Safe Sex Many theories and much research has been conducted on contraception in general, and more recently on condoms in particular, as a result of the AIDS epidemic (Lear, 1995). Condom usage and AIDS education are essential tools for reducing the impact of the disease, yet fewer than one third of sexually active college students report consistent condom use (Seal & Palmer-Seal, 1996). It seems that sexually active individuals rarely discuss safer sex or ask about their partner`s sexual activity before engaging in sexual activity (Seal & Palmer-Seal, 1996). This raises some questions as to the origin of the avoidance of safer sex discussion. It has been found that the interpersonal reactions of sexual partners, rather than the less direct thoughts of AIDS risk, influence attitudes towards condoms and condom usage (Casteneda & Collins, 1995). These personal interactions among partners in a sexual relationship are a result of attitudes each partner carries about sex, contraception and a sexual relationship itself.
Attitudes can be ascertained by means of person perception evaluations, which present the behaviors of a target person (e.g., introducing a condom) and categorize the social meanings imposed on the actor within the situation (Castenada & Collins, 1995). In order to accurately evaluate the social meanings within a sexual relationship using a person perception paradigm, the paradigm itself, as well as the communication patterns about the relationship and condom usage must be assessed. Person Perception Paradigm and This Study The efficacy of the person perception paradigm for accurately gathering the social meanings implied by certain actions has been proven in past research (Collins & Brief, 1995). It has been ascertained that target subject`s behaviors within a vignette are the foundation for impressions the participants form about the social meanings of actions. Collins and Brief have gone on to argue that the vignette methodology is better able to collect the social meanings derived from actions than interview questions, because often impressions that are formed about another`s actions are not conscious attitude formations. Behavior interpretation often occur through automatic and intuitive means (Collins, 1997; lecture). While most research directly asks participants what they think, person perception studies a more subtle means of gaining the participants reactions.
The current study used a person perception test to evaluate the attitudes of participants about women in a sexual relationship when she either proposed a condom, or said nothing about contraception, while expressing either concern or saying nothing about her emotional state. There were four different possible types of situations that the male observers could have been given: the concerned female who did not propose a condom, the concerned female who said, I have a condom with me, the female who said nothing and did not propose a condom, and the female who said nothing about her emotional state, but said she had a condom with her. These females were then evaluated by male observers on various aspects of her perceived personality. Males rated the females on such items as, if they were active or passive, if they were promiscuous or not, etc. No other research has addressed a sexual situation where women talk about their feelings and present a condom in a person perception paradigm.
It will be interesting to see how the male participants assess the situation. This study used six different scales comprised of separate items in order to accurately assess the perceptions the male observers held about the female targets. The scales were a Sexual attractiveness scale, which determined how sexually attractive the woman was, a Responsibility scale, which determined the extent to which the woman was responsible, a Takes Charge scale, which assessed the male observer`s ideas about how active the women in the situations were and two other scales which assessed how Nice and Exciting the woman was. It is hypothesized that there will be high correlations between the separate items within each of these scales, which indicates that the items will be measuring similar properties. But there will be low correlations between any two scales and between any items and a separate scale, which will indicate that the scales were measuring different attributes.
Past Research on the Person Perception Paradigm Past research has found that people do make judgments based on the contraceptive choices that target persons choose and the conditions they have made the choices under, concerning abortion decisions (Allgeier, Allgeier & Rywick, 1979: as cited in McKinney et al., 1987). It has also been found that contraceptive behavior is evaluated differently by an outside observer that is exposed to a vignette depicting a sexual situation involving issues of contraception, and personal attitudes of the target subject, such as the one tested in this study (McKinney et al., 1987). Other studies have evaluated the person perception design within partners involved in a sexual relationship (Lear, 1995), and have found that people within relationships also rate their partners actions as indicative of symbolic meanings, similar to results obtained from observers of sexual relationship vignettes. This type of symbolic inference has been tested in the current study. Impressions that people form of others are based on the others actions and language they use within a social situation. In the current study, the participants are not told what actions are taken by the target persons within the scenario concerning contraception use, only the target woman-s verbal discourse is disclosed (i.e.
the participants don-t know if she did what she said, only what she said). Therefore it is important to evaluate communication within a sexual relationship in order to accurately assess what the social meanings of communication in a relationships are, and what attitudes others have about this discourse is. Communication Within The Sexual Relationship Communication involves an assessment of shared ideas and beliefs – – what is and is not agreed upon by the participants (Schlenker & Weigold, 1992). One-s audience influences the style and manner in which one communicates – – who one-s partner is influences how and what one says to that partner (Schlenker & Weigold, 1992). How these communication tactics are manifested in an early sexual relationship is relevant to the current study because of the content of its scenario. It seems that within early sexual relationships ambiguity around sexual communication is the norm (Lear, 1995).
