What type of vacation do women choose for sexual risk-taking? A new study found women consider a relaxing beach vacation the perfect setting for experimentation with a steady partner, while group tours are best for casual sex with acquaintances.

“This study shows that eight to nine days long, leisure-based tourist experiences in tropical destinations and European countries appear to be the ultimate settings for sex with a steady and casual sexual partner,” wrote Dr. Liza Berdychevsky of the University of Illinois and Dr. Heather Gibson of the University of Florida in their published research. Their work, they say, may help shape health programs or public campaigns aimed at addressing sexual behaviors.

Wanting to identify women's perceptions and motivations for indulging in sexually risky experiences, the researchers used an online survey and polled more than 850 U.S. women, who ranged in age from 18 to 50 though the overwhelming majority were college students. Just over half (nearly 52 percent) described themselves as being in an exclusive relationship, while a third (about 35 percent) said they were not in a relationship. Most of the women were heterosexual and most, a surprising 91.4 percent, had never been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease.

The research team asked about specific tourist activities, destinations, and atmospheres to understand which were most conducive to risk-taking for the women. As part of the survey, participants also rated how risky they believed 23 sexual practices or situations to be. These experiences included going to a sex club, having unprotected sex with a stranger, becoming intimate while under the influence of alcohol, and having sex in a restroom.

What did the women say about their vacation experiences?

Liquid Courage

No surprise here: Heavy drinking, the women reported, is the key facilitator of risky sex. Alcohol also provides women with the necessary excuse to go beyond their usual boundaries and taboos and try things they’ve been curious about but reluctant (or afraid) to try at home. Anonymity, absence of judgment, detachment from social norms, and simple opportunity ranked high among women's motivating factors for vacation risk-taking. And, not all but some women reported that risk in and of itself was a motivator.

“A variety of sexual activities were rated as risky,” the researchers wrote, “but unprotected penetrative sex was consistently evaluated as involving the highest degree of risk.” Women who had an actual experience with a particular sex practice estimated any risk at a lower level than those women who had never had the experience. "What happens in tourism stays in tourism" was meaningful to many respondents. Wearing revealing clothing and feeling disconnected from everyday life also encouraged sexual risk-taking, the respondents said.

In past studies, the researchers discovered a transitional state of “timelessness and placelessness” is linked to “mental and sensual transitions and transgressions.” Yet, the new study proves that neither a long amount of time nor a specific location is needed to arouse this hazy state of mind in women.

“Perhaps in everyday life we are so overscheduled and disciplined that once we find ourselves in a situation where there is no schedule and no social control, and the only time we have to keep in mind is the departure of our plane, it releases us from many of our psychological barriers and inhibitions," Berdychevsky stated in a press release. Escape frees the libido.

Source: Berdychevsky L, Gibson HJ. Sex and risk in young women's tourist experiences: Context, likelihood, and consequences. Tourism Management. 2015.