Most Women Use Condoms Even After Drinking, Suggests Study

The Truth About Alcohol Consumption And Condom Use

According to a new study published in the Journal of Sex Research, most college women are having safe sex -- whether they've had a few drinks or not.

Researchers from Centers of Behavioral and Preventive Medicine at the Miriam Hospital surveyed 297 college-aged women (out of an initial pool of 500) about their reported 1,856 encounters of heterosexual intercourse. Participants took a monthly survey for one year answering questions about their every day diet, overall health, sexual encounters and numbers of sexual partners. Contrary to popular belief, the data indicated that women were no less likely to use condoms while drinking than while sober.

While only 20 percent of all reported intercourse involved alcohol consumption, a little over half of that percentage occurred after "heavy episodic drinking" (four or more drinks). Condoms were used 70 percent of the time when drinking was involved and only 59 percent of the time when the participants were sober. Interestingly, the study found that women were more likely to use condoms during casual sexual encounters after a night of drinking (74 percent of the time) than when sober with a long-term partner (55 percent of the time).

While this suggests that women are more likely to grab a condom when drunk, it does not mean that drinking leads to safer sex. The correlation probably comes down to relationship type -- both condoms and alcohol are more likely to be used with a casual sex partner than in a monogamous relationship. These results suggest that for the majority of women, alcohol consumption does not interfere with their ability to make a responsible decision about condom use.

It's also important to note that although women in monogamous relationships are less likely to use condoms than those who are not, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they aren’t using other forms of contraception, such as the birth control pill or an IUD. We would imagine (and hope) that many of the women interviewed who are in long-term relationships spoke with their partners about STDs and the importance of getting tested before they stopped using other protective barriers.

The researchers found that women used condoms during 61 percent of all reported instances of intercourse. If these results are any indication, most women are having sober sex with a condom, and those that are drinking and having sex are still using condoms. Whether it is monogamous partner sex or casual sex, the majority of women seem to be making responsible sexual choices -- and alcohol has little to do with them.

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