Risky sex occurs for a wide variety of reasons. While we tend to think of adolescents when we think about risky behaviors like unprotected risky sex, they aren’t the only ones. Other age groups are at risk as well.
What is Risky Sex
Behaviors With Health Risks
Risky Sex with Life Consequences
Role of Mental Health Issues
What is Risky Sex
Risky sex is sex with an increased risk of a negative outcome. Most people think of unprotected risky sex when they think about risky sexual behaviors. However, there are other risky behaviors that fall under the definition as well.
Other risky sexual behaviors include:
- Anal sex
- Casual sex
- Sex with high-risk individuals
- Sex with an iv drug user
- Sex for money
- Sex in public places
- Sex with an inappropriate person
- Making a sex tape
These behaviors can be grouped into two categories. Behaviors that have potential health consequences, including pregnancy and STDs, and those that have potential negative life consequences. Cheating, for example, can result in the loss of your relationship, which would be considered a negative consequence.
Risky Sex: Behaviors That have Health Risks
Health risks include the risk of contracting an STD, injury, or pregnancy.
Anal sex can be a pleasurable activity for both people involved, but it is important to know that anal sex is considered riskier than vaginal sex for a few reasons. Many people consider anal sex safer because there is no risk of pregnancy from anal, but there are other issues to consider.
The first is potential pain and tearing. Anal sex can be painful for the person on the receiving end. It’s important to use lots of lube and go slow. Even with these precautions, there is still a risk of tearing. This is not only painful, it carries a much greater risk of infection as well.
It is easier to contract an STD from anal sex than vaginal, because the tissue is much thinner. If a tear occurs, the risk goes up much more. Unless both partners are monogamous and have been tested for STDs, you should always use a condom for anal.
Switching from anal to vaginal or going ass to mouth can cause infections as well. The anus is full of fecal matter that carry bacteria that can make you sick if it’s transferred to other areas. Anal to vaginal carries a high risk of urinary and kidney infections. Some STDs can be contracted ass to mouth. You can end up with an embarrassing case of oral chlamydia from this practice.
If you are using condoms, you should change condoms as soon as you are done with anal. If you go ass to mouth, use dental dam or plastic wrap to prevent direct contact.
Unprotected Oral Sex
Like anal, oral sex is considered less risky because there isn’t a risk of pregnancy. There’s also a myth that STDs can only be contracted through genital to genital contact.
The truth is, many STDs, including HIV, can be contracted orally. The risk is generally to the person giving the oral sex. Semen, vaginal fluid, and menstrual blood contain the HIV infection. If the person giving has a small cut, ulcer, or other areas of inflammation, they could contract it. It takes a very small break in the skin to let these infections into your body.
There can be a risk to the person receiving oral as well, but only if the person giving has a cut or sore that can allow blood to pass to your body, where it can be absorbed by mucous membranes, a break in the skin, or the anus.
Experts disagree about the potential risk of unprotected oral. Some consider it extremely low risk as long as your partner doesn’t ejaculate in your mouth. Statistically speaking, the rate of HIV transmission from a positive partner is .04 for oral sex, compared to .8 for anal sex.
Sex With High-Risk Individuals
I get it, hook up generation. Who doesn’t enjoy a casual fling once in awhile? Maybe even once or twice a week? However, casual sex is essentially one way of having sex with high-risk individuals. In fact, if you engage in casual sex, you are considered a high-risk individual as well. A high-risk individual is someone who has sex with multiple partners, or does any of the other risk factors listed above.
If you choose to have casual sex or you have a high-risk partner, the best advice is to treat sex like a gun. The number one rule of gun safety is to always assume that it’s loaded. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. When it comes to sex, assume that your partner has an STD, and take the same precautions you would if you knew they had one.
I’m sure everyone has heard a story of seen on the news some terrible gun accident. The person always says, “I didn’t think it was loaded”. The same thing applies to sex. “They told me they were clean. They looked healthy. They didn’t seem like the type of person who would have an STD.” In other words, they didn’t think the gun was loaded.
