Women, sex and holidays: Study looks at female tourists' sexual behaviour

Some women use holidays as an opportunity to 'feel like a man' and have no-strings-attached sexual encounters.
Some women use holidays as an opportunity to 'feel like a man' and have no-strings-attached sexual encounters. 

Who knew that having sex on the beach - or other far-flung tourist destinations - could be so complicated?

Some women who engaged in risky sexual behavior while travelling told a researcher that they felt freed from a sexual double standard at home, and hoped to "feel like a man" by having a one-night stand - no emotional strings attached, according to a researcher with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

For others, "sexual activity has to be related to feelings and some degree of attachment," said Liza Berdychevsky, assistant professor in the department of recreation, sport and tourism.

Berdychevsky has interviewed women from Israel and the US in an effort to understand their perceptions and motivations for sexual experimentation, and whether they understood the possible consequences. Several of her papers on this topic have been published online in the journals of Tourism Management, Annals of Tourism Research, and Leisure Studies, and others are under review for publication.

She worked with co-authors Heather Gibson of the University of Florida, and Yaniv Poria of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, to conduct in-depth interviews of women.

The researchers found that some tourist destinations and experiences promote "an altered sense of reality ... while minimising perceptions of risk and long-term consequences," according to a news release.

"Some tourist experiences offer a very unique social context that is often very different from everyday life," Berdychevsky said in a phone interview.

Most prior research in this area focuses on the risks of sharing sexually transmitted diseases, she said.

Berdychevsky said that her studies look not only at the physical risks, but also how a woman might be affected socially, emotionally and mentally by her actions.

"This study brings out the complexity of risks," she said. "Sometimes that introspection leads to beneficial experiences. Some learn a lesson, how to reject, how to be more empowered, how to be more vocal or how to insist on contraception."

She interviewed 13 US women, age 18 and older for one study. She interviewed 21 Israeli women between ages 23 and 56 while attending Ben-Gurion University for another.

Results of a survey of more than 850 women will be incorporated in the upcoming research, she said.

One goal will be to help women learn to "play safely."

"At least, we should address that sense of immortality and invincibility that young people tend to have and make them understand that not everything that happens on vacation will stay there," she said.

MCT

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