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LOVE MEANS NEVER HAVING TO BE CAREFUL: The Relationship Between Reading Romance Novels and Safe Sex Behavior
Amanda B. Diekman, Wendi L. Gardner and Mary McDonald Psychology of Women Quarterly 2000 24: 179 DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-6402.2000.tb00199.x The online version of this article can be found at:

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Nonetheless. & DeBro.g..g. Harvey. 1995). Douglas et al. Cambridge University Press. true love is demonstrated by being “swept away” in passion. 179-188. this script precludes realistic preparation for sexual encounters. Our goal is to examine how one ostensibly harmless form of meha-the romance novel-influences one crucial aspect of readers’ sexual health behavior-condom use.g. 1997). E-mail: diekman@nwu. Kelly & Kalichman. 1995). 1973). To the extent that readers incorporate elements of the romance novel script into their own sexual scripts and such scripts influence condom use. Societal ideals about love and sex are reflected in media portrayals.American Psychological Association. the romance script is a prescription for women’s passivity in sexual encounters.g. fear of destroying romance with condom use) contributed to the prehction of condom use behavior beyond rational attitudes (e. 2029 Sheridan Road. Copyright 0 2000 Division 35. Conjoined with the stereotypic portrayal of women as subordinate objects and men as dominant actors (e. such as using condoms.. emphasize spontaneity rather than foresight in sexual encounters (Tiefer. Department of Psychology. Peplau. We explored the relationship between women’s reading of romance novels and their attitudes toward condom use. Study 1 demonstrated that high levels of romance reading were associated w t negative attitudes toward condoms ih and reduced intent to use condoms in the future. The role of beliefs about romance in the condom use decision has not yet been thoroughly sex behavior. 2011 at IOWA STATE UNIV on November 29. Beliefs about romance certainly contribute to reluctance to use 179 Downloaded from pwq. Gahgan and Terry (1993) found that women who believed condoms destroyed romance were less likely to use them with regular partners. 1985). Printed in the USA. these images nonetheless influence beliefs about romance. Such beliefs may have an important impact on individuals’ own sexual scripts. such as buying condoms. Moore and Rosenthal (1998) argued that romantic notions in general decrease the likelihood of safe Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Amanda Diekman. A systematic content analysis of modem romance novels documented the extremely low incidence of portrayals of condom use in initial sexual encounters. & Tiersly. Campbell et al. such as spoiling the mood (Campbell. reports of past condom use.Psychology of Women Quarterly. 1996). Modleski. 0361-6843/00 $9.50 LOVE MEANS NEVER HAVING TO BE CAREFUL The Relationship Between Reading Romance Novels and Safe Sex Behavior Amanda B. but how do these media portrayals contribute to the formation and maintenance of such beliefs? Although most individuals realize soon enough that real-life sexual encounters are not as seamless as those depicted in books or film. Condom use is widely agreed on as the most effective method of decreasing the likehhood of both STD infection and pregnancy in sexual encounters (e. fear of exposure to STDs). or if they believe that condoms interfere with sexual pleasure (Beckman. readers may express greater reluctance to engage in precautionary sexual health behaviors. and intention to use condoms in the future... 1997). which function as explicit and implicit rules for sexual behavior (Gagnon & Simon. To the extent that this traditional romance script influences romance readers’ own sexual scripts. these affective attitudes (e. 1995. 1980. Diekman Northwestern University Mary McDonald Ohio State University Wendi L. Rose. Indeed. Evanston IL 60208... 1992). Study 2 showed experimentally that including safe sex elements in romance stories increased positive attitudes toward condoms and marginally increased intent to use condoms in the future. Cardner Northwestern University According to the sexual script portrayed in romance novels. as reflected in recent calls for greater attention to the social and relational factors that increase sexual risk (Amaro. In adhtion. romance readers may be at risk. the proportion of couples who engage in safe sex behavior remains low: merely one-third of sexually active college-aged people report recent use (e. Contemporary sexual scripts. The romance script idealizes this spontaneity: true love is demonstrated by being “swept away” in passion. 1992.sagepub.. Northwestern University. other research has found that people are less likely to use condoms if they anticipate negative interpersonal consequences. 24 (ZOOO). Consistent with this argument. Specifically. Segal.