Unprotected Vaginal Sex
It should go without saying, but unprotected vaginal sex with anyone other than a monogamous partner that you know is STD free is a risky sex behavior. However, many people these days are engaging in unprotected vaginal sex. Most of these people see pregnancy as the number one risk to doing so, and many use the pullout method.
Of course, the pull out method isn’t considered an effective means of birth control, but it can reduce the chances of becoming pregnant when done correctly. It’s a bit of a mystery why so many women choose to use this method, however.
In the case of pregnancy, the woman has much more at stake than the man does. Yet, with the pull out method, the responsibility for doing it properly is completely on the man. He has to have enough awareness and self-control to pull out before he ejaculates.
Of course, STDs are a major risk with unprotected vaginal sex as well. STDS seem to have been downplayed in recent years. You see shows about what happens when someone becomes pregnant at an early age, yet there isn’t any reality show that chronicles the life of people who contract STDs. Nor are their people in the movies living with the consequences of an STD. It seems as if the media, and society in general, has swept it under the rug.
Here’s a rundown on the most common STDs, including methods of transmission, symptoms, long term effects, and treatment options.
Chlamydia is the most common curable STD. It affects the cervix in women and the urethra in men. Common symptoms include discharge and painful intercourse.
The reason Chlamydia is so widespread, however, is that you can be infected for months or years without showing symptoms. Even though you are asymptomatic, you can still pass it on to your partners.
Left untreated, Chlamydia can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease in women. It is also extremely dangerous for the baby if a woman with Chylamidia becomes pregnant.
In men, it can cause epididymitis, which is an infection in the tubes of your testicles. It can cause shrinkage of the testicle and abscesses on the scrotum.
Chlamydia can be cured with antibiotics. However, it’s normally only detected during screening for STDs, and not regular medical exams.
Gonorrhea affects the same areas as Chlamydia, and can be treated with antibiotics as well, however, some strains are becoming antibiotic resistant. Gonorrhea can cause burning during urination and discharge. Many times infected people have no symptoms.
In the long term, Gonorrhea can cause infertility in men and women, pelvic pain in women, and a painful condition in which the tubes attach to the testes.
Gonorrhea can affect the anus and throat as well. This is why it’s important to always use protection, whether the sex is oral, anal, or vaginal.
Syphilis is transmitted when you come into contact with Syphilis sores. These sores can appear on the mouth, penis, vagina, or rectum. They can also appear around the genital region, so wearing a condom isn’t a foolproof method of preventing them.
These sores can appear in areas that are visible (mouth, outer genitals) or inside the vagina or rectum where the sores aren’t visible. While seeing sores should obviously be a red flag, you shouldn’t assume that you are safe because you don’t see anything.
Left untreated, Syphilis can cause diseases in the spinal cord and central nervous system.
This disease is commonly called MG. Never heard of this one? Most people haven’t. In fact, it was only discovered in 2007, and the FDA still hasn’t cleared any specific method of testing for it. Despite this, it is believed to have passed Gonorrhea in prevalence.
It’s similar to Gonnorhea and Chlamydia in that it can cause cervicitis in women and nongonococcal urethritis in men. Another similarity is the lack of apparent symptoms.
HIV is the scariest and likely the best known STD. It can be transmitted through an exchange of bodily fluids, including vaginal secretions, semen, blood, and breast milk.
Those who have anal sex or any STD that can cause broken skin in the genital region are at increased risk of contracting HIV.
HIV isn’t curable, but it can be treated with drugs. Someone with HIV will always run the risk of infecting partners, so safe sex precautions are essential.
Pubic Lice, like head lice, are small parasitic bugs. Pubic lice are adapted to thrive in the coarser hair of the genital region. This is why pubic lice stay in the genital region and head lice stay on the head.
You can get a cream that will kill pubic lice. Of course, some people simply choose to remove all the hair from the region, depriving them of a place to live and lay their eggs.
There are two forms of Herpes. HSV1 causes cold sores on the lips and mouth, while HSV2 causes genital sores. It is important to note that Herpes can be transferred from lips to genitals and vice versa, however.
