Senior Project Advisor

Mary Hunt

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2021


college students, sexual behavior, STI prevention, pregnancy prevention


Introduction: College students tend to engage in higher risk sexual behaviors. However, contraception use varies by prevention focus (STI vs pregnancy prevention) and a person’s perception of themselves as a contraceptive user. Research questions pertained to three main topics: sexual behaviors, STI perception and prevention, and pregnancy perception and prevention. This study examined if college students’ gender identity, sexual orientation, and relationship status affected their perception of STI and/or pregnancy prevention efforts.

Methods: We recruited a convenience sample of college students (N=924) at a mid-sized Pacific Northwest university to take an online survey during the months of October to January of the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions addressed STI and pregnancy prevention perceptions and behaviors. The majority of participants identified as white (77%); additional demographic breakdowns included: 68% women, 21% men, 10% gender expansive (e.g., genderfluid, nonbinary); 52% heterosexual, 24% bisexual, 24% LGQ+; 57% single, 43% in a relationship. Data were analyzed with chi-squares and Wilcoxon signed ranks tests.

Results: External condoms were the most common choice for STI (80%) and pregnancy (67%) prevention methods. There were significant differences in contraceptive use by gender identity, sexual orientation, and relationship status. LGBTQ individuals were more likely to use regular testing for STI prevention and external condoms for pregnancy prevention compared to their cis-gender or heterosexual peers.

Discussion: Differences in types of prevention methods and utilization frequencies may indicate discrepancies in how individuals see themselves as contraceptive users. The pandemic also may have impacted perception of risk and prevention use. These data have implications for more inclusive sex education approaches.


Health and Human Development

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Western Washington University--Students; College students--Sexual behavior--Attitudes--Research--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Contraceptives--Research--Washington (State)--Bellingham

Subjects - Names (LCNAF)

Western Washington University

Geographic Coverage

Bellingham (Wash.)


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