g. In fact. at IOWA STATE UNIV on November 29. & Malone. 1986. 1993). condoms (Galligan & Terry. compared to tradtional romance selections. we expected that a systematic content analysis would specifically reveal extremely low incidence of portrayals of condom use during sexual encounters between new partners. and intention to use condoms in the future. Jaccard. If romance novels contribute to readers’ romance beliefs.180 UlEKMAN ET AL.. Prentice. If condom use is portrayed as both erotic and romantic. Evidence suggests. erotic stories portraying condom use were no more persuasive for men or women than erotic stories that did not portray condom use. neither intervention increased women’s positive safe sex attitudes. fiction’s narrative form and its ability to transport the reader into a vivid and involving fictional world are powerful persuasive tools in and of themselves. and Pollack (1991). Green and Brock (1996) found that persuasion increased to the extent that readers were “transported by what they read. Radway. romance readers may be put at risk. passionate. participants who report reading more romance novels should manifest more negative and more ambivalent attitudes toward condoms as well as reports of less use of condoms in the past and diminished intent to use condoms in the future. CONTENT ANALYSIS OF MODERN ROMANCE NOVELS We investigated the sexual scripts portrayed in modem romance novels to examine to what extent they may discourage women from safe sex behaviors through (1) dis- Downloaded from pwq. Brown. These accumulated findings suggest that. Moreover. even blatantly false information is remembered as true (Gilbert. Prentice & Gerrig. Green. If portrayals of extreme passivity in sexual encounters or scenarios of unprotected sex as “true love” contribute to readers’ sexual scripts. Endias. 1998). 1987. Kyes et al. or less involvement with the message (e. 1993). 1999). 1999).g. One notable exception is the work of Kyes. Petty & Wegener. 1984). 1996). and unless cognitive resources are available. however. Attempting to find materials that would persuade women. 1999. such as perceptions of less relevance of the topic to the self. women’s positivity toward condom use should increase. Boyd &Wandersman. (1991) conducted a second experiment using stories judged equally enjoyable by men and women. In their first experiment. which might solve the problem presented by women’s lack of identification. Wheeler. reports of past condom use. which are consequential in the condom use decision (Galligan & Terry. who used erotic stories as intervention stimuli. they nonetheless are likely to form beliefs and expectations based on such reading. More crucial is the influence of such scripts on readers’ condom use attitudes and behavioral intentions. Given the previous literature examining the gender stereotypic romance scripts portrayed in these novels. and risk-free sexual encounters are fictional. Wright and Kyes (1996) reported that the women who read the erotic story involving condom use were less able to imagine themselves in the situation. Fictional information is incorporated into memory (Gerrig & Prentice. Wright and Kyes (1996) used stories that matched the sex of the reader to the sex of the narrator and condom placer. the prevalence of the traditional romance script in romance novels may decrease women’s likelihood of engaging in safe sex. 1998).. Finally. romance excerpts that include condom use in sexual encounters should produce more positive attitudes toward condom use and greater intent to use condoms in the future. The question before us currently is how romance novel portrayals contribute to the formation and maintenance of attitudes and beliefs that discourage condom use. as demonstrated by their enduring popularity ( e g . but women did not. Petty & Cacioppo. 1999. it is also likely to reduce attitude change. despite the fact that all stimuli were clearly labeled as fictional. Overview of the Current Research This research investigated romance novels’ portrayals of sexual scripts and examined the influence of such sexual scripts on readers’ attitudes toward condom use. Importantly. if inserting condom use into a narrative reduces transportation. 1991. less similarity to the communicator. Although researchers have called for more positive media portrayals of safe sex in the hopes of producing corresponding changes in safe sex attitudes (e. However.sagepub. 2011 . Gerrig. & Brock. T h s lack of identification with the erotic stories might be linked to several factors associated with decreased persuasion.Women often read romances to escape from busy lives (Radway. & Minkoff. surprisingly few studies have examined this relationship experimentally. although romance readers may be fully aware that the portrayals of spontaneous. 1997. 1984). Tafarodi. this persuasion effect was greater for abstract beliefs and general attitudes than for more concrete items of information. 1991. Narrative Persuasion The inevitable happy endmgs and escapism of romance novels are a major selling point (Maritz Marketing Research. Henderson. therefore. Prentice & Gerrig. 1993). men reported more positive attitudes toward condom use after readmg erotic stories mentioning condom use. the inability to persuade women with erotic stories may reflect a lack of attention to romance beliefs. they may not be motivated to engage in the effortful processing needed to discount false information or to scrutinize persuasive messages (Chaiken. In addition. Unfortunately. & Bailis. The ability of fiction to “transport” the reader is k key to narrative persuasion (Green i Brock. 1993). Many women enjoy reading romance novels. that such fantastic qualities can influence readers’ real-life beliefs and attitudes. Especially important for our present concerns.

