Senior Project Advisor

Mary Hunt

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2022


college students, COVID-19 pandemic, sexual behaviors, intimacy, relationships


Introduction: College students were uniquely affected by the pandemic because of transitions in living situations and a lack of social connection. The current study explored students’ relationships, experiences of intimacy, and sexual behaviors during March 2020 to March 2021 of the pandemic.

Method: A convenience sample (N=288) of WWU students participated in an online survey. Data indicated participants were majority women (66.9%), white (74.2%), and varied in sexual orientations (heterosexual (47.8%); bisexual (25.7%); LGQ+ (24.5%)). This mixed methods survey comprised questions about individuals’ pandemic context, relationships, intimacy, and sexual behaviors alone and with others.

Results: The majority of respondents (67.1%) reported having engaged in sexual behaviors with others during this period of the pandemic, with 41.1% indicating they were in a committed relationship with one person. Many indicated more frequent behaviors (45.1% masturbated more often; 39.8% had more remote/virtual sexual activity) or trying new behaviors (53%). Open-ended data indicated variations in sexual desire, frequency, and satisfaction.

Discussion: College is usually a time for sexual exploration and self-discovery. Some students adapted during the pandemic so they could explore, and some were deterred by mental health, isolation, and social barriers. These data can inform counseling, support, and educational initiatives at WWU.


Health and Human Development

Subjects - Topical (LCSH)

Western Washington University--Students; College students--Sexual behavior--Washington (State)--Bellingham; Couples--Sexual behavior--Washington (State)--Bellingham; COVID-19 Pandemic, 2020---Washington (State)--Bellingham

Subjects - Names (LCNAF)

Western Washington University

Geographic Coverage

Bellingham (Wash.)


demographics, essays




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