home News NUIG Publishes Report On Binge Drinking, Consent, and Abuse In Students’ Sexual Lives

NUIG Publishes Report On Binge Drinking, Consent, and Abuse In Students’ Sexual Lives

National University of Ireland Galway (NUIG) has published a report finding that 68% of female and 71.5% of male students binge drink at least once a month, 53% of females and 49% of males are satisfied with their sex lives, and 12.5% of females and 2% of males reported being threatened into sexual contact.

The SHAG (Sexual Health and Attitudes, Galway) Survey was one of the first of its kind undertaken, collecting data on the sexual habits of students aged 18-29 years. The online survey had 1,691 participants from the NUIG student body: 68% female and 32% male; 88% identified as heterosexual, 2.5% homosexual, 7% bisexual, 1% asexual, and 2% as other (pansexual, questioning, etc.).  

“The results of this survey show the incidence of sexual violence and assault are comparable to international studies of college students, and highlight the need for a national study of third level students on this issue.” said the main author, Elaine Byrnes, Doctoral Researcher at the School of Psychology.

“Findings on alcohol related sex consequences, particularly where students report being forced or pressured into sexual activity, highlights the importance of continuing consent education; how it is understood and communicated, and the role of alcohol in sexual decision making.”

The survey asked students to indicate their response to statements related to their sex habits, drinking, attitudes on certain behaviours, and whether or not they had experienced forced sexual contact, as well as how to communicate consent, and how to protect peers from irresponsible or harmful behaviour when it came to sex.

53% of respondents were in a relationship, 46% were single, and 1% were married/divorced. 57% were in first/second year, and the rest in third year onward. 70% of females and 73% of males were sexually active in the month prior to the survey, with 45% of females and 41% reporting that they had their first sexual experience at age 17 or younger. 63% of females and 67% of males were used protection last time they had sexual intercourse. 5% of all respondents had been diagnosed with an STI.

One part of the survey focused on asking students to agree or disagree with a number of common misconceptions regarding rape and abuse. 21% of females and 24% of males agreed that “there is a lot of false reports to the Gardaí”, with 38% and 46% uncertain/neutral; 7% of females and 19% of males agreed that “Once a rape is reported to the Gardaí, there is a good chance the rapist will go to prison”, with 23% and 34% unsure; 72% of females and 47% of males disagree.

4% of females and 3% of males are “unlikely” to “Stop sexual activity when asked, even when sexually aroused”, with 6% of females and 7% of males neutral. 6% and 7% are “unlikely” to refuse to have sex with a partner who is drunk.

12.5% of females and 2% of males reported having experienced unwanted sexual contact due to physical force or verbal threats. 16% of females and 7% of males were either certain or suspected that they had had experienced unwanted sexual contact when they were too drunk, drugged, incapacitated or asleep.

Participants who reported experiencing some kind of unwanted sexual contact while unable to give consent were given five types of abuse (and a ‘Don’t know’ option for those who were uncertain), and asked to check as many types of abuse that applied. Of the incidents involving a person being unable to consent, forced sexual intercourse was the most common for women, being reported by over 50% in females in either case of being certain or uncertain that it had happened. The most common for males was oral sex, followed by attempted sexual intercourse; 13% and 14% of males (certain or uncertain respectively) reported oral sex, with 14% and 17% reporting attempted sexual intercourse.  No males reported anal sex as the form of abuse in these circumstances, where 33% and 50% of females (certain and uncertain) did.

Drinking constituted a notable influence on the sexual habits of student respondents, with alcohol being cited as an influence in regretted sexual experiences for over 26%, neglecting to use contraception for about 25%, and having sex with someone they wouldn’t normally have sex with for 25.5% of females and 28.5% of males.

The full report is available at nuigalway.ie/media/studentservices/SHAG_Report_2017.pdf