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AIDS Behav. 2007 Mar;11(2):227-37.

Liquid courage: alcohol fosters risky sexual decision-making in individuals with sexual fears.

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Department of Psychology, University of Washington, Box 351525, Seattle, WA 98195-1525, USA.


The interaction of sexual fear and acute alcohol intoxication on the likelihood of risky sexual behavior was explored. Participants (Ps; N = 115) completed a measure of sexual fears and were randomly assigned to no-, low-, or high-dose alcohol conditions. Ps then read an eroticized vignette, where they were the protagonist, and rated their likelihood of sex with a new partner when no condom was available. Controlling for gender and social desirability, compared to sober Ps, highly intoxicated Ps indicated that they were more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors. Sexual fear was modestly negatively related to risky sex likelihood among sober or mildly intoxicated Ps but strongly positively related to risky sex likelihood among highly intoxicated Ps. Findings underscore the notion that alcohol affects different types of individuals differently and indicate that alcohol may foster sexual risk-taking, in part, by attenuating or counteracting fear or anxiety.

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