Perhaps because the situation is not very established or familiar, safer sex discussion usually consists of general discussion about concerns not related to the particular relationship itself (Cline et al., 1992: as cited in Seal & Palmer-Seal, 1996). Directness of approach on the subject of subject of sex usually involves the male partner within a heterosexual relationship more often than the female in early romantic situations (Lear, 1995). It will be interesting to see how the male respondents rate a female who expresses concern about the sexual situation, as compared to a female target who says nothing about her emotional state. I hypothesize that the female who expresses concern will be seen as more nice than the one who says nothing, but not very exciting. She will be seen as responsible, but not that sexually attractive, and finally as taking charge in the situation. Since sexual decision making is dependent on open communication within a sexual relationship, which is not often found within the dating stages of young, college age students (Lear, 1995), condom usage is often conducted under constrained choices and may be hindered. This type of inhibited discourse that is typical of early sexual relationships is reflected in this ?concern¦ scenario of the experiment, and is hypothesized to elicit mixed responses. Attitudes Towards Condoms Attitudes and self-perceptions about condom use can be approached in a behavioral way. Are attitudes about condoms acted upon because of previous self-perceptions or do people who use condoms adopt the attitudes that are associated with condom usage? An evaluation of smoking sheds some light on this question.
It seems that people begin to smoke because it correlates to a pre-existing set of self-relevant beliefs (Chassin et al., 1981). If this is also true of condom usage behaviors, then it follows that people who think condoms and safer sex are a good idea will follow-through and use them, but that people who do not have positive attitudes towards condoms are not likely to gain them through usage of condoms. The idea of attitudes affecting behaviors relates to this study, because what is being assessed is the attitudes men have about female target-s sexual behavior. The men will see the woman who introduces a condom as having attitudes that are sympathetic to condom usage. What exactly these attitudes are will be investigated. Risk Perception Attitudes towards condoms often depend on the perceived risk of contracting AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases as well a person-s perceived self-efficacy in proposing them (van der Pligt & Richard, 1994). For example, most sexually active adolescents do not feel susceptible towards AIDS (van der Pligt & Richard, 1994) and therefore do not use condoms in their social interactions.
The factor of low perceived risk is recurrent and pervasive across many sexually active groups (Lear, 1995). If the sexually active individual does not perceive themselves as at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS, they are not very likely to use condoms to have safer sex. If a person does see themselves as at risk for sexually transmitted diseases other-s perceptions of them may be different than the perception of someone who does not think they are at risk. While it is true that every person who is sexually active has the potential to contract a sexually transmitted disease, this is not often recognized by sexually active youth (Lear, 1995). Since young people often do not recognize the pervasiveness of the problem, they may judge people who are aware of their susceptibility as more promiscuous or in a negative light as compared to those that do not discuss the topic of safer sex (and presumably do not bring it up because they don-t think they are at risk, i.e., they do not engage in sexually risky behavior such as multiple partners).
In this study, the idea of perceived risk as presented by the female target (?I have a condom with me¦) to the male observers may influence their perceptions of the women. Specifically, women who say that they have a condom with them will be perceived as more sexually appealing, more responsible, less nice, more exciting and more ?takes charge¦ than the woman who does not offer a condom. Thus, women who present condoms will be seen as more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases, which incurs various impressions about her personality – ones that are different from the impressions formed by a woman who does not present a condom. The difference between the two perceptions that men make about women who propose condoms may be for reasons other than their perceptions of ?at risk¦ individuals as well. Sexual Double Standard Another area that may affect how men perceive women who propose condoms as compared to those that do not, may be a result of a double standard.