Herpes can be treated but not cured. Even when there aren’t any sores, it’s still possible to pass the virus on to others. Herpes is spread by skin to skin contact, so condoms aren’t 100% effective.
A Dash of Common Sense For Men
Guys, I know you love to get laid. I know you put work into getting a girl naked, and you would hate to see it go to waste. However, use a little common sense here. If you see any sores, rash, bites, green or yellow discharge, or if it smells like rancid fish, leave it alone. Have a little pride in yourself. Your penis will thank you.
Don’t assume that just because you don’t see any of those things that it’s safe to go in bareback either. There’s still a risk of STDs and pregnancy. And never, I repeat never, take a girls word for it when she says she’s on the pill. If you don’t get the reason why, watch the Maury show.
Lastly, if she’s easy for you, she’s easy for everyone. You aren’t some Cassanova who managed to sleep with a “good girl” on the first date. If you did, you aren’t the first and likely aren’t the last. Take that into account when you are deciding whether or not to use protection.
A Dash Of Common Sense for Women
I know you know better. Don’t get caught up in the moment and do something you will regret. No condoms aren’t sexy. Yes, it feels better without one. No, he won’t stay with you just because you are pregnant with his child. Yes, everyone in town will find out you caught an STD. Does that put it into perspective for you? I hope so.
One last thing. If he respects you, he will respect your wishes to use a condom. If he doesn’t, he’s sleeping around anyway, which is even more reason to use a condom. Every hole. Every time. Respect yourself enough to protect yourself.
Risky Behaviors with Life Consequences
These behaviors won’t get you pregnant or an STD, but they may get you put in jail, or cause you to lose your job or relationship.
Some risky sex behaviors are on the rise. Between 2012-2014, there was a huge jump in certain risky sexual behaviors.
Sex in public jumped nearly 10% from 27% to 35%. The amount of women who had a threesome doubled, from 10% to 20%. The amount of people who had made a sex tape saw a large increase as well, from 28% to 52%.
Sex in Public Places
I’m not suggesting that sex in a public place isn’t worth it in some instances, but there is risk involved. Of course, that’s what makes it exciting. You should consider the potential risks before you decide to engage in risky sex in a public place.
First, you’ll need to consider the odds of getting caught. Having risky sex in your car parked on a dark backroad you have a fairly low chance of getting caught. Having risky sex in an elevator or a mall bathroom, on the other hand, carries a higher risk.
Secondly, you’ll need to consider what would happen if you get caught. If you are in a business, you may be banned from the business. If you are in your car, you’ll probably just get a warning.
The one place that you shouldn’t have public sex is a place that’s designated for children. Get caught in a school or park, and it’s much more likely to be taken seriously, even if no one is there.
Cheating carries a risk of ending your relationship. Again, the thrill of knowing you could be caught is exciting. However, think about the consequences first. Is it worth the trouble it could cause? If your current relationship is really important to you, cheating is a bad idea.
Risky Sex With Inappropriate People
Sex with inappropriate people is also exciting because you aren’t supposed to do it. Risky sex with inappropriate people can include, but isn’t limited to:
- Family members by friend or marriage
- Boss or someone who works under your supervision
- Friends parents or parents friends
- Friends of your current or past significant other
- Teacher or student
Sex with inappropriate people isn’t talked about much, but it’s something most of us have done at one time or another. Let’s be honest, it’s sexy. We’ve all desired forbidden fruit at some point, partly just because it’s forbidden.
However, depending on the situation, this can have serious consequences. You could face jail time, loss of a job, loss of a romantic relationship, and loss of relationships with family or friends. Not to mention it can be very embarrassing if your kinky inappropriate tryst sees the light of day.
Threesomes can be sexy and fun, but they can also be risky on a few different levels. First, there is an increased risk of STDs because there are more partners involved and there’s generally swapping of some sort going on as well.
There’s also a risk to your current relationship. If both of you aren’t completely ok with it, it can cause resentment and feelings of betrayal. If you involve an acquaintance, there’s a chance that you or your partner could decide you enjoyed it so much you want to continue having risky sex with them.
