Collegiate Women’s Definitions of Responsible Sexual Behavior

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Promoting responsible sexual behavior (RSB) is a public health strategy to decrease unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Current definitions of RSB in the literature have been developed by providers and policy makers; little is known about adult women’s perspectives. Interventions inconsistent with women’s definitions of RSB may be less effective; therefore, the purpose of this study was to understand how a sample of college women defined RSB. Data was collected from interviews as part of a mixed methods study of college women and unintended pregnancy. Women defined beingsexually responsible as self-advocating through actions that are consistent with personal goals and values while being aware of consequences that could threaten those goals or values. Actions included mindful partner selection, communicating boundaries, and preventing pregnancy. Study findings were consistent with prior research that identified managing risk and purposeful decision making as crucial to acting responsibly.

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