8%)were heterosexual. In three discussions (37. we sampled every third modem romance novel. Finally. For each selected novel. This was a disturbing finding. with 54 (69. agreement between the two was 100%. 8 novels were excluded from codmg because intercourse between the main characters was merely stated as having taken place. The romance novels in our sample portrayed a host of other concerns: divorce and remarriage.sagepub. and a used book emporium that specialized in romance novels. At each of these locations. Rose. the female character was portrayed as rejecting condom use in almost half of the discussions. In addition. In all. another 4 novels portrayed condom use with no discussion by the characters. Publication year ranged from 1981 to 1996. A total of 86 romance novels were selected. a Borders superstore.. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 42 years. disease prevention). an additional 50 participants completed the initial measures but were not included in the sample because they could not be reached (n = 14). and it is a male-initiated discussion in which the female rejects the suggestion.g. the sex of the character who initiated the discussion or use.. If exposure to the sexual scripts in romance novels is a specific contributor to negative attitudes toward condom use. Importantly. Only 8 of the 78 novels (10. all portrayed the male as the initiator of condom use (e. to name but a few. is apparently expressed through the female character actually disregarding the risks to her health. declined to participate in the telephone survey ( n = 30).. Whether or not this romance script has any effect on the attitudes of those who are exposed to it was examined in Studes 1 and 2. Books were selected for inclusion in the content analysis using the following methods. We did not ask participants for race and ethnicity information. we investigated whether exposure to the sexual scripts in modem romance novels was related to negative attitudes toward condom use. only 9 (1 Thus. the average description of the first instance of intercourse between the main characters lasted four pages.. birth control. or had never been sexually active ( n = 6). Not surprisingly. Only four discussions mentioned STD prevention. As expected from past examinations of the passive role of women in the romantic script (e. whether the characters discussed using a condom.g. all of the discussions were initiated by the male character. 1. he provided the condom). Ohio. only the reading of romance novels should be related to condom use. “True love. one rejection took place during a birth control mscussion and two during STD dwussions. In fact. Most participants (92. Participants were introductory psychology students who received partial course credit. two female coders recorded the title. and therefore we can only assume that our sample gener- Downloaded from pwq. given that this information required no subjective interpretation on the part of the two recorders. Thus. at IOWA STATE UNIV on November 29. area were selected on the basis of having a large romance section: a Bames and Nobles superstore.3%) portrayed the characters discussing condom use during their first sexual encounter. this apparent lack of concern among the characters cannot be attributed to an idealized version of the modem world. the female char- 181 acters who rejected condom use gave reasons such as “I want no barriers between us. mental illness. 2011 . whether the characters used a condom. Importantly. the reading of materials that do not contain the romantic sexual script (e. publication year. the female character ultimately rejected the suggestion. and the modal age of first sexual activity was 17 (median = 16). the male character initiated the discussion or use of a condom in every instance. The sampled novels represented the work of 46 authors and 21 publishers. the romance script depicted in the modem romance novel does not portray women as suggesting or using a condom. Indeed. dual-career conflicts. political essays or science fiction) should be unrelated to attitudes toward condoms. women who report reading more romance novels should express more negative attitudes toward condom use than women who read fewer romance novels. Three stores in the Columbus. author. caring for aging parents. Only romance novels set in the present day were included because we felt it would be unrealistic to expect portrayals or discussions of condom use in historical romance novels. without a description of the interaction. and breast cancer.5%). METHOD Participants and Procedure The sample consisted of 97 female university students. In the remaining 78 novels. 1985).Love Means Never Having To Be Careful playing the woman in a passive role in the sexual encounter and ( 2 ) overlooking the need for safe sex altogether. the others mentioned birth control.6%) mentions condom use.5%) novels portrayed condom use. page number of the first instance of sexual intercourse.g.” The extremely small percentage of “modern” romance novels that portray any discussion of condom use is surprising in this age of STD risk and awareness.g.2%) of the novels published after 1990. STUDY 1 In Study 1. we are left to conclude that the romance script actively dismisses concern with STD prevention. Those who could not be reached or declined the phone survey were not significantly different on any of our initial measures than the 97 who agreed to the survey. single motherhood. with a median of 19 years. even if the novels are limited to 1996 (the most recent publication year in our sample).” according to some novels. substance abuse. Furthermore. only 1 of 13 (7. and the reason for condom use if given (e. when awareness of HIV and other STD among heterosexuals was relatively high.