If you choose to have a threesome, it’s actually best to hire a professional. This way there’s no concern of someone getting emotionally involved. Just be sure to be safe, which means changing condoms anytime you change partners.
Making a Sex Tape
Making a sex tape is relatively low risk compared to the other behaviors mentioned. However, there is always the risk that the video will end up somewhere you don’t want it to. Remember potential dates and even employers will often do a Google search, and you don’t want a sex tape to pop up.
Risk factors make it more likely that a person will engage in risky sexual behaviors. Risk factors include mental health issues, substance abuse issues, and ethnicity.
STDs by Ethnicity
Unfortunately, minorities are at a greater risk for sexual behavior and STDs. It’s believed this may be due to other factors common to these demographics, including lower income, unemployment, and lower education levels.
In 2015, black women had Chylamidia at 5 times the rate of white women, and black men had it at 6 times the rate of white men. 42% of new Gonorrhea cases were black, and they contracted it at 9 times the rate of whites.
American Indians contracted Chylamidia at 3 times the rate of whites. They contracted Gonnorhea at 4 times the rate of whites.
Hispanics and Asians fared better, with rates between 1.6 and 2 times the rate of whites for Chlamydia. Hispanics contracted Gonorrhea at1.8 times that of whites, and Asians contracted the disease at .5 the rate of whites.
HIV cases dropped by 19% between 2004 and 2015. However, African American and Latino groups are disproportionately affected by HIV. African Americans account for 45% of HIV diagnoses, and Latinos account for 24%.
Homosexual men are at the greatest risk of contracting HIV, accounting for 82% of HIV diagnosis in men, and 67% of all HIV cases. Black homosexual men account for 10,000 diagnoses, with White homosexual men accounting for 7,000. Heterosexual contact accounts for 24% of HIV diagnosis, and IV drug use accounts for 6%.
The highest risk by age is 13-19, accounting for 37% of new diagnosis. 20-29 is the next highest age group, accounting for 24%.
Unplanned pregnancy rates have dropped significantly in recent years. Teen pregnancy dropped over 50% from the peak rate seen in 1990. The rate dropped another 8% between 2014 and 2015.
Again, there is a disparity between ethnicities, however. Teen pregnancy rates for African Americans and Hispanics is 2 times the number of Caucasian teens.
According to a study conducted in 2011, nearly half of all U.S. pregnancies are unintended. This can mean that they were unwanted or that they were mistimed, meaning more children were wanted, but at a later date. Women who are black, unmarried, or have a lower education level are more likely to experience an unplanned pregnancy.
Role of Mental Health in Risky Behaviors
Mental health issues including bipolar disorders, ADHD, and depression are linked to risky sexual behavior.
Depression and Sex
Surprisingly, sex appears to help relieve depression. There are compounds found in semen that have mood boosting effects in women. One study followed college women, and found that those who used a condom were more likely to be depressed than those who don’t.
Studies have also shown that men are more likely to be depressed when they aren’t having sex, but there was no difference in depression rates between men who did or didn’t use a condom.
However, a study done on UK gay men shows that depressed gay men are much more likely to engage in risky sex without a condom. Other studies have also shown a link between depression and risky sex in heterosexual individuals.
BiPolar Disorder and Sex
BiPolar individuals alternate between periods of mania and depression. 25-80% of people who experience mania also experience hypersexuality.
The symptoms of hypersexuality are similar to those of a sexual addiction. Symptoms can include:
- Inability to achieve satisfaction regardless of the amount of sexual activity
- Multiple sex partners, including strangers
- Risky sexual behavior
- Using sex as an escape from pain or problems
- Obsessive thoughts about sex
Teens may express these tendencies by having or attempting to have inappropriate relationships with adults. During the depression phase, many bipolar individuals lose interest in sex. Mania and hypersexuality disorder leads individuals to engage in risky sexual behaviors, putting them at an increased risk of STDs and unplanned pregnancy.