A double standard allows men to have more sexual freedom than women. A modern adaptation of the traditional idea of the double standard is the idea of the conditional double standard (Reiss, 1967: as cited in Sprecher & McKinney, 1993). This standard says that men can engage in any type of premarital sex, but that women can only engage in sex if they are in a love relationship. Since the current study presents a sexual encounter that is relatively new and does not specify that it is a love relationship, observers will infer that it is not a love relationship, but more of a recreational sexual encounter. The actions that the woman in the situation exhibits may create a more negative view of her when she does not present a condom, than when she does. For, although the woman in engaging in premarital sex in a casual relationship, the woman who openly supplies a condom in this situation may be seen as more comfortable with this type of situation than a woman who does not offer a condom and therefore she will be evaluated as more sexual and less ?nice.¦ These results have been found in another study which showed that women who carried condoms with them held a stigma: they were associated with evaluations of worthlessness (Wight, 1992; as cited in Lear, 1995).
Having a condom indicates a lack of sexual innocence, which has been perceived as unfeminine (Lear, 1995). Lear encompassed the broad effect condom usage has on personal perceptions of the self and others who use condoms, when she observed that, ?condoms carry meanings that can differ for each sexual partner and over time, and these meanings are illustrative of the gendered nature of responsibility and what is considered appropriate behavior in contraception and safer sex¦ (p.1314). In summary, the purpose of this study is to assess what impressions are formed by male participants about female targets who express concern and propose condoms in a sexual situation. It is predicted that a female who expresses concern will be seen as more nice, less exciting, more responsible, less sexually attractive, and more actively involved than the female who says nothing. Another hypothesized result of the current study is that a female who says she has a condom with her will be seen as less nice, more exciting, more responsible, more sexually appealing, and more ?takes charge¦ than the woman who says nothing. Implicit in these prediction is the idea that the items within these scales are correlated with one another, but that the scales themselves measure separate attributes. RESULTS Correlations The correlation matrix (see Table 1) to be presented here includes dependent variable groups labeled ?Takes Charge,¦ ?Sexual Attractiveness,¦ ?Responsible,¦ ?Nice,¦ and ?Exciting¦ scales.
First the intra-scale correlations, then the between-scale correlations, and finally the scale-item correlations of the ?Nice¦ and ?Exciting¦ scales will be presented. Within Scale (Item-Item) Correlations The between item, intra-scale correlations for the ?Takes Charge¦ scale (the blue triangle in Table 1) were of moderate convergent validity, as shown by their moderate correlation mean (r = .47). The dependent variables within this scale were the Active, Brave, and Strong items, with relatively similar correlation values of .34, .57, and .49, respectively. The second group of intra-scale correlations, within the ?Sexual Attractiveness¦ scale (the red triangle in Table 1), yielded a high convergent validity (r = .51). The scale was composed of the following items: Good in Bed, Desirable Date, Physically Attractive and Sexually Appealing.
The range of these intra-scale correlations was dispersed between r = .32 and r = .72. The Responsible scale was composed of four items (Responsible, Conscientious, Reliable, and Dependable) that suggest high convergent validity, as evidence by the high correlation mean (r = .57) (as seen in the green triangle in Table 1). The specific correlation values for the dependent variables were dispersed evenly between r = .67 and r = .49. Table 1: Correlation Matrix of the dependent variables in the ?Takes Charge,¦ ?Sexual Attractiveness,¦ ?Responsible,¦ ?Nice¦ and ?Exciting¦ Scales 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 ?Takes Charge¦ 1. Active 1 2.
Brave .34 1 3. Strong .57 .49 1 ?Sexual Attractiveness¦ 4. Good in Bed .29 .37 .35 1 5. Desirable Date .03 .24 .22 .32 1 6. Physically .16 .32 .32 .51 .36 1 Attractive 7. Sexually .25 .37 .40 .67 .48 .72 1 Appealing ?Responsible¦ 8.
Responsible .04 .21 .20 .01 .33 .10 .07 1 9. Conscientious .01 .27 .20 .01 .34 .16 .12 .61 1 10. Reliable -.06 .19 .15 -.13 .32 .03 .08 .50 .56 1 11. Dependable -.05 .15 .16 -.00 .32 .10 .08 .58 .49 .67 1 ?Nice¦ 12. All dependent .00 .28 .30 .14 .53 .25 .31 .59 .57 .70 .70 1 variables within this scale ?Exciting¦ 13.
