Survey finds students not always using condoms

Anne Preller

Jon and his girlfriend have sex five times per week. They try to use condoms at least “95 percent of the time,” he said.

Jon, who has been sexually active since he was 16, has been tested for sexually transmitted diseases but said he has never tested positive.

“I’m not ready to have a child, and I’m not up for catching any sexually transmitted diseases,” Jon said. “All of my partners before have been long-term girlfriends.”

Having had three sexual partners, Jon said the only reason for not using sexual protection was, “I didn’t have the means available or accessible.”

To the chagrin of health advocates, Jon is in the minority.

A new health survey, completed by Marla Eisenberg, a social epidemiologist at the University’s National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Research Center, reports most college students nationwide use condoms sporadically despite the risk of sexually transmitted diseases.

Eisenburg, who has a master’s degree in public heath and a doctorate in science, analyzed the results of a national 1997 college alcohol survey and found 71 percent of students reported engaging in sexual activity.

Of the students who reported using condoms, 43 percent said they always use condoms, while 32 percent said they sometimes or rarely use them. Twenty-four percent said they never use condoms.

“I started researching college students’ sexual behaviors in 1998 while doing my doctoral work at the Harvard School of Public Health,” Eisenberg said.

According to the survey, students who reported always using condoms were more likely to be 23 years old or younger. Consistent condom users were also more likely to live on campus.

“We believe that students responded honestly to the survey,” Eisenberg said.

Boynton Health Service does its own research where it randomly surveys 3,000 University students every three years to gauge campus sexual promiscuity.

“We know that typically students are not as promiscuous or as likely to engage in sex as the general public might think,” said Dave Golden, director of public health for Boynton.

Boynton’s spring ’98 study found from a random sampling 36 percent of students reported no sexual partners, 44 percent reported one sexual partner and 20 percent reported two or more sexual partners.

Seventy-seven percent said their most recent sexual partner was someone they were exclusively dating, a fiance, a spouse or the equivalent of a spouse, Golden said.

Of the students reporting the use of contraception, 53 percent use birth control pills, 36.3 percent use condoms, 13 percent use other forms of birth control and 12.2 percent use withdrawal.

Jon said his girlfriend is on birth control pills.

“I found it’s more effective that way,” he said.

“(Sexually transmitted diseases are) something you really don’t want to have,” Jon said. “Like your parents say, the long-term effects are much worse than the short-term gains.”