College Sexuality Statistics: Latest Insights

Men and women have an average of 5 different sex partners during their college years. The 3 most sexually active campuses are Temple, Rutgers, and Texas A&M.
split screen image featuring a bar graph on the left depicting that among college students aged 18 to 19, 30% of men and 29% of women report not yet having sex with a photograph of a young college couple kissing and holding hands on the right
Updated:November 2023

On average, men and women each have about 5 different sexual partners throughout the course of their college years.

Key Statistics To Know:

  • Men and women both had an average of close to 5 different sexual partners throughout their college days. [1]
  • A 2023 post-pandemic study of Gen Z university students 18 years or older found that 73% of respondents identified as heterosexual/straight, 21% identified as bisexual or pansexual, and 6% identified as gay or lesbian. [4]
  • That same 2023 study of university students 18 years or older found that 45.5% were in a committed sexual relationship, 18.2% were in a casual sexual relationship, 4.5% were in a sexual relationship with more than one partner, and 30.8% had no current sexual relationship. [4]
  • 20.8% of college students report experiencing unprotected sex when drinking alcohol in the past 12 months. [7]
  • 38% of college students reported “always” using a condom during sex; this group had an average of 12.74 sex partners. [1]
  • 15% of college students reported “never” using a condom during sex; this group also reported an average of 17.95 sexual partners. [1]
  • About 94% of surveyed college students would say they “had sex” after having penile-vaginal intercourse. [5]
  • Among universities across the United States, the top three most sexually active campuses are Temple University, Rutgers University, and Texas A&M University. [1]

In this article, we’ll share the latest data and statistics on sex in college, including frequency, sexuality, safe practices, what students define “sex” as, college virginity, and the most sexually active college campuses in the United States.

Frequency Of Sex In College

illustrative graphic featuring five silhouettes of young-looking adults with text below explaining that men and women both have an average of about 5 different sexual partners during their college years
  • Men and women both had an average of close to 5 different sexual partners throughout their college days. [1]
  • About 43% of women’s total number of sexual partners at the time of the survey came from college experience. [1]
  • 35% of men’s total number of sexual partners at the time of the survey came from college experience. [1]
  • A 2019 study of community college students aged 18-19 found that over two-thirds of them (70% of males, 71% of females) reported sexual experience during college. [2]
  • About one-third of sexually active community college students aged 18-19 (29% of males, 38% of females) reported having anal sexual intercourse at some point. [2]
  • Among sexually active community college students aged 18-19, 80% of males and 91% of females reported having vaginal sex at some point. [2]
  • Among sexually active community college students aged 18-19, 96% of males and 92% of females reported having oral sex at some point (giving and/or receiving). [2]

A majority of college students engage in some sort of sexual activity.

Note that while 5 partners is average for both men and women, within this average exists a range — some only have one partner while others have far more.

However, a sizable minority also abstain from sexual activity altogether.

Sexuality In College

bar graph on sexual relationships in college depicting that college students age 18 or older reported being various relationships: 45.5% in a committed relationship, 18.2% in a casual sexual relationship, 4.5% in a multi-partner sexual relationship, 30.8% not in a current sexual relationship
  • One 2019 study found that among community college students aged 18-19, 84% identified as heterosexual, 1% identified as gay or lesbian, 8% identified as bisexual, 2% identified as asexual, 3% identified as queer, and 2% identified as unsure. [2]
  • A 2023 post-pandemic study of university students 18 years or older (belonging to Gen Z) found that 73% of respondents identified as heterosexual/straight, 21% identified as bisexual or pansexual, and 6% identified as homosexual (gay or lesbian). [4]
  • That same 2023 study of university students 18 years or older found that 45.5% were in a committed sexual relationship, 18.2% were in a casual sexual relationship, 4.5% were in a sexual relationship with more than one partner, and 30.8% had no current sexual relationship. [4]
  • In a separate 2023 post-pandemic study of LGBTQ college students 18 years of age or older, 21.6% identified as gay or lesbian, 16.8% identified as bisexual, 23% identified as queer, 13.8% identified as pansexual, 10.9% identified as asexual, 7.1% identified as “other,” and 6.8% were questioning their orientation. [3]

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer sexual identities have become increasingly common over the last several years, particularly among college students.

From these data, it is unclear if there was a large change from 2019-2023 or if community college students have fewer LGBQ identities, perhaps related to a different type of college culture compared to universities.

