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Why do people engage in risky sexual behavior? Of course, this is a complex issue, and there are obviously many factors contributing to it. For example, some people risk sex because they are drunk or high, others do so because they have a sensation-seeking personality, and still others do so because of peer or partner pressure. However, even in the absence of these other factors, the mere act of sexual arousal increases our chances of taking sexual risks.

Sexual arousal has been found to produce a "tunnel vision" in which we become so focused on sexual gratification that we are unable to consider other important issues. Thus, sexual arousal itself predisposes us to take all kinds of risks, both sexual and non-sexual.

To demonstrate this, consider a set of studies in which researchers asked participants to watch pornographic movies or non-pornographic TV shows. After watching one of the videos, participants were presented with a series of hypothetical sexual and romantic scenarios and asked to imagine how they would behave (study 1), or to play a manipulated blackjack game in which the researchers examined movements made by people with blurred hands (Study 2).

In the first study, sexually aroused people (men and women) showed a greater willingness to engage in risky sexual behavior, such as continuing to have sex with a partner they had just met after a condom broke.

In the second study, sexually excited participants -- men and women -- made riskier moves at blackjack. Specifically, when the total number of participants' hands was 15, 16, or 17(if you take a punch, that hand is likely to be broken, so you lose a hand), the motivated participants were more likely to take a risk than stay.

These findings suggest that our ability to assess risks, both sexual and non-sexual, seems to change when we are sexually aroused. This helps explain why people often break their own sexual rules. These rules are usually made in a cool, calm, collected state -- a state of mind that has nothing in common with the state in which we are sexually aroused. When you combine this with other factors such as drug use or partner stress, the odds of sexual risk-taking go up even further.

So what can you do to combat the influence of this "narrow view of sexuality"? Absolutely. For example, if you expect sex to happen later, carrying a condom with you or keeping it in an accessible place can reduce barriers to condom use and make it more accessible. Also, discuss safe sex (protection methods, history of stis, etc.) before it gets too hot and heavy. Make sure you don't skip this discussion entirely later.