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J Sex Res. 2012;49(1):61-8. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2011.572307. Epub 2011 May 24.

Willingness to have unprotected sex.

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Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health, University of California, San Francisco, Oakland, CA 94612, USA.


Little is known about people's willingness to engage in sex without protection from unwanted pregnancy. This study surveyed 1,497 women and men at 75 clinics and physician offices across California after their reproductive health care visits in late 2007 and early 2008. When asked if they would have sex without contraception, 30% said definitively that yes, they would have unprotected sex, and 20% indicated they would "sometimes" or "maybe" engage in unprotected sex. In multivariate models, compared to non-Latino White respondents, Latinos who responded to the survey in English were 52% more likely and African Americans were 75% more likely to report willingness to have unprotected intercourse. Wanting a child within the next three years was associated with increased willingness to have unprotected sex. Age, gender, parity, and relationship status were not significant in multivariate models. A considerable proportion of women and men may be willing to have unprotected sex, even with access to subsidized contraceptive services and even when recently counseled about birth control. The dominant behavioral models of contraceptive use need to acknowledge the widespread likelihood of occasional unprotected sex, even among people motivated to usually use contraceptives. Findings underscore the need to make contraceptive methods accessible, easy to use, and even pleasurable.

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