Sexual decision making is often grounded in social scripts that can be detrimental to women’s healthy relationships and sexual development during the transition to college. Little is known about the malleable decision-making processes and drinking behaviors that influence sexual behaviors from day-to-day.
We examined whether women were more likely to engage in sexual behaviors on days they had higher intentions and willingness to engage in sex or drink alcohol. We also explored interactions between sex- and alcohol-related decision constructs. Eighty-two first-year college women completed 14 days of ecological momentary assessment, reporting on alcohol- and sex-related intentions and willingness (3x daily) and daily drinking and sexual behaviors.
We found partial support for our hypotheses: intentions and willingness to have sex were positively associated with sex behaviors, but the willingness to drink was negatively associated with sex behaviors. Heavy drinking was associated with sexual behavior, even when women indicated no prior willingness to engage in sexual behavior on those days. Findings highlight the need to address event-level variability in sexual decision making, with a particular focus on how alcohol impacts these processes. Further, the robust association between sexual intentions and behavior suggests intention setting may be a particularly useful sexual empowerment education tool.