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Attractiveness and Safe Sex Intentions

Does Attractiveness Influence Safe Sex Intentions among Gay Men and Lesbian Women? - Alexandria Parsons, Amanda Champion, Shelby Hughes, & Cory L. Pedersen

The impression that a person’s appearance makes strongly influences their interactions within their social environment. Facial attractiveness, in particular, has been the subject of extensive research in the human behavioural sciences as it dramatically influences social experience, including decisions about sexual behaviour (Lorenzo, Biesanz, & Human, 2010; Hong, Goldstein & Rotheram-Borus, 2006). Recent research indicates that heterosexual males’ perceptions of attractiveness influence their condom use intentions. Specifically, participants reported greater willingness to have sex with attractive women, but were less inclined to use condoms when they did so (Eleftheriou et al., 2016).


The present study focused on how the perceived facial attractiveness of individuals as rated by gay men and women influences perceptions of STI risk and willingness to have unprotected sex. This research develops our understanding of the relationship between perceived attractiveness, perceived sexual health status, and safe sex use intentions in a non-heterosexual population. 158 gay men and lesbian women rated the attractiveness of a series of 20 faces (targeted for self-identified sexual orientation) and completed measures of self-rated attractiveness and sexual history, including safe sex practices.  Results revealed that attractiveness influenced safe sex intentions among lesbian women - in that the more attractive a target was rated, the more likely lesbian women were to report safe sex intentions. In contrast, there was no influence of attractiveness on safe sex intentions among gay men.


Oral presentation delivered at the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Atlanta GA, 2017.

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