Substance Abuse and Risky Sex
Substance abuse is a risk factor for risky sex for a few reasons. First, you are more likely to make impulsive or risky decisions when you are under the influence.
Secondly, substance abuse often occurs because of deeper underlying issues. These issues can include low self-esteem and mental health issues, which are risk factors in themselves.
Adolescents who drink are 7 times more likely to contract an STD. Approximately 25% of teens report using alcohol or drugs during their last sexual encounter. 70% of young adults between 14-22 who have used at least 5 substances in their lifetime report that they have sex without a condom.
80% of teens who use drugs before sex say that they do it often or sometimes, with 15% using occasionally. For young adults, 90% use drugs before sex often or sometimes, with 8% using occasionally. 25% of young adults between 18-24 have had unprotected risky sex due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Sex addiction puts an individual at a much higher risk of negative consequences from risky sex. In fact, sex addiction is defined as sexual behaviors that are done in excess and impacts the person’s life in a negative way.
Just as with drug addiction, a sex addict will continue their risky behaviors in spite of negative consequences. Addiction to sex can present as an addiction to:
- Sadistic or Masochistic behavior
- Impulsive or excessive sex
Sex addicts may also engage in risky sexual behaviors because of their addiction. Just like a drug addiction, many sex addicts feel the need to escalate their behavior to obtain the same “high”.
This escalation can include having risky sex with inappropriate people or in inappropriate places or situations. It can also include frequent risky sex with strangers, knowingly engaging in risky behaviors like unprotected risky sex, or escalation of S&m behavior.
People with a sex addiction find it hard to maintain a romantic relationship. Similar to a chemical addiction, they may find themselves missing work or other obligations because they are getting their fix.
38% of men and 45% of women with a sex addiction have contracted an STD as a result of their addiction. 70% of women reported at least one unwanted pregnancy as a result of their addiction. If you suspect you may have a sex addiction, you can find a quick quiz here.
Millenials are called the hookup generation, but is the reputation deserved? Apps like Tinder and popular TV shows would have us believe that millennials are hooking up left and right. Let’s separate fact from fiction.
Millenials do have a more casual attitude about relationships and dating. They are more likely to “hang out” than go on actual dates. they also have a much more permissive attitude about premarital sex than previous generations. The gap between attitudes about men having casual sex and women having casual sex seems to have narrowed. It’s much more socially acceptable these days for a woman to have multiple sex partners than in previous generations.
It’s fiction that millennials are hooking up more often than other generations. In fact, among young adults 20-24, 15% haven’t had sex since turning 18, compared to 6% of generation X. This means over twice as many millennials are abstaining from sex.
Another study found that around 33% of college students have had more than one sexual partner in the past year, and only 20% had more than five partners since turning 18.
It seems that 20% of millennials live up to the “hookup generation” reputation, while nearly that many (15%) are abstinent. This reputation probably has more to do with the more permissive attitude millennials have about sex than the number of hookups happening.
Millenials feel more comfortable being open about their sexual activity. However, they are also free to be individuals, which means they aren’t shamed for being abstinent, either.
The Bareback Generation
Millenials may be called the hookup generation, but Generation X is being called the bareback generation. It seems that the older you get, the less likely you are to use a condom.
Teens, the group that you would most expect to make impulsive and risky decisions, 79% of men and 58% of women use a condom. It drops to 45% and 38% for 18-24 year olds.
25-34 year olds, the group that should have outgrown the foolish risks of their youth, use a condom less than 1/3 of the time. 35-44 year olds use condoms less than 25% of the time.Why is this age group, who are responsible in other areas of their lives, forgoing safe sex? These people are responsible. They hold down steady jobs, they pay their bills on time, yet they have unprotected risky sex.
Why is this age group, who are responsible in other areas of their lives, forgoing safe sex? These people are responsible. They hold down steady jobs, they pay their bills on time, yet they have unprotected risky sex.
Does the Natural Movement Play a Part?
It’s safe to assume that a good number of people in these age groups are in a monogamous relationship, but it still leaves a large number of the population having casual unprotected risky sex. Why?
Part of the reason may be the natural movement, particularly when it comes to women. Many women are making efforts to live more naturally.
