Willingness to Have Unprotected Sex

Jenny A. Higgins, Columbia University
Diana G. Foster, University of California, San Francisco

The prevalence and demographic patterns of occasional unprotected vaginal intercourse are poorly understood. In California, 1,382 women and men responded to the question, "Would you have sex even if you did not have birth control?" following family planning clinic visits in 2007 and 2008. Although respondents were not pregnant, seeking pregnancy, nor sterilized, 50% of respondents said that yes, maybe or sometimes, they would be willing to engage in unprotected sex. Our analysis fills important empirical gaps regarding people’s perceived willingness to take pregnancy risks, as well as the characteristics most strongly associated with this premeditated risk taking. The findings challenge the notion that lack of contraceptive use necessarily represents barriers relating to access, expense, or side effects. Family planning behavioral models and programs need to be expanded to acknowledge the widespread likelihood of occasional unprotected sex, even among people motivated to usually use contraceptives.

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Presented in Session 176: Contraception Non-Use and Risk of Unintended Pregnancy