All dependent .39 .45 .40 .62 .29 .42 .60 -.08 -.14 -.16 -.10 .06 1 variables within this scale Between Scale (Item-Item) Correlations The between-scale, inter-item correlations were assessed for the ?Takes Charge,¦ ?Sexual Attractiveness¦ and ?Responsible¦ scales. A comparison of the ?Takes Charge¦ and ?Sexual Attractiveness¦ scales (shown within the large yellow rectangle in Table 1) revealed a mean correlation for the between-scale items as r = .28: correlation values ranged from r = .03 to r =.40. Although the scale had two outliers (r = .03 and r = .40), the two extreme values nullified each other-s significance in the final computation of the mean correlation value. Thus, the average of the between-item correlations can be described as having a moderately high discriminate validity (difference between scale items). The second between-item correlation rectangle (the large pink rectangle in Table 1) shows the correlations between the ?Takes Charge¦ items and the ?Responsible¦ scale items.
The mean correlation value was r = .12, with a range of r = .27 to r = -.06, indicating that the two scales were not correlated: their correlation values indicate high discriminate validity between the two scales. The third between-scale correlations, which assess the similarities between the ?Sexually Attractive¦ and ?Responsible¦ scales, are found within the large blue rectangle on Table 1. The items of these scales also had a low correlation (r = .12) with a range of r = .34 to r = -.06. The Physically Attractive dependent variable had a higher correlation (r = .33) to the ?Responsible¦ scale items than the rest of the ?Sexual Attractiveness¦ dependent variables. Although this higher correlation raised the mean between-scale correlation value, the scale still provide evidence for high discriminate validity.
Between Scale (Item-Scale) Correlations The scale-item correlations compared the ?Nice¦ scale to the other scale-s items. The ?Takes Charge¦ items- correlation values provided evidence for a high discriminate validity compared to the ?Nice¦ scale (r = .19) (as seen in the small red rectangle on Table 1). The scale-item scores for Active, Brave and Strong were r = .00, r = .28, and r = .30, respectively. The scale-item correlations between the ?Sexual Attractiveness¦ scale and the ?Nice¦ scale (seen in the small yellow rectangle in Table 1) were slightly higher, but still held moderate discriminate validity (r = .31), with a range of r = .14 to r = .53. The ?Responsible¦ scale-s dependent variables had the highest correlation to the ?Nice¦ scale (r = .64), the correlations between the ?Responsible¦ items and the ?Nice¦ scale suggested a low discriminate validity (as seen in the small pink rectangle in Table 1). The high correlation values of the item to scale analyses between the ?Exciting¦ scale and the ?Takes Charge¦ and ?Sexual Attractiveness¦ items provided evidence for a low discriminate validity between these items and the ?Exciting¦ scale. The specific correlations between the ?Takes Charge¦ scale items and the ?Exciting¦ scale were .39 (Active), .45 (Brave), .40 (Strong), resulting in a mean of r = .41 (in the small green rectangle on Table 1). The correlations among the items within the ?Sexual Attractiveness¦ scale (as seen in the small orange rectangle in Table 1) provided evidence for an even lower discriminate validity when paired to the ?Exciting¦ scale (r = .48).
Upon comparrison of the scale-item correlations of the ?Takes Charge¦ and the ?Sexual Attractiveness¦ items to the ?Nice¦ scale (r = .19 and r = .31, repectively), to the correlations of the ?Takes Charge¦ and ?Sexual Attractiveness¦ items to the ?Exciting¦ scale (r = .41 and r = .48, repectively), it can be seen that the ?Nice¦ scale was less similar to these items than the ?Exciting¦ scale (the values for the ?Nice¦ scale suggest lower discriminate validity). The correlations between the ?Responsible¦ scale items and the ?Nice¦ scale were of lower discriminate validity (r = .64) than the correlations between the ?Responsible¦ items and the ?Exciting¦ scale (r = -.12). The low correlations among the ?Responsible¦ scale-s dependent variables and the ?Exciting¦ scale indicate high discriminate validity (as seen in the small blue rectangle in Table 1). The between-scale correlation value for the ?Nice¦ and ?Exciting¦ scale had a low mean (r = .06), and therefore suggested a high discriminate validity as well (as seen in the small red square on Table 1). Analyses of Variance The independent variables of condom proposal (either nothing was said or the female target said, ?I have a condom with me¦) and context sentence (either nothing was said or the female target said, ?I have been concerned¦) were analyzed on the responses male participants gave on the five scales of ?Takes Charge,¦ ?Sexual Attractiveness,¦ ?Responsible,¦ ?Nice,¦ and ?Exciting¦ in this between-subjects design.
The ?Takes Charge¦ scale showed significant main effects of condom proposal. Female targets were seen as significantl …