Three studies tested whether mortality salience would lead men to be more sexually risky than women. In Study 1, men reported greater intentions to engage in risky sexual behaviors than did women after a mortality prime, but not after a control prime. In Study 2, men desired more future sexual partners and had a lower need for intimacy than did women, but again, only when mortality was salient. Furthermore, need for romantic intimacy mediated the relationship between mortality salience, gender, and desired number of future partners. Using a behavioral rather than a self-reported dependent measure, Study 3 showed that men primed with mortality were less likely than women to select a package of condoms (versus a pen) as a free gift after the experiment. Implications for gender differences in responses to mortality salience, as well as for how to design effective safe-sex interventions, are discussed.

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ERIM Article Series (EAS)
Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
Erasmus Research Institute of Management

Lam, S. R., Morrison, K. R., & Smeesters, D. (2009). Gender, intimacy, and risky sex: A Terror management account. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(8), 1046–1056. doi:10.1177/0146167209336607