Sexual abuse history, alcohol intoxication, and women's sexual risk behavior

Arch Sex Behav. 2010 Aug;39(4):898-906. doi: 10.1007/s10508-009-9544-0. Epub 2009 Sep 1.


We examined potential differences in women's likelihood of sexual risk taking in a laboratory setting based on alcohol intoxication and sexual abuse history. Participants (n = 64) were classified as non-sexually abused (NSA) or as having experienced sexual abuse in childhood only (CSA) or adulthood only (ASA) and randomly assigned to consume alcoholic (.06, .08, or .10% target blood alcohol content) or non-alcoholic drinks, after which participants read and responded to a risky sex vignette. Dependent measures included vaginal pulse amplitude, self-reported sexual arousal, likelihood of engaging in condom use and risky sexual behaviors described in the vignette, and mood. NSA and ASA women did not differ significantly on any dependent measures. CSA women reported significantly lower likelihood of condom use and unprotected intercourse relative to NSA and ASA women. Intoxicated women reported significantly greater sexual arousal, positive mood, and likelihood of risky sex relative to sober women. Intoxicated CSA women reported significantly more likelihood of unprotected oral sex and less likelihood of condom use relative to intoxicated NSA and ASA and sober CSA women. CSA women's increased risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) may be driven by non-condom use and behavioral changes while intoxicated. These findings provide preliminary insight into situational influences affecting CSA women's increased STI risk.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / physiopathology
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse, Sexual / psychology
  • Condoms
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Photoplethysmography
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Safe Sex / psychology
  • Sex Offenses / psychology*
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Vagina / physiopathology