sexual preference. Attitudes Toward Condoms Measures Pretesting.85) = 5.001. f Phone survey o reading frequencies.05. year in at IOWA STATE UNIV on November 29. and . and asked the participant to answer a few questions about reading habits. such that high-frequency science fiction readers showed greater ambivalence toward condom use. F (1. 2011 .94. The surveyor identified herself as a representative of the psychology department.42.. the yearly frequencies for each reading genre were correlated with the attitudinal and behavioral self-report scores. DIEKMAN AL.16. and age at which she became sexually active. The behavioral intention scale was adapted from Helweg-Larsen and Collins (1994) and included two items assessing positive intent (“insist”and “suggest” that self or partner use condoms) and three items assessing negative intent (“resist. more negative.No effects of political essay or science fiction reading were found on the behavioral self-reports. stated that she was investigating the reading habits of college students. how many essays per month.005 (see Figure l). she was asked if she would like to participate (for payment) further in a study of reading. she then answered the reading survey. six months. F (1.42. Participants also completed similar sets of items assessing negativity (e.or low-frequency reader. and behavioral self-reports during an inclass pretesting session run by the psychology department.182 ally reflected the racial composition of the undergraduate population: 81% Caucasian.g. If the participant granted verbal consent. p < .95) = 10. Participants then completed the attitudnal and behavioral self-report measures. high-frequency romance readers’ attitudes toward condoms were less positive. 9% African American.02 (see Figure 1). contradictory).95) = 12. 78) = 7. Each scale showed high internal consistency as indexed by Cronbach’s alpha: . negativity.sagepub. Cacioppo. median = 2).85 for positivity. and if so. Gardner. The participant’s responses were averaged across the items within each of the three scales to produce measures of attitude positivity. Reading frequencies were log transformed to ap- Downloaded from pwq. or to intend to use condoms in the future. 1997) instructed participants to consider their positive attitudes toward condoms and then presented eight adjectives describing positive reactions to condoms (e.95) = 4.88 for negativity.95) = 11. . bad. p < . age. followed by romances ( M = 8. A total of 49 participants agreed and were thus recruited for Study 2.and low-frequency readers. The remaining participants declined and were debriefed. Approximately two weeks later. F (1. and more ambivalent. 7% Asian American. and ambivalence. Each participant reported sex. The same sequence of questions was asked concerning frequencies of science fiction stories or novels and romance stories or novels. attitudinal scales. For each participant.83 for ambivalence. Participants rated frequency of condom use during past sexual encounters To examine our hypothesis that repeated exposure to romantic scripts would be associated with less favorability toward condom use. one-way analyses of variance (ANOVAs) were performed. Participants rated the likelihood of engaging in each of these five behaviors on 7-point scales ranging from highly unlikely to highly likely. muddled. and less than 1% Native American. F (1. RESULTS Reading Frequencies Frequency of reading per year was highest for political essays ( M = 26. In order to determine if attitudes toward condom use differed between high. 2% Hispanic American. high-frequency romance readers were significantly less likely than low-frequency romance readers to report past condom use. p < . p < . El with a new partner on a 7-point scale ranging from newer to always. median = 5) and science fiction ( M = 6. F (1.66. agreeable). median = 7).’Also consistent with the hypotheses. and year..’ Consistent with our hypotheses. On a 5-point scale ranging from w e y slightlylnot at all to extremely. a median split was performed on yearly readmg levels to categorize each participant as a high.001. no significant effects were found for frequency of political essay reading. The attitude measure (the BEAMS. participants were phoned by the second author and asked to participate in an ostensibly unrelated survey. Participants completed the demographic measures. & Berntson. p < . Afterward. Each participant was asked whether she read political essays (defined as essays that might be found in the editorial section of the newspaper or news magazines such as Time or Newsweek). F (1.19. p < .g. favorable.27. and if so she would be contacted in two weeks when that study would begin.01. participants indicated the extent to which each adjective was a good descriptor of their attitudes toward condoms. for science fiction reading.” “refuse. unlikable) and ambivalence (e.56.g. Correlational Analyses In order to make use of the continuous nature of the data. only an unpredicted effect was found for ambivalence.74.” “reject” that self or partner use condoms).. Behavioral Self-Report As predicted. intent to use condoms was calculated by subtracting the average of items assessing negative intent from the average of items assessing positive intent.

43. All participants read identical political editorials and science fiction excerpts but were randomly assigned to one of two experimental romance excerpt conditions. p < . In Study 2.42. METHOD Participants and Procedure Recruited from the Study 1 sample. At the end of the third session. During each weekly session. frequency of reading romance novels was negatively correlated with positivity toward condoms (r= -. (Attitudinal ratings were on a 5-point scale and behavioral ratings were on a 7-point scale. p < . Furthermore. p < . some readers might select romance novels because the novels reflect their own traditional sex-role attitudes. For instance. r = -. one from a science fiction novel. r = .No significant correlations were found for frequency of reading science fiction. STUDY 2 Although Study 1 demonstrated that higher levels of romance novel reading were associated with attitudes and intentions decreasing the likelihood of safe sex behavior. frequency of reading romance novels was positively correlated with ambivalence toward condoms ( r= 35.001).29. p < . in random order. refuse. 49 participants came into the laboratory once a week for three weeks. 2011 . participants read three excerpts: one from a political editorial.5 Each person in the sample participated individually and was told that the study concerned changes in reading comprehension over time. Examination of the behavioral intention items in more detail revealed that level of romance readmg was especially highly correlated with items assessing positive behavioral intent.sagepub. Frequency of reading romances was inversely related to proactive intent to use condoms (insist. r = . p < . n ~ )This pattern of correlations reflects the . reject.38. Mean attitudinal and behavioral ratings by frequency of romance reading. p < .lo.16. p < . Each excerpt was roughly two pages in length. such attitudes are likely to decrease the likelihood of participation in the condom use decision independent of any influence of the romance script itself. suggest.0001) and more modestly positively associated with reactive or negative intent (resist.34. reports of past condom use (r = -.32. and romance novels. r = . 1. science fiction. Downloaded from pwq.OOl). p < . they estimated how often they voluntarily read political editorials.Owl.~ Paralleling the results found in the ANOVAs. and one from a romance novel.Love Means Never Having To Be Careful 183 PoSnivrty Nepitii Ambivalence htentionToUse condoms PastCondomUse Fig. Other characteristics of people who read many romance novels might be related to negative attitudes toward condom use.025).com at IOWA STATE UNIV on November 29. In addition. ~ romance script’s prescription for women’s passive behavior in sexual encounters. and one unpredicted correlation was found for frequency of reading political essays (intention to use condoms. higher numbers indicate greater endorsement. we cannot be certain that romance reading per se contributed any causal effects on attitudes and behavior because participants were grouped according to their self-selected reading frequencies.44. p < . p < .005). r = -.and intention to use condoms in the future (r= -. participants completed the condom use attitude and behavioral intention measures. r = .) proximate a normal di~tribution. we manipulated the content of reading to examine more precisely the causal effect of exposure to the romantic sexual scripts on safe sex attitudes and behavioral intentions. and negativity toward condoms ( r = .

