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College, Sexual Violence Prevention

Risky Sexual Behaviors Among College Students

May 20, 2024

College campuses are bustling hubs where young adults experience a lot of new freedoms. However, with this newfound independence come certain behaviors that can be risky, especially in terms of sexual health. 

Risky sexual behaviors can have serious effects on both the individuals involved and the whole campus community. Therefore, it’s important for students and college authorities to understand these behaviors and learn how to prevent them, for example, through sexual harassment and discrimination training for college students.

student taking sexual harassment and discrimination training for college students

Types of Risky Sexual Behaviors

Unprotected Sex 

Engaging in sexual activities without the use of condoms or other barrier methods is one of the most direct forms of risky behavior. Unprotected sex exposes individuals to a higher risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and HIV, as well as unintended pregnancies. 

Despite the availability of various protective methods, misconceptions, stigma, or lack of access can leave people more likely to choose unprotected encounters. 

Multiple Sexual Partners 

Having multiple sexual partners increases the complexity of one’s sexual network, which in turn elevates the risk of transmitting or acquiring STIs. Each additional partner compounds the risk, particularly if these relationships overlap in time (concurrent partnerships), creating a web of potential for disease spread. 

Substance-Influenced Sexual Encounters 

Alcohol and drugs can impair judgment and lead to lowered inhibitions, resulting in decisions that might not be made under sober conditions. Additionally, when someone is incapacitated by alcohol or other drugs, someone can’t get their consent for sex. 

Substance use before or during sexual activity is linked with a higher incidence of risky sexual behaviors, including choosing partners one might otherwise avoid and engaging in unprotected sex. 

Transactional Sex 

This practice involves exchanging sex for money, gifts, or other benefits. Some individuals also feel compelled to engage in this behavior out of economic necessity and prioritize prioritizing needs over safer practices. 

Transactional sex increases exposure to risky sexual networks and often involves pressure to engage in unprotected sex. 

Sex Under Coercion 

Engaging in sexual activity due to pressure, manipulation, or outright force (ranging from subtle coercion to violent assault) can lead to situations where safe sex practices are neglected or impossible. This is a type of sexual assault. 

This category highlights the importance of consent in all sexual interactions to prevent both physical and psychological harm. 

Prevention and Mitigation Strategies

Education Programs and Sexual Harassment Training 

Colleges must prioritize comprehensive sex education that goes beyond the basics of reproduction to address the realities of sexual relationships today, including consent, bystander intervention, and safe sexual practices. 

Counseling and Support Services 

Access to mental health services and counseling can provide crucial support for students navigating the complex social dynamics of college life, as well as address underlying issues that contribute to risky behaviors. 

Safe Sex Campaigns 

Active campaigns that promote safe sex, including educational workshops and seminars, can greatly influence student behaviors and improve campus culture. 

Policy and Community Engagement 

Strong policies on sexual conduct and consent, along with active community engagement, can foster a healthier environment where students feel empowered to make safer choices.

people taking sexual harassment and discrimination training for college students

Interested in Implementing Sexual Violence Prevention Training?

If you’re interested in furthering this mission through education, consider reaching out to Catharsis Productions. We offer comprehensive courses on sexual violence and discrimination training tailored for higher education, workplaces, and the military. 

Learn how to create safer and more respectful environments by contacting us today. 

Catharsis Productions

Catharsis Productions' mission is to change the world by producing innovative, accessible and 
research-supported programming that challenges oppressive attitudes and shifts behavior.