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Dating on College Campuses: Multiple Partners Are Rare, But Rape Is Not

The streotypes are everywhere. College is just one big party, right? How does sex amongst the collegiarte population compare with the rest of the nation? The results may surprise you.


Higher levels of education can be statistically correlated to lower numbers of sexual partners. 

In fact, between eleven and twelve percent of the general population reports that they have had more than fifteen sexual partners while less than seven percent of college graduates report having that many partners. These figures seem to be in direct contrast to the idea that most college students are frequently having sex with multiple partners.

According to recent polling done by the CDC, the chance of an individual being sexually active by the time they graduate from college is very high. While only about a third of high school students report that they have had vaginal intercourse, nearly two-thirds of college age adults have had sexual intercourse. By the time, these students reach graduation age, approximately 85% of males and 82% of females will have had vaginal intercourse. Although the number of college students who have had intercourse is relatively high, the number of partners is lower than often perceived.

The American College Health Association takes a yearly National College Health Assessment. Their numbers shed light on every aspect of college life pertaining to health and wellness, and they focus a great deal of their effort on collecting and reporting data about the sex lives of college students.

When asked how many sexual partners they had had in the last twelve months, nearly a third of college students report that they have not had sex with anyone. This equates to 30% of males, 28.7% of females, and 29.1% overall. Almost half of all students (41.9% of males and 46.5% of females) had one sexual partner over that time period while only about ten percent of these students had two partners in twelve months. The percentage of people with three partners over a twelve month period was 6.5% of males and 6% of females. The percentage of students with four or more sexual partners, however, was slightly higher with just over 12% of males reporting that many partners and 8.1% of women reporting that many partners.

When asked about sexual activity over the last thirty days, only about half of all students reported that they had had intercourse during that time period. 45.5% of males and 51.7% of females reported that they had had sex in the last thirty days. Almost a third of all respondents claimed that they had never engaged in vaginal intercourse. The total number of males who reported to have never had sex was 31.8% while the number of females was 29.2%.
The researchers also asked students who had had at least one sexual partner over the last twelve months about their total number of sexual partners. In most cases, this number was relatively low. For males, the mean number of sexual partners was 2.49 while for females the number was slightly lower at 2.87. The median number for both male and female students was 1.00.

When asked about their oral sex habits, the numbers were relatively similar to the number of sexually active students. 26.1% of males and 27.9% of females reported to have never had oral sex. Some respondents claimed that they had had oral sex in the past but not in the past thirty days. 29.2% of males and 27.7% of females fell into that category. The percentage of students who had had oral sex in the last month was 44% for both males and females.

The number of college students who use protection to help prevent pregnancy or STDs is considerably low. 


According to the ACHA, just under half (49.2%) of females report that they usually use condoms while 54.6% of males report that they usually use a protective barrier. When asked about other types of birth control during intercourse, 53.9% of males report that they use contraception and 58.9% of women report that they do.

The most popular type of contraception used was the birth control pill with 63.5% of males and 60.7% of females reporting that they rely on that method. Nearly a quarter of the college students who use contraception claim that they use withdrawal as their preferred form of birth control. Other types of contraceptives used included shots, implants, patches, vaginal rings, IUDs, diaphragms, and fertility awareness. Nearly sixteen percent of those surveyed claimed that they had had to use emergency contraception at least once during the last year, but only 2% of those surveyed claimed that they had faced an unplanned pregnancy.

According to the nonprofit organization Crisis Connection, there is a rape on a college campus every twenty one hours. They claim that one in four college women have been the victim of rape and that over 90% of these rapes occur under the influence of alcohol. When asked about rape, 60% of college males report that they were likely to rape or use force under certain circumstances. Just over a third of rapes take place on college campuses, and most of them occur on the weekends when drinking seems to be more prevalent.


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