Home » An Unbelievable Study Proves—College Students Make Rational Sex Decisions?

An Unbelievable Study Proves—College Students Make Rational Sex Decisions?

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Intercourse is dangerous. It could actually result in emotional ache, privateness issues, undesirable pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and even most cancers. Many younger adults interact in dangerous sexual behaviors, together with school college students, who too typically, have intercourse with folks they don’t know very nicely whereas, at occasions, inebriated or different medication.  

But a study in Psychological Science, one of many subject’s main journals, concludes that “younger adults make rational sexual choices.” How might revered researchers come to this conclusion? And what does this research reveal about the best way younger adults make sexual choices?  

Let’s begin with the best way the analysis staff studied sexual determination making. They offered folks with hypothetical sexual selections, between the attractiveness of a potential sexual companion and the probability of contracting a “frequent and treatable STI akin to chlamydia or gonorrhea” from that companion. (I received’t dwell on this, however it drives me loopy to simply flippantly describe these as frequent and treatable, when a illness like chlamydia is often silent and leads to infertility. However I digress.)  

Right here’s an instance of the kind of alternative they requested individuals to make:  


Throughout a collection of such selections, researchers measured whether or not folks made constant choices. If an individual solely accepted the next danger of STIs to be with a extra engaging companion, they have been considered by the analysis staff as making rational selections. This conclusion is unsuitable on extra accounts than I can describe right here. However right here is my largest concern.  

The researchers failed to acknowledge the excellence between vital and adequate circumstances of rationality. If I make a collection of inconsistent selections, it’s an excellent guess that I’m not making rational choices. Consistency can be thought of as a vital situation of rationality. (I do know that that is controversial, and there are in all probability exceptions to this place. However most individuals agree it’s true.)  

However no one I do know of thinks of consistency as a adequate situation of rationality. Suppose a pupil goes to a celebration, the place the worth of getting a sexual encounter is to play a recreation of Russian roulette, with a 1 in 6 likelihood of loss of life. Suppose we discover that the scholar is persistently prepared to have intercourse solely with actually engaging companions. The pupil doesn’t suppose a 1 in 6 danger of loss of life is price it for any individual they don’t discover engaging. Is it, due to this fact, rational for this pupil to just accept that likelihood of loss of life for a short encounter with somebody they’re attracted to?  

Rational decision-making doesn’t solely require consistency. It will depend on making good judgements in regards to the relative advantages and harms of the alternatives one makes. All else equal, it’s rational to have intercourse with folks you discover engaging (versus unattractive). And, I suppose, it’s rational to keep away from intercourse with a pretty particular person in the event that they carry a excessive danger of an STI. However what’s the proper danger of STI to just accept as a way to have intercourse with a complete hotty? Nothing about this research evaluates whether or not younger adults did an excellent job of weighing the harms and advantages of an STI versus the pleasure of a single sexual encounter.  

The Nobel Prize profitable economist Gary Becker gained fame, partially, for proposing a model of rational addiction. Elevate the price of heroin, for instance, and addicts will use much less of the drug proving, to Becker, that such habits is rational. It’s actually necessary to acknowledge that, even when hooked on highly effective medication, folks’s selections are influenced by the price and advantages of utilizing these medication. That was Becker’s genius—to seek out the sliver of rationality inside this log of irrational habits. However a sliver of rationality doesn’t show that folks’s selections are, due to this fact, utterly rational.  

Returning to the sexual choices of younger adults. There’s clearly one thing rational about consciously buying and selling off the dangers of intercourse with how attracted you’re to a possible companion. However absolutely rational sexual determination making would take account of the potential harms of an encounter with, say, the dramatic discount of these dangers via use of a condom. It is perhaps considerably rational to keep away from unprotected intercourse with comparatively unattractive companions. It’s much more rational to apply protected intercourse, with no matter companion you select to be with.

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