For a generation, American college students have used the spring break to head for some exotic location and indulge in seven days of as much debauchery as they can manage.
It has become such a tradition that MTV annually presents a series of shows from a spring break hotspot. There is a whole industry called Girls Gone Wild, which markets videos of drunken female students removing their tops on the beach or the dance floor. You would imagine that no American woman under the age of 30 would need to be told exactly what happens on spring break.
The American Medical Association, however, thinks differently. It has published a survey of women "spring breakers" and warned that female students are typically drinking far too much than is wise on these trips and leaving themselves open to a host of dangers.
"These survey results are extremely disturbing because it brings up an entirely new set of issues including increased risk of sexually transmitted diseases, blackouts and violence," said AMA president Edward Hill.
Among the survey's unsurprising findings:
* Spring break leads to increased sexual behaviour, according to 75 per cent of respondents;
* Women use alcohol as an excuse for outrageous behaviour (also 75 per cent);
* Being promiscuous is a way of fitting in (57 per cent).
Sixty per cent of the women polled had friends who had had spring-break sex with more than one partner, and one in five regretted having sex on spring break. Finally, an overwhelming majority thought that images of college students partying during spring break might contribute to young women's reckless behaviour. The survey did not appear to contain any findings on bears' defecatory habits in forested terrain.
For most spring breakers, the entire point is to have a good time away from lectures, with the opportunity to engage in foam parties, tequila-slammer madness and whatever else may be going on. A quick straw poll of female students at George Washington University on Friday afternoon confirmed this.
Sarah Benditt, 20, a third-year art history student from Philadelphia, said she went last year to Cancun, the Mexican resort that is perhaps the spring break capital. "Some people just wanted to relax but I just wanted to party. Though nothing crazy," she said. "It was very fun. I did feel safe, but I was staying at my friend's place."
Gia Gullota, 19, a first-year psychology student from New Jersey, was going to spend this spring break in Miami, Florida, with her boyfriend. "We're going to be surrounded by spring breakers," she said, anticipating a week of partying. "But I will be with my boyfriend, so it's going to be safer."
The AMA says the dangers to young women from spring break are many. "Each year in Cancun the city authorities report an increase in deaths, rapes, injuries, assaults and arrests related to drinking," it warned.
"In Daytona, Florida, another popular spring break destination, last year county officials reported twice as many rape cases during the month of spring break."
Several universities offer alternative spring break holidays where public service is the main focus, rather than getting drunk. No prizes for guessing which is more popular with the average student.Reuse content