A recently released report by the RAND Corporation shined a light on one service’s propensity for sexual promiscuity.
The Health Related Behaviors Survey, which collected data over parts of 2015 and 2016, found that Marines are significantly more likely to engage in risky sexual behavior than members of any other branch. Additional topics like binge drinking, tobacco use, physical well-being and mental health were also explored in the report.
Of the nearly 17,000 responses received from service members in the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard, Marines led nearly every category of sexual risk behaviors and outcomes over the past year.
More than 24 percent of Marines reported having sex with more than one partner over the course of the data collection process, compared to 16.6 percent in the Army, 18.8 percent in the Air Force and 22.1 percent in the Navy.
Devil dogs were also tops when it came to having sex with a new partner without using a condom, with more than 40 percent of Marine respondents reporting having done so. Furthermore, 22 percent of Marines reported that their most recent vaginal sex encounter was done without the woman being on any form of birth control, also the highest number compared to the other services.
Unsurprisingly, the culmination of such risky behaviors put Marines at the greatest risk for contracting the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. And unintentional pregnancies among Marine respondents occurred at more than twice the rate of Army personnel.
For results dealing with the military as a whole, personnel in the E-1 to E-4 demographic were the most likely to engage in the aforementioned risky sexual behaviors.
Broken down by male and female personnel, 19.2 percent of men reported having sex with more than one partner during the survey time period, compared to 20.6 percent of women. Results also showed 37.6 percent of female service members had sex with a new partner without using a condom, while 36.5 percent of males reported doing so.
Condom use during recent vaginal intercourse was reported in 23 percent of men, compared to 17.9 percent of women. Additionally, unintended pregnancies following sexual encounters for women were reported at more than twice the rate of men.
Upper echelon concerns over risky behavior among military personnel continue to rise, especially with the unease surrounding the stability of younger Marines. Close to one-third of service members were found to have met binge-drinking criteria in the month before completing the survey. The 30 percent who reported engaging in such behavior was actually an improvement from previous reports.
Marines, however, engaged in binge drinking at a rate of 42.6 percent, a concerning contrast to the rest of the field. The number of those consuming cigarettes and other forms of tobacco was also significantly higher in the Marine Corps, especially in terms of smokeless tobacco, with results showing that Marines “dip” close to twice as much as personnel from other services.
“We’re not trying to blame anyone for this, but the Marine Corps does tend to stand out,” Dr. Sarah Meadows, a senior sociologist at RAND, told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Each of the services has their own culture. ... Marines tend to be young men. Compared to young men on college campuses, it’s pretty similar.”
RAND researchers spent two years readying the data for the recently-finished product, a process designed to help inform each service on areas of weakness in need of attention.
While services will aim to address some of the glaring concerns mentioned in the report, curbing excessive drinking among military personnel may prove more difficult now that the Defense Commissary Agency began selling beer and wine at a dozen commissaries across the United States.
J.D. Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.