Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 48, Issue 7, pp 2089–2102 | Cite as

Delay Discounting of Protected Sex: Relationship Type and Sexual Orientation Influence Sexual Risk Behavior

  • Hunter HahnEmail author
  • Samuel Kalnitsky
  • Nathaniel Haines
  • Sneha Thamotharan
  • Theodore P. Beauchaine
  • Woo-Young Ahn
Original Paper


Sexual discounting, which describes delay discounting of later protected sex vs. immediate unprotected sex (e.g., sex now without a condom vs. waiting an hour to have sex with a condom), is consistently linked to sexual risk behavior. Estimates suggest that over two-thirds of HIV transmissions occur between individuals in committed relationships, but current sexual discounting tasks examine sexual discounting only with hypothetical strangers, leaving a gap in our understanding of sexual discounting with committed sexual partners. We used the Sexual Discounting Task (SDT) to compare discounting rates between men who have sex with men (MSM; n = 99) and heterosexual men (n = 144) and tested a new SDT condition evaluating sexual discounting with main partners. MSM in committed relationships discounted protected sex with their main partner at higher rates than heterosexual men, and discounting rates correlated with self-report measures of condom use, impulsivity/sensation seeking, and substance use. These findings suggest that sexual discounting is a critical factor potentially related to increased HIV transmission between MSM in committed relationships and may be an important target for intervention and prevention.


HIV risk behavior Delay discounting Sexual discounting Impulsivity Sensation seeking 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Department of Psychiatry and Human BehaviorThe Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  3. 3.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryRhode Island HospitalProvidenceUSA
  4. 4.Department of PsychologySeoul National UniversitySeoulKorea

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