Why Being Turned On Is Risky

There are many times when emotions cloud our brains, such as when we're angry or scared or sad. You can add horniness to the rationality-clouding list for sure, because a new study shows that sexual arousal makes people take more risks.

Psychologists from the University of Windsor had over 100 volunteers watch videos — the lucky experimental group got sexy videos, and the control group got "neutral" boring videos of some kind. The participants were then evaluated for their willingness to take sexual risks (such as to have unprotected sex with a new partner) and to take other risks (to make risky plays in a blackjack game). Increased sexual arousal from the sexy videos was associated in both cases with more willingness to take risks. The participants who got turned on from the materials were presumably displaying worse judgment on account of it, oops.

Interestingly, the increased willingness to take risks held true for both men and women, meaning that women might be just as motivated by their junk as men! I can't quite decide whether this constitutes a win for feminist sexual theory, or whether it's just kind of unfortunate for humankind that neither gender can be counted upon to feel less impulsive sexually.

What are the implications of this study for real life? We know, thanks to experiments including sophisticated genital thermal imaging techniques, that women who watch porn actually become aroused about as quickly as men. However, sexual cues in the wild are obviously different from watching porn privately, and evidence abounds that in everyday life men are generally hornier than women. So maybe that accounts for the greater sexual risks men seem willing to take, even though in the experiment men and women were about the same.

Additionally, the study has important implications for safer sex practices. Everyone knows in a cold, level-headed moment that in many cases you should be using a condom because sexually transmitted diseases are a nasty health threat (and on the rise, including horrifying antibiotic-resistant STD strains). But once you're turned on, even though you know this, it somehow becomes less pressingly important than your sexual satisfaction.

The solution is to make yourself hard and fast rules about safer sex practices and to discuss them with your partner first, and to make yourself hard and fast rules about with whom and when you'll be having sex in the first place. If you leave these decisions up for negotiation, your horny self will win every time. Thanks a bunch, evolution.

Image: Maksim Toome/Fotolia, Giphy