Arousal Loss Related to Safer Sex and Risk of Pregnancy: Implications for Women's and Men's Sexual Health

Authors

  • Jenny A. Higgins,

    Corresponding author
    1. Jenny A. Higgins is assistant professor of Population and Family Health, the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York.
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  • Amanda E. Tanner,

    1. Amanda E. Tanner is W.K. Kellogg Community Health Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore.
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  • Erick Janssen

    1. Erick Janssen is associate scientist, The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, Indiana University, Bloomington.
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jh2527@columbia.edu

Abstract

CONTEXT: Few studies have examined arousal loss associated with safer-sex practices or the perceived risk of unintended pregnancy, let alone its associations with sexual risk practices.

METHODS: An Internet survey conducted in 2004–2006 among 2,399 men and 3,210 women asked respondents about arousal loss related to the use of condoms or other safer-sex products and perceived unintended pregnancy risk. Regression analyses gauged associations between arousal profiles, unprotected sex in the last year and lifetime experience of unintended pregnancy.

RESULTS: Many respondents reported arousal loss related to the use of safer-sex products (34%) or the risk of unintended pregnancy (46%). Participants who strongly agreed that use of safer-sex products can lessen their arousal were significantly more likely to have had unprotected sex in the last year than were those who strongly disagreed (odds ratios, 1.8 for men and 3.7 for women); those who strongly disagreed that pregnancy risk can lessen their arousal were significantly more likely to have been involved in an unintended pregnancy than were those who strongly agreed (2.0 for men and 1.4 for women). Arousal loss related to safer-sex practices was more strongly associated with unprotected sex among women than among men, whereas arousal loss related to pregnancy risk was more strongly associated with unintended pregnancy among men than among women.

CONCLUSIONS: Some men and women are turned off by safer-sex practices or by pregnancy risk. Given arousal profiles' potential contributions to unintended pregnancies and STD transmission, they should be integrated into sexual health behavioral models, research and programming.

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