Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Women's Sexual Sensation Seeking and Risk Taking in Leisure Travel

Academic journal article Journal of Leisure Research

Women's Sexual Sensation Seeking and Risk Taking in Leisure Travel

Article excerpt


Sex, as a freely chosen activity performed for its own sake for the purpose of pleasure and enjoyment, fits within nearly all definitions of leisure (Freysinger & Kelly, 2004; Godbey, 2008; Meaney & Rye, 2007). In addition to procreation (and oftentimes instead of procreation), sex may have recreational and relational meanings. These leisurely qualities of sex may in turn contribute to a person's rejuvenation and well-being (Freysinger & Kelly, 2004) and/or occasionally may result in moments of flow, which is a state of complete absorption with a given activity and situation (Csikszentmihalyi, 1980; Kelly, 1990). In its various manifestations, sexual activity may also be a form of casual leisure and even serious leisure when sexual preferences profoundly affect the lifestyle of the individual (Stebbins, 2001; Worthington, 2005).

While sex in/as leisure and/or the links between sexuality and leisure have recently drawn some research attention (Berdychevsky, Nimrod, Kleiber, & Gibson, 2013; Parry & Penny Light, 2014), gaps in the understanding of sexual matters in leisure studies are prominent (Carr & Poria, 2010; Caudwell & Browne; 2011). One of these gaps revolves around the nexus of sex, leisure, and risk taking. A recent study suggests boredom in leisure is conducive to risky sexual behaviors among youth (Miller et al., 2014). However, considering the kaleidoscopic diversity of leisure experiences, this finding is not applicable to cases where the essence of a leisure experience is defined in opposition to boredom, which would often be the case in leisure travel.

Classic conceptualizations of tourism suggest it is a special form of leisure characterized by pleasure, novelty, change, voluntariness, and noninstrumentality (Cohen, 1974). Leisure travel experiences are often defined in juxtaposition to everything routine and boring, as cathartic breaks characterized by novelty, fun, recreation, situational disinhibition, license for thrills, and liminality/liminoidity, and as settings conducive to sexual risk taking (SRT) (Eiser & Ford, 1995; Pritchard & Morgan, 2006; Selänniemi, 2003; Wickens, 1997). These nonordinary and liberating characteristics associated with leisure travel are often stated as the reasons for sexual risk taking (Berdychevsky & Gibson, 2015; Briggs & Tutenges, 2014; Brown et al., 2014).

Some of the most prominent risks associated with sex in general and in leisure travel contexts more specifically are the negative effects on health. Indeed, the geographical expansion of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has been linked to tourism (Brown et al., 2014; Clift & Forrest, 2000; Vivancos, Abubakar, & Hunter, 2010). This connection may be partially explained by evidence suggesting that SRT is more common in leisure travel than in people's day-to-day lives (Black, 1997; Qvarnström & Oscarsson, 2014). Despite this link, one of the critiques of national surveys of sexual behavior and STIs is their failure to collect separate data on respondents' sexual behavior while traveling abroad (Bloor et al., 2000). Although, over the past decade, sexual behavior in the context of international travel has drawn some research attention (Apostolopoulos, Sönmez, & Yu, 2002; Bloor et al., 2000; Thomas, 2005), the tendency has been to focus on commercial sex tourism to the exclusion of exploring the potential health consequences of noncommercial sex in leisure travel contexts (Berdychevsky, Gibson, & Poria, 2013).

While a nuanced understanding of SRT is crucial due to the prevalence of health risks associated with STIs, the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the 20th century and its continued relevance today provide further impetus for research in this area. About 35 million people worldwide currently live with HIV/AIDS, with 2.3 million new infections and 1.6 million deaths in 2012 (amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, 2013). Women are biologically more vulnerable to STIs and HIV/AIDS than men, with 75% of HIV infections in women caused by heterosexual unprotected sexual contact (Broaddus, Morris, & Bryan, 2010). …

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