Sex Issue: The sexual culture of spring break

This story is part of The GW Hatchet’s 2006 Life Section Sex Issue.

Maybe it’s because students need to let off steam after a week of midterm exams. Maybe it’s because everyone in sight is wearing a bathing suit (or less). Maybe it’s because the media has encouraged a culture of spring break indulgence and promiscuity. Or, maybe it’s all of that, plus alcohol.

“If anyone even tried to tell you that sex isn’t the overriding factor to spring break, they would be lying out of their asses,” said freshman Kate Webbe, who went to Acapulco, Mexico, for spring break this year. GW’s week-long spring break officially ended March 19.

Many students go to spring break hot spots – places with lots of sun, sand and nightclubs. The STA travel agency in the Marvin Center made the most bookings this year for Jamaica, Acapulco, Cancun, Mexico, Barbados and Costa Rica.

“People definitely go out to the clubs with the intention of meeting someone and hooking up,” said freshman Marina Grushin, who spent this year’s spring break in the Bahamas.

According to an American Medical Association survey released early this month, one in five college women “regretted” their spring break sexual activities, and 12 percent of women felt that they were “forced or pressured into sex.”

Richard Yoast, the director of the AMA study, said many women surveyed felt that advertising has a lot to do with the sexual culture of spring break.

“A lot of the women polled thought that spring break promotions really portrayed women in an inaccurate light,” Yoast said. “They were highly supportive of changing how spring break is promoted on college campuses.”

Yoast added that television coverage such as MTV’s spring break programming often exaggerate visual images to make the events more appealing to men.

“We grew up watching MTV spring break specials where there are hundreds of scantily-clad, wasted people,” Grushin said. “And now we’re finally at the age where we can go on a similar spring break vacation.”

Webbe, the freshman who went to the Bahamas, said the images – on television and in reality – are all over the place.

“How often do you see any contests exposing men?” Webbe said. “All you see are hot body contests, wet t-shirt contests, etcetera, and if it doesn’t involve nudity, then it definitely involves drinking.”

“Being objectified has its pros and cons, I guess,” Webbe said. “On one hand, everywhere you go women’s bodies are being objectified. At the same time, however, we can get into clubs where guys can’t, specifically because we are girls. We can get cheaper cab fares, and we have sway at the bar when ordering drinks.”

John Dages, the associate director of GW’s counseling center, said that international spring break locations put younger students at risk.

“Part of the problem is in places like Cancun where the drinking age is 18,” Dages said. “This allows younger people to get in more high-risk situations.”

“We know that alcohol lowers inhibitions and can lead to public sex, promiscuity and nudity,” Dages added. “These are commonplace at spring break hotspots. People who are drinking are likely to engage in activities that they would never do sober.”

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.