Safe Sex In College

bar graph depicting how frequently college students age 18 and older report using condoms during sexual activity: 38% said always, 24% said usually, 14% said sometimes, 4% said only when a partner asks, 1% said only when available, 15% said never, 4% said other
  • 20.8% of college students report experiencing unprotected sex when drinking alcohol in the past 12 months. [7]
  • 38% of college students reported “always” using a condom during sex; this group had an average of 12.74 sex partners. [1]
  • 24% of college students reported “usually” using a condom during sex; this group had an average of 14.04 sexual partners. [1]
  • 15% of college students reported “never” using a condom during sex; this group also reported an average of 17.95 sexual partners. [1]
  • 14% of college students reported “sometimes” using a condom during sex; this group had an average of 16.40 sexual partners. [1]
  • 4% of college students reported using a condom during sex “only when my partner asks”; this group had an average of 16.88 sexual partners. [1]
  • 1% of college students reported using a condom during sex “only when it is available”; this group also reported an average of 14.88 sexual partners. [1]

Unfortunately, only a minority of college students always use condoms.

While other methods are available for pregnancy prevention, contraception does not address STIs.

It is concerning that those who use condoms less or not at all appear to have the highest number of sexual partners, substantially increasing the risk of STI transmission.

Notably, these averages (number of partners) are quite high and are likely skewed by a subset of students who have a lot of partners.

How College Students Define Sex

bar graph depicting the way college students define sex based on various activities where they could select more than one definition; 94% said penile-vaginal intercourse, 76% said penile-anal intercourse, 44% said oral-genital contact, 24% said having their genitals touched counts as "sex"

A 2021 study of almost 2,000 college students asked respondents if they would say they “had sex” with someone after engaging in specific intimate behaviors and found that: [5]

  1. About 94% would say they “had sex” after having penile-vaginal intercourse.
  2. 76% would say they “had sex” after having penile-anal intercourse.
  3. About 45% would say they “had sex” after having oral-genital contact (giving or receiving).
  4. About 24% would say they “had sex” after someone else touched their genitals.
  5. 21% would say they “had sex” after fondling another’s genitals.
  6. 15.3% would say they “had sex” after deep/French kissing.
  7. About 13% would say they “had sex” after having oral or touch contact with breasts (giving or receiving).

Culturally, when we hear the word “sex,” we tend to think of vaginal intercourse.

The vast majority of university students agree, however many also consider other sexual acts to be “sex,” highlighting the importance of clear and accurate measurement in sex research.

Understanding how students define sex is also important for conversations around safer sex.

Virginity In College

bar graph on virginity in college depicting that among college students aged 18 to 19, 30% of men and 29% of women report not yet having sex
  • 30% of male college students aged 18-19 reported never having sex in college. [2]
  • 29% of female college students aged 18-19 reported never having sex in college. [2]
  • A four-year study followed males enrolled in college, beginning in their freshman year, and found that 27.3% made a private pledge to retain their virginity until marriage.  These students were “24 times more likely to be abstinent at the end of their first year in college, 12 times more likely to be abstinent at the end of their second year in college, and about 8 times more likely to be abstinent at the end of their third and fourth years in college.” [6]
  • In the same study, male students who took public virginity pledges, such as those made in the context of a church or other organization, “were four times more likely to be abstinent at the end of their first, second, and third years of college, and twice as likely to be abstinent at the end of their fourth year in college.”  [6]
  • That same study of college males found that 43.3% of participants reported “never having engaged in sexual intercourse” at the end of freshman year; 35.7% reported the same at the end of their sophomore year; 30.6% reported the same at the end of their junior year; 24.9% reported the same at the end of senior year. [6]

While popular culture as well data discussed above can certainly make it seem like in college, “everybody’s doing it,” a substantial minority abstain from sex during college.

While not the only reason students refrain from sexual activity, virginity pledges, which became popular in religious circles in the early 2000s, do appear to have a sizable impact on college men’s sexual behavior.

Pledges constituting a private, personal decision are remarkably effective, though those taken publicly (such as at a church) are effective for many as well.

Most Sexually Active Colleges

text graphic depicting that the 5 most sexually active college campuses in descending order are temple university, rutgers university, texas a&m, university of south carolina, and cornell university

Among universities across the United States, nearly two dozen stand out as the most sexually active campuses: [1]

  1. Temple University
  2. Rutgers University-New Brunswick
  3. Texas A&M University
  4. University of South Carolina
  5. Cornell University
  6. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  7. California State University, Los Angeles
  8. Virginia Commonwealth University
  9. Michigan State University
  10. Florida State University
  11. University of Massachusetts Amherst
  12. University of Central Florida
  13. Arizona State University
  14. University of Wisconsin-Madison
  15. University of Houston
  16. University of Florida
  17. University of Connecticut
  18. University of Utah
  19. University of Maryland
  20. Pennsylvania State University (Main Campus)

Sexual activity varies across college campuses.

It is possible a university’s culture plays a role.

Sources: