Researchers at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas recently conducted a study on the influences that lead people to participate in risky sexual behaviors.
This is the first study of its kind that has looked at outside influences in subjects' decision making on topics such as substance use, monogamy, religion and the participation in thrill-seeking behaviors. Previous studies have examined sexual choices in isolation, disregarding the aforementioned environmental contributors. The researchers discovered that, in addition to cultural and socioeconomic conventions, self-esteem is a significant contributing factor to the likelihood that an individual will engage in unprotected sex.
Looking at variables
According to the research, cultural factors had a commanding influence on the chances of engaging in high-risk sexual behaviors. The researchers defined culture in part with gender stereotyping, sexual fantasy, sexual conservatism and pornographic use. The study found that these factors add up to a sexual script: an expectation of how these individuals ought to conduct themselves sexually. The script, once defined, was then used to determine the likelihood of developing dangerous sexual habits.
During the study, the team evaluated a sample of 800 subjects for the viability of risky sexual conduct in the future. In examining potential factors, they determined 120 notable variables. The varying influences that the researchers decided upon were divided into sections; socio/demographic, active sanctions, cultural, relational and individual.
Reasons behind the research
The University of Nevada study aimed to shed light on which variables lead to risky sexual behaviors. Dangerous sexual habits can lead to sexually transmitted diseases, harmful interpersonal relationships, low self-esteem and damage to one's well-being, and defining what causes such choices can help prevent them.
"This research can provide information that will inform health educators, public health nurses, HIV/AIDS programs and other community resources..." stated Katherine Hertlein, one of the study's researchers, who will present the findings of the study at the 63rd annual International Communication Association conference.
Risky sexual behavior
The CDC characterizes risky sexual behaviors as sexual actions that can result in unintended health outcomes, such as unplanned pregnancy and STDs. These behaviors include sex without a condom or other birth control method. The CDC recommends screening an individual and his or her sexual partner prior to intercourse as a means of determining the level of risk. Online STD testing is also available for those who wish to independently assess their risk of infection.