Study: Experience, empowerment fuel women's vacation sexual risk-taking

Being outside of everyday life was cited by many women as an opportunity to push their own boundaries.

By Stephen Feller

CHAMPAIGN, Ill., July 22 (UPI) -- Women engage in sexual risk-taking on vacations in order to push their normal boundaries, which many said in a study was a matter of taking advantage of being outside the limits of everyday life.

Risk-taking while on vacation rated by women in the study, published in the journal Tourism Management, ranged from wearing revealing clothing to having unprotected sex with anonymous strangers.


Previous studies have found that tourist destinations, especially those oriented toward partying and open social situations, promote an altered sense of reality that condones sexual experimentation and exploration while minimizing perceptions of risk and long-term consequences.

"Perhaps in everyday life we are so overscheduled and disciplined that once we find ourselves in a situation where there is no schedule and no social control, and the only time we have to keep in mind is the departure of our plane, it releases us from many of our psychological barriers and inhibitions," said Liza Berdychevsky, a professor of recreation, sport and tourism at the University of Illinois, in a press release.

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Researchers conducted an online survey with 850 women ranging in age from 18 to 50, and a mean age of 23, asking about tourist destinations especially associated with atmospheres that women see as conducive to sexual risk-taking. This included rating 23 practices or situations for their level of risk, including having unprotected sex with a regular partner or stranger, or having sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.


"While women rated a variety of sexual activities as risky during tourism, unprotected penetrative sex was consistently perceived as involving the highest degree of risk," Berdychevsky said. "Some women also tended to underestimate the risks involved in non-penetrative sexual activities and to overestimate the degree of protection offered by latex barriers."

The women said that being outside of everyday life, wearing revealing clothing and differences in social situations on vacations all contributed to their willingness to engage in risky behavior. Alcohol also was said to provide both "courage" and an "excuse" for testing their social and sexual limits.

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Respondents also said sexual experimentation with steady partners is best enjoyed on a relaxing beach vacation, while group sightseeing tours provide opportunity for casual sex with acquaintances or strangers.

Among the motivations for doing this while on vacation, rather than at home, women listed anonymity, acting out fantasies that are off-limits at home and the perception of being free from negative judgement as playing a large role.

"Identifying women's risk perceptions, motivations and the rewards sought through these behaviors in touristic contexts, as we did in this study, is an important step if we want to try and tailor sexual health education messages to specific demographic groups," Berdychevsky said.


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