think about it
Your cart is empty
Visit The Shop

back to ba(sex): are holiday hook-ups a site for sexual liberation?

Sun, surf and sex on the beach? (Image: Stuart Webster via Wikimedia Commons)

Sun, surf and sex on the beach? (Image: Stuart Webster via Wikimedia Commons)

Ask a number of holidaymakers in any given airport departure lounge what they are after and you are bound to hear preferences for the following: sun, surf, sex. If media and academia are anything to go by, sex is a particular favourite. But why?

There is constant research into the sexual behaviours of people going on vacation. One of the most recent studies, conducted by American academics Dr Liza Berdychevsky and Dr Heather Gibson, focuses on young women. The rivetingly titled Phenomenology of young women’s sexual risk-taking in tourism paper shows that on holiday, women feel liberated from the double standard of sexuality to have sex “like a man”.

Of course, we should not – in an ideal society – identify sexual behaviours as masculine or feminine. Unfortunately, the way our society has constructed female sexuality has played a part in these women feeling their behaviour is constrained at home. Nevertheless, these women felt liberated away from the stresses of everyday life because their trip – as identified by the researchers – offered ‘a license for thrills, situational disinhibition, and sexual experimentation’.

Researcher Liza Berdychevsky said there were a number of beneficial outcomes of these holiday hook-ups.

‘Some learn a lesson, how to reject, how to be more empowered, how to be more vocal or how to insist on contraception,’ she said. Learning assertive communication techniques for future encounters on holiday or at home is a fabulous outcome of these experiences. If women were not inhibited to explore opportunities at home, their lives could be similarly benefited.

It is worrying that these women have had to gain these skills away from everyday life, because – frankly – holidays are in fact not a safe haven for sexuality. While the double standard of promiscuity might be left behind at home, the negative outcomes of poor sex education can still be seen on holiday. Without adequate knowledge of what constitutes consent and a disregard for the importance of safe sex, sexual assault and sexually transmitted infections are not uncommon.

In a study of European travellers, one in 10 women had been sexually harassed or assaulted on holiday – two and a half times more likely than men. Many researchers implore women to take condom procurement into their own hands rather than relying on partners but it does not seem to be happening. A literature review by Oxford University researchers found condom usage for all holiday encounters as low as 35% for young people. This article also said it was not uncommon for people to be diagnosed with an STI on their return. Unfortunately, many people – male, female, whoever – will not get checked after their trip.

On one of my first unchaperoned trips away, at age 18, I found myself considering these phenomena. A friend and I decided to leave some friends to stay out with a musical duo on tour in a seaside town, playing music under a full moon on the break wall (yeah, it was pretty freaking magical.) These men wanted to come back to our cabin, but I then freaked out. My paranoia was not induced by some sort of drug or alcohol psychosis, but by rape culture. It was also a product of slut-shaming and fear of disease. My friend made a decision and went back to their hotel room. I went back to our cabin and was unable to sleep. She had a fabulous experience and I was fucked over by the patriarchy.

Women should not have to feel they cannot explore their sexuality at home. They should not feel threatened by rape, slut-shaming or the inability to have safe sex on holiday either. We should be seeing sex as just sex: fun when we want to do it, on consensual terms and with informed choices about sexual health wherever we roam.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>