Sex on campus: a preliminary study of knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of university students in Delhi, India

J Biosoc Sci. 1998 Jan;30(1):95-105. doi: 10.1017/s0021932098000959.


Eight hundred and eighty-seven students from two major universities in Delhi, India, were surveyed, using a self-administered questionnaire, about their sexual knowledge, attitudes and behaviour. The data show that female students seem to be rejecting traditional Indian repressive sexual standards of premarital and non-procreative sex and the gender differences are beginning to narrow. Despite their sexual awareness, the students were highly ignorant of the facts of life. Being male and married did not make them more knowledgeable.

PIP: This baseline study examines student attitudes, knowledge, and sexual behavior in India. The sample includes 887 students from two universities in Delhi, of which 76.8% were female and 82.1% were unmarried. 62.7% were Hindus or Sikhs, 22.1% were Christians, and 11% were Muslims. 40.9% were nursing students, 37.6% were social work students, and 22.5% were in the humanities. Attitudes were assessed about the acceptance of premarital sexual relations and masturbation. Findings indicate that 58% of women and 79.1% of men viewed intimate or casual sexual relations as acceptable before marriage. Only 32.1% supported the chastity of women. 72.4% agreed that it would be better if women were free to express their sexual desires with as much initiative and aggressiveness as men. Women were more sexually conservative than men in sexual attitudes and sexual behavior. 49.5% of males and 36.1% of females had a steady dating partner with whom they were romantically involved. 39.3% of males and 20.4% of females had engaged in premarital sex. About 50% of males and females approved of parents allowing their daughters as much sexual freedom as their sons. Females found premarital sex slightly more acceptable for a man than for a woman. Males supported premarital sex equally for men or women. 61.7% of men and 40.6% of women regarded love as the key to satisfying sexual relations. 50.4% of males and 38.6% of females accepted masturbation as healthy. 66.7% of females and 62.4% of males viewed infidelity as unacceptable for both partners. 72.2% of females and 57.6% of males agreed that extramarital relations were almost always harmful to a marriage. 60.7% of students correctly identified only 33% or less of the sexual anatomy and functioning knowledge questions; only 8.2% answered over 50% correctly. Males and females were equally uninformed. The most common source of information about sex was friends.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude*
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • India
  • Male
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Students / psychology*
  • Universities