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Risky Sexual Behaviors Among College Students


Traditionally, sexual relationships were respected and promiscuity was heavily penalized in a bid to ensure that people engaged in sexual intercourse at the right time and in an acceptable setting (marriage). However, many young people have resulted to alternative sexual tendencies that at times put them at risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Gilmartin (2006) asserts that most college students engage in casual sexual relationships in order to fit in, save time and money and avoid other long-term relationship constraints.

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As a result, the concept of ‘hook ups’ as discussed by Flack et al (2007) has gained prominence among college students, mainly due to the social tendencies experienced in learning institutions. The authors further state that ‘hook ups’ consist of various intimate behavior such as kissing, fondling and sexual intercourse between people who are not committed to each other (Flack et al, 2007). Research indicates that such interactions often occur under the influence of drugs and alcohol, which reduce ones ability to be precautious when it comes to selecting sexual partners, using protection and giving consent to such activities, thereby exposing participants to an array of health risks (Downing & Geisinger, 2009). This paper shall explain relevant aspects of risky sexual behavior among college students as presented in a poster that seeks to create awareness on this issue.

Poster overview

Design and thematic analysis

The poster seeks to highlight various aspects of risky sexual behaviors experienced by college students. The main theme is ‘hook ups’, which refers to spontaneous sexual behaviors among partners who do not have relational commitment between them. The poster has a systematic structure that introduces the issue, gives facts about it, explains what other studies found out, gives result of a current study and makes recommendations on how the issue can be tackled. The design used is simple and the poster does not have distractors (pictures, animations and flashy fonts). This makes it concise and presentable to the readers who can easily focus on the main points highlighted in the poster.


The poster adopts an experimental research methodology, in which the researcher, identified the problem, selected a target population (college students from different ethnic backgrounds aged between 17 and 25 years old) and analyzed the results of the research to evaluate the gravity of the situation. The research tools used included the HBM application and structured interviews. In summary, the poster addresses the cause of the problem, its effects and proposes solutions in a comprehensive qualitative and quantitative manner.

Content analysis

The poster in question addresses these parameters effectively. The designer starts off by providing an abstract that summarizes the content of the poster. The abstract is precise and rich in content. This raises the curiosity of the readers thereby influencing them to read further. In addition, the designer identifies the problem and the target population in detail using credible sources to support the data presented within the poster. The researcher also describes the methodology, the data analysis techniques and interprets the results in an easily understood manner. This ensures that the readers understand the content with minimum chances of distortion. The recommendations made by the researcher are relevant, realistic and easy to implement.


This poster has effectively managed to address the issue of risky sexual behaviors among college students. As Downing and Geisinger (2009) reveal, we live in a highly dynamic society characterized by competition, self-efficacy and new social trends. To cope with this aggressive environment, college students have adopted a new system of dating that requires less time, money and commitment level as compared to the traditional system of dating. However, this new alternative exposes these students to various health risks such as STDs and other infections that are associated with drug and alcohol use. With these undertones, the researcher conducted the study presented in the poster in order to create awareness about the gravity of this issue.

Data presented in the result section of the poster indicates that only 50% of the participants showed genuine concern in regard to contract sexually transmitted diseases. This was mainly attributed to the fact that most students underestimate their vulnerability because they place too much trust on their partners and their communities, and there is limited information about how STDs are transmitted. Such perceptions have played a significant role in the prevalence of ‘hook ups’ among college students (Downing & Geisinger, 2009). Similarly, the HBM application revealed other perceptions regarding the participants’ perception on STDs and hook ups. Data collected indicated that most students do not use condoms because they view as hindrances to enjoying the full pleasure of sexual intercourse. In addition, there is a general fear of discussing STD infections with partners and most students believed that alcohol and other drugs heightens sexual arousal. These perceptions are similar to findings reported in previous studies (Boone & Lefkowitz, 2004). The table below describes the parts used in formulating the semi-structured interview.

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Table 1: structure of the assessment interview

Part Assessments
1 Perceptions of sex/dating norms, and their friends’ views on hooking up
2 Events that occurred during most recent hook up
3 Evaluation of their hooking up experiences as a whole
4 Perceptions of sexual risk taking during hooking up, with respect to STDs

The main findings after the interviews indicated that self-efficacy is greatly diminished when an individual is under the influence of alcohol and drugs. These finding are supported by facts presented by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (2002), which can be tabulated as follows.

Table 2: relationship between ‘hook ups’ and alcohol or drug use

Percentage of college students description
>75% Engage in unwanted sexual intercourse after taking alcohol and other drugs
60% The percentage of college women who contracted STDs or HIV/AIDS while under the influence of alcohol or other drugs
1/3 The proportion of sexually active teens and young adults who attributed their sexual encounters to alcohol and other drugs
43% The percentage of sexually active teens and young adults who are concerned that alcohol and drug use may influence them into engaging in sexual activities.

Data presented in this table indicates that alcohol and drug use has a great influence on people’s ability to practice safe sex, or make informed decisions regarding their sexual partners.


‘Hook ups’ are rapidly becoming a common norm among college students. While it remains impossible to prevent these practices from happening, measures should be put in place to ensure that they happen in a safe and moderated manner. Some of the important solutions include the provision of condoms in all colleges, launching awareness campaigns that seek to inform students on the risks of alcohol, drugs and unprotected sex and abstinence campaigns. It has been revealed that hook ups are not the main problem. The problem is the perception people have towards STIs, alcohol, drugs and sexual intercourse. More research should be done in order to come up with better interventions to address the issue of risky sexual behaviors among college students.


Boone, T. L., & Lefkowitz, E. S. (2004). Safer sex and the health belief model: Considering the contributions of peer norms and socialization factors. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 16(1), 66-83.

Downing, TM, & Geisinger, B. (2009). Hooking up and sexual risk taking among college students: a health belief model perspective. Qualitative Health Research, 19(9), 1196-1209.

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Flack, W. T., et al. (2007). Risk Factors and consequences of unwanted sex among university students: Hooking up, alcohol and stress responses. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 22(2), 139 – 157.

Gilmartin, S. K. (2006). Changes in college women’s attitudes toward sexual intimacy. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 16, 429-454.

National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (2002). Youth Knowledge and Attitudes on Sexual Health: A National Survey of Adolescents and Young Adults. USA: Columbia University.

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