Seasonal Work and Sexual Behaviour

Article excerpt

Each year, large numbers of young people from many areas of Britain take up temporary employment at holiday centres along the south coast of England. These workers are usually young, sexually active people who become part of a very sociable environment while working at a holiday centre. This environment, away from their usual place of residence, may influence their social and sexual behaviour. It is possible that they will have particular sexual health needs while they reside at a holiday centre. There is, however, little knowledge of the sexual and contraceptive behaviour of seasonal workers from which public policy can be developed.

Ford (1990, 1991a) provides the only previous source of information on the social and sexual lifestyles of seasonal workers (referred to as tourism workers) in England. During the summer of 1989, 386 tourism workers, aged 16-24, completed a survey on their sexual behaviour. These data were used to make comparisons between three groups: (a) migrant tourism workers who have temporarily migrated from another region to take up employment, (b) local tourism workers who normally reside locally, and (c) the resident population. The study showed that migrant tourism workers, particularly males, held a more "recreational" sexual philosophy than either local tourism workers or the resident population. This is evidenced by their feeling that it is admissible to engage in sexual intercourse outside a steady relationship, the shorter period of time between first meeting and first sexual intercourse, their more positive attitudes towards casual sex, and the greater importance accorded to sexual activities such as sexual intercourse and oral sex, while local residents hold more positive attitudes towards love and marriage, and the belief that casual sex will not have a negative effect on their reputation (Ford 1991a). Although it was primarily male migrant workers who held these recreational attitudes, female migrant workers were also more likely to hold these views than the females in resident population.

Ford's (1990, 1991a) study also showed that tourism workers in general, and migrant tourism workers in particular, engaged in sexual intercourse with a higher number of partners than local residents of the same age. Twenty-five percent of migrant tourism workers had four or more sexual partners in the year prior to the study, compared with 19% of local tourism workers and 13% of local resident youth. Male migrant tourism workers were shown to be the most sexually active group, with 44% engaging in sexual intercourse with four or more partners in the previous year, compared with 5% of their female counterparts. Migrant tourism workers expressed more negative attitudes toward condom use than did local tourism workers or the resident population. Of tourism workers who had four or more partners in the last year, 60% did not intend to insist on condom use with a new sexual partner (Ford 1990). Furthermore, only 40% of migrant tourism workers had used a condom during their last sexual intercourse. Workers who had engaged in intercourse with four or more partners, the group at highest risk of sexually transmitted infections (STI), reported the lowest level of condom use (25%) (Ford & Inman, 1992). This pattern indicates a potentially high level of sexual risk-taking among tourism workers.

Ford (1990) also conducted an audit of the demand for family planning services in the same region which revealed seasonal variations in termination of pregnancy (TOP) requests with peaks in June and September. He speculated that the increase in June may reflect the large influx of tourism workers in April and May, and the September peak may indicate an increase in the sexual activity during the tourist season. It was also reported that tourism workers and tourists comprised a disproportionately high number of the requests for emergency contraception and TOP (Ford 1990).

The research by Ford (1990, 1991a) provides valuable information on the patterns of sexual risk-taking and attitudes toward condom use among tourism workers. …