It's no secret that condoms aren't everyone's favourite thing. But a new study has shown that, for straight men, the decision to have safe sex during a casual fling might depend more on how 'hot' they find their partner, rather than their fear of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).

Yep, that's right, the small study suggests that, the more attractive a guy finds his hook-up buddy, the less interested he is in having protected sex. Even if that partner has a higher risk of having an STI.

To be clear, the researchers only surveyed 51 heterosexual men aged between 19 and 61, so it's a very small, not diverse sample size, and we're limited in exactly how much we can take from the results.

But the findings back up what several other studies have already found - how babe-ing people find their sex partners is one of the key factors in both men and women's decisions on whether to have safe sex (or sex at all, for that matter). Really deep guys, really deep. 

The purpose of the study was to investigate what drives people to use or not use condoms during casual sex, and hopefully use the results to improve sexual education. With STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea on the rise in countries such as the US, the UK, and Australia, it's clear there's room for improvement. 

Researchers from the University of Southampton and University of Bristol in the UK asked 51 straight men about all aspects of their sex lives, such as when their first sexual encounter was (on average, 18) and how many sexual partners they'd had (anywhere from 0 to 60, with the average falling at nine).

The participants were then shown black-and-white pictures of 20 women's faces and asked the following: 

  • Please rate the attractiveness of the following woman.
  • If you were single, how likely would you be to have sex with this woman should the opportunity arise?
  • If you were single and you were to have sex with this woman, how likely is it that you would use a condom?
  • How likely is this woman to have an STI?

The results showed that the more attractive the men found the women in questions, the less likely they were to want to use a condom.

But neither attractiveness nor interest in safe sex really matched up with how likely the men thought the women were to have STIs, as Beth Mole reports for ArsTechnica.

"In fact, some men were most attracted to women they thought had a high risk of STIs, while others were highly attracted to ladies who they perceived would have a low risk of those infections," she explains.

Regardless of their preference when it came to women who were perceived to be 'risky' or 'safe' in the STI department, overall the men in the study seemed to have their condom choices influenced by hotness.

"Men who are more attracted to 'riskier' women are just as disinclined to wear a condom when they have sex with these women as men who are more attracted to 'safer' women," the researchers report in the journal BMJ Open.

As we mentioned earlier, this is a very small study, and a lot more research is still needed to verify and confirm these findings. Plus, researchers will then need to find out exactly how perceived attractiveness affects men's condom choices.

But all of these insights will hopefully help scientists get a better understanding of exactly what's going on in people's heads when they do or don't choose to use a condom during casual sex - and that could help them find better ways to encourage safe sex, says the University of Southampton team.

And if that fails, at least scientists are still working on developing a condom that actually feels better than nothing at all - because if the promise of better sex can't convince people to use condoms, then, let's face it, maybe nothing can.