Going abroad for a business trip. It’s always a great excuse to see the world, make some lucrative connections and maybe let your hair down a bit. But if you happen to have an unexpected fling while you’re away, there are a few things you might want to remember…
1. Freedom: while the cat’s away, the mice will play. But who’s looking after the cat’s shenanigans?
In a 2015 survey by On Call International, almost a third of men and a quarter of women admitted to binge drinking while on business trips; unsurprisingly this often leads to ill-advised hook-ups with colleagues and other business travellers -not to mention prostitutes, ladyboys and mustachioed lotharios - due to increased opportunity, anonymous hotels and the novelty of being away from the usual social constraints. New travel apps are only too happy to assist. A person is three times more likely to acquire an STI when having sex abroad due to risk-taking behaviours.
2. Mile-high club: Risk-taking may begin shortly after take-off. For some, the idea of having sex on a plane – especially in business class – is too exiting to ignore; the mile-high club boasts Johnny Depp, Ellen de Generes and Ralph Fiennes as self-confessed members. But before you join the club, remember that sex on a public flight is technically illegal; you could face a charge of indecent exposure or even be charged with ‘interfering with the flight crew’ which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail. And if you do it with a stranger, do you know where they’ve been?
3. Unreliable protection: Succumb to the questionable charms of your sales director or the hotel barman if you must (in the air or on terra firma), but use condoms clearly marked with a BSI kite mark and/or European CE symbol, which mean they’ve been tested to high safety standards. Condoms bought abroad may be of poor quality, so (quite literally) come prepared and carry your own. Women may also find that time zones play havoc with pill-taking routines and their menstrual cycle, so play safe.
4. Cultural norms?: When abroad, you are out of your comfort zone and may not understand ‘the rules’ of the culture, nor appreciate specific risks. Distracted by unfamiliar languages, customs, scenery and currency, business travellers can stick out like a sore thumb. Sexual assaults occur every 20 minutes in India; one in ten people in South Africa live with HIV/AIDS; and transport systems in Bogota (Columbia), Lima (Peru), and Mexico City top the list of ‘most unsafe for women’ (though Paris, and New York also feature!)
All-too-many countries are not LGBT-friendly, while in some cultures, business travellers may be offered hospitality that includes sex workers as part of the business process.
5. Lack of insurance: Our trusty NHS will pick up the pieces of risk-taking behaviour free-of-charge in the UK, but health systems in other countries differ. Accessing healthcare, the morning-after-pill, or PEP for HIV, may not be straightforward abroad – especially if you are the keynote speaker at an international conference, with a full schedule of appointments and travel insurance that goes through your company!
If you’ve taken a risk with your sexual health on a business trip, the best thing you can do is take an STI test – just to be on the safe side.