A new study finds that while elevated testosterone may typically be associated with a higher propensity for risk-taking, such behavior apparently doesn’t carry over into the bedroom. Research conducted on a group of college freshman found those with higher testosterone levels to be more accepting toward condoms and protected sex.

While some people “view safer sex behaviors and people who engage in them in a somewhat negative light,” Sari van Anders, a behavioral neuroendocrinologist at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, said her study results show the “social risk” of insisting on safe sex may require more boldness and confidence than having unprotected sex.

In fact, the lower-testosterone men showed less acceptance toward condoms, and they were less likely to say they’d try to use one in a situation where doing so was awkward or otherwise difficult.

“One of the things that is interesting about these results is that they’re one of the first to demonstrate a link between higher testosterone and less risk-taking in any domain,” van Anders said, but added that since testosterone is linked to status and reward, it’s possible men get a boost in ego — and testosterone — from safe-sex practices, because it marks them as knowledgeable about sex and thus adds to their social status.

“Perhaps safer sex seems especially risky and status-oriented for college-age straight-identified men who are just starting out,” she concluded. “There might be a different association in groups where safe sex doesn’t require boldness, so social identity might be a big factor.”


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