Having sex is a common behavior among college students, and it can have both positive and negative consequences. While previous research has mainly focused on women's negative experiences, the current study explores the relationships between flirting behaviors, psychological distress, and a wide range of negative effects of sexual intercourse on both male and female college students. To assess these effects, the Negative Impact of Sexual Relationships Inventory (NIHI) was developed. The results showed that there were no gender differences in the total number of negative effects of sexual intercourse, although men reported more frequent encounters.
The NIHI also revealed that the negative impacts of sexual intercourse were positively associated with psychological distress regardless of gender. It was also found that pre-university sexual intercourse behavior and the number of sex partners were the strongest predictors of penetrative sexual behavior and of the number of couples in the first semester of university. Unprotected sex and having more sexual partners were associated with greater negative experiences of sexual intercourse. In addition, it was observed that men reported receiving oral sex in both sexual intercourse and relationships much more than women.
Furthermore, more women than men expected a relationship to develop after a sexual relationship. It was also demonstrated that people with a particular risk-taking variant of the D4 dopamine receptor gene (DRD4 VNTR) were more likely to have sexual encounters without commitment. Having sex can also affect other mental health outcomes, such as a person's self-esteem. Therefore, understanding students' experiences of sexual intercourse is an important step in developing specific health interventions related to flirting behavior in young adult populations.