A new study from the University of Maryland found that gay and bisexual men are more likely to believe men they find “physically attractive” are less likely to be HIV positive.
The researchers surveyed 197 men who have sex with men in the U.S. who used apps to meet other men. Each participant was shown a clip of men ranked beforehand as both attractive and unattractive in both non-sexual and sexual scenarios.
After the participants viewed the clips, they were asked a series of questions such as, ‘How likely is it that you would have a one-night stand with this person,” whether they thought the men has “positive partner traits,” and “How likely do you think it is that you would get HIV… from this person?”
On average, the men who were rated as more physically attractive were also rated as being less likely to have HIV or other STIs. Participants also reported being less likely to intend to use condoms with the more attractive men.
The authors speculated that this could be because of the “halo effect,” which is the tendency to associate other positive traits with physical attractiveness.
“Arousal associated with perceived physical attractiveness, especially in the context of sexual intercourse, may override intentions to use condoms,” Dr. Tom Nardarzynski told Gay Star News. “Nevertheless, the findings of this research demonstrate a specific bias in thinking that sex with an attractive person could be less risky, which is unlikely to be accurate. Also, physical attractiveness is highly subjective, therefore it cannot be a reliable determinant of HIV status.”
The results of the study are particularly important in the age of dating apps like Grindr. Judgments about potential partners are made almost entirely on photos, and the study reveals that physical attractiveness can lead to more irresponsible sex.