College students are less likely to let their female friends engage in risky sexual behaviour after a night of drinking alcohol, a new study has revealed.
The study examined how and why college students protect their friends who have been heavily drinking.
Three quarters of the study's participants reported that they would not take risks when it comes to making sure a female friend is safe while under the influence of alcohol.
Participants said they would persuade a female friend not to go home with a new male acquaintance or that they would make sure she got home safely.
The participants reported using three distinct communication strategies to prevent their female friends from going home with strangers after a night of drinking alcohol.
Firstly they highlight the regret associated with that behaviour.
Participants said they would remind their friends about the negative health and social consequences associated with going home with someone. These include getting pregnant, developing a bad reputation, and regretting their decision in the morning.
Secondly they use trickery or deception.
Students hold the belief that drunken friends can be easily distracted or exploited.
To remove their friends from a risky situation, the participants said they would trick their friends by taking them to get food, or putting them into a cab to go home, instead of going to the male acquaintance's place.
Thirdly they would try direct confrontation.
To protect their friends from dangerous situations, the study participants said they would directly confront their friends.
This includes specifically telling their friends that they need to leave, or physically removing them from the situation.
"Our research suggests that the claim that college students routinely engage in risky sexual behaviour while intoxicated may be exaggerated," Linda C. Lederman, a professor of communication at Arizona State University, one of the study authors, said.
Relational closeness or how well the participants know both their friends and male acquaintance plays a significant role in the students' decisions.
The study participants reported that they are more likely to step in and protect a friend during a risky situation.
However, the participants appeared to be more willing to let their friends go home with a male acquaintance if both they and their friends knew him.
The research has been published in "Friends Don't Let Jane Hook Up Drunk: A Qualitative Analysis of Participation in a Simulation of College Drinking-Related Decisions," which appears in Communication Education, Volume 59, a journal of the National Communication Association.