, sometimes, become more prone to engaging in physically risky behaviors. For instance, one study found that when male skateboarders performed in front of a female observer, they experienced elevated testosterone levels and attempted more dangerous stunts that increased their likelihood of crashing.1 Scientists theorize that this spike in testosterone leads men to engage in sexual displays that "demonstrate their value" or manliness. So does this happen every time heterosexual men are in the presence of the other sex? According to a new study published in Human Nature, this increase in testosterone does not occur when men interact with a woman they know is already committed to one of their friends [2].
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Could Being In A Marginalized Relationship Be Bad For Your Health?

Many people are involved in romantic relationships that are not accepted by their family, friends, or society at large. Sometimes it is because the partners are of the same sex, while other times it is because the partners are of different races or because one partner is much older than the other.  Regardless of why one’s relationship is socially rejected, this bias can have significant implications for the partners involved. For instance, the more relationship disapproval a couple experiences, the more likely they are to break up in the future.1 A brand new study suggests that the effects of romantic disapproval may extend even further than this and could potentially harm couple members' health and well-being.2
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