They are concerned about possible chemicals found in condoms, or they simply don’t like them. They don’t like the idea of putting hormones in their body via birth control pills either.
This may also be a situation in which the Aids movement has been a victim of its own success. This age group is old enough to remember when contracting HIV was a death sentence, and they’ve also seen incredible advances that make it seem not so scary.
Perceived risk is how much we feel a given behavior puts us at risk. Many people seem to have the “it won’t happen to me” mentality, so their perceived risk is low.
Let’s face it, condoms may be safe, but they aren’t sexy. Sure there are Youtube videos showing ways to make it sexier, but this can end up feeling much more comical than sexy. Condoms can reduce sensation and make it more difficult for a man to maintain an erection. Many women say it doesn’t feel as good to them either. They also have an unpleasant taste and smell. It can be viewed as a sign of mistrust or an accusation of promiscuity in a relationship.
Over 50 Least Likely to Use Condoms
Condom usage continues to decrease with age. In fact, 90% of men over 50 say they didn’t use a condom with their last date or casual acquaintance. 70% didn’t use condoms during their last encounter with a stranger.
With many older adults having sex well into their 80s, STD’s are becoming a problem in nursing homes. For this age group, lack of education may be the biggest driving factor.
Most people in this age group were married for many years, so they didn’t need safe sex information. Now they are dating again, and may not be aware of the potential risks.
After all, the last time they were dating, the main risk of having sex was pregnancy, a concern that they no longer have. While rates of STD infections are dropping in most age groups, the rate of STDs for people 50-70 has doubled.
Online Dating and SeroSorting
Serosorting is the practice of a person’s HIV status being a deciding factor on whether or not you choose to engage in a sexual relationship with them.
When it comes to online dating, serosorting is commonly used. This can involve either making assumptions about someone’s status based on their dating profile. For example, assuming someone with a higher education level is HIV negative. It can also involve asking the potential partner about their status.
Serosorting can lower HIV transmission rates when both partners are sure of their HIV status. However, many people who are infected don’t know. Those who do may be afraid to admit it.
Serosorting has been shown to increase the rate of HIV transmission, particularly in the gay community. this is because a person thinks their partner is negative, so they don’t worry about using safe sex practices.
Many psychologists believe that risky sexual behavior is driven by the same factors as other risky behaviors. Sex with a stranger, gambling, and jumping out of an airplane have a lot of similarities.
They are all risks that aren’t really necessary, and they can all have negative consequences. Some people seem to be addicted to risky behavior, like the base jumper who just can’t seem to stop. They know it’s dangerous, but something drives them to do it again and again.
There may be a biological reason some people choose to take more risks than others. When we take a risk, our brain floods with dopamine. This is the brain’s reward chemical, and it creates a sort of natural high. Most of our brains self-regulate so that we don’t get too much dopamine.
However, the brains of extreme risk takers have fewer dopamine blocking receptors. Their brains get a much stronger dose of dopamine when they do something risky. They get a much stronger “high” as well.
Our natural tendency is to keep doing the things that make us feel good, so these risk takers will naturally keep taking risks to keep getting that feel good dopamine high.
Fulfilling the Need For Risk Safely
Everyone enjoys taking some risks. We all crave excitement. When our life gets too routine and stable, we get bored. Boredom and a craving for excitement can lead you to engage in risky behaviors.
However, there are risks that are worth taking, and those that aren’t worth taking. If you are craving sexual excitement, you have the option of trying something new with your spouse instead of cheating.
If you feel stuck in a rut, you can take a risk at work by asking for a promotion. You can choose a new hobby that will get your adrenaline pumping, like rock climbing or learning how to ride a motorcycle.
In relationships and in life, risk taking is important for long term happiness and success. However, you should always weigh the potential consequences, and consider whether or not a potential risk is worth taking.
Risky sex is exciting and it can even be addictive for some individuals. There’s nothing wrong with taking reasonable risks, and keeping the excitement alive in your life and relationship. However, safety should always be a consideration, even in risk taking.