47) = . Dependent Measures The condom use attitudinal and behavioral self-report measures were identical to those used in Study 1. one segment read as follows: He touched. Experimental Manipulation In the traditional romance script conhtion. Attitudes Toward Condoms As predicted. hardly touching at all. .21)= 3. the smaller variance in the safe sex condition indicated greater consensus among these participants.54. less past use. F (1. participants read identical segments.07. as he unwrapped the bright at IOWA STATE UNIV on November 29. if participants in the safe sex condition are accurate in reporting less past use of condoms. For example. p < . Pleased with his concern for her.59.and low-frequency romance readers was extremely similar to the pattern produced by experimentally manipulating the content of the romance RESULTS Rated Enjoyment and Prior Exposure to Romance Novels Participants in the safe sex condltion enjoyed reading the excerpts as much as participants in the tradltional script condition. F (1. The three excerpts read by participants in the safe sex condition over the three weeks of the study alternated which character initiated condom use (male initiated.43. the names of the main characters in the science fiction and romance excerpts). . her face warm. we (1) documented that the swept away myth dominates modem romantic fiction to the exclusion of portrayals of safe sex. he brought his lips back to hers. The pattern of condom use attitudes and behavior found when comparing self-selected high. participants were thoroughly debriefed.35)= 4. bringing the gown down inch by inch. . “Should we use protection?” he asked gently. (2) confirmed that naturally occurring high levels of readmg romance novels were associated with less positive attitudes. p = . DISCUSSION In this program of research. female suggested and male provided).24.10 (see Figure 2).84 for ambivalence.47)= 1.025. and (3) demonstrated that the experimental addition of safe sex elements to the tradltional romance script resulted in more positive attitudes toward condom use and marginally greater intention to use condoms in the future. p < . However. he lingered. This may present a failure of random assignment for this measure or possibly a bias in recall such that participants in the safe sex condition underestimated their past condom use relative to participants in the romance script condition. Satisfactory alphas were again obtained for the attitude scales: . dom assignment. She nodded at him. p = . 47) = 3. F (1.. In the safe sex condition.184 UlEKMAN ET AL. with higher ratings indicating more enjoyment.sagepub.86 for negativity. Fascinated with each tremor he brought her. as indicated by the variance ratio.47)= 4. p < . was rapture.30. A different segment was read each week. In addition. except that the following paragraph was inserted between the two paragraphs in the previous example. . participants were told that they would be tested for recall of basic content and were asked factual questions at the end of each session (e. Participants who read the safe sex scenario also reported less negative attitudes toward condom use. wallowing in the delight of warming the newly bared skin. prior romance reading frequency &d not interact with the manipulation of romance scripts for any of the effects reported. p < .86 for positivity.91. Furthermore. although both groups averaged hgh ratings on intentions to use condoms. F (1. and . Thus. gliding like a cool breeze over her flesh. He undressed her slowly. F (26. His mouth. Participants also reported how many romance novels they read per year and rated how much they enjoyed readmg each excerpt on a scale ranging from 1 to 7.35. F (1. Then he took her gently over the first crest. female initiated. she smiled at him and kissed his throat. p < . As expected from ran- Downloaded from pwq. participants in each condition did not dffer on previous exposure to romance novels. and diminished intent to use condoms in the future. the variance in the traditional romance script condition was significantly larger than the variance in the safe sex condition. their more positive attitudes present fairly strong evidence supporting our hypothesis. participants read segments excerpted drectly from romance novels that were part of the initial content analysis and included elements of the “swept away” myth.005. 2011 . At the end of the three weeks. No significant effects were found on the ambivalence measure (see Figure 2).When she sighed.05 (see Figure 2).05. He pulled back slightly so he could look at her. and left her weak.47)= 5. F (1. participants who read the safe sex romance excerpt reported significantly more positive attitudes toward condom use than participants who read the traditional romance script excerpt.03. participants in the safe sex condition reported less frequent past use of condoms than those in the traditional romance script condition. In order to ensure that they read the excerpts carefully.‘j Unexpectedly. Behavioral Intention Participants reading the safe sex excerpt reported margin- ally greater intention to use condoms in the future.g.

The extremely traditional sexual scripts portrayed in romance novels are all the more surprising because many of these novels portray gender roles as nontraditional in other important ways (e.) script (see Figures 1 and 2). However. 1993). 1989. Thompson. Rickman. Furthermore. Amaro. presenting single mothers or dual-career couples). men are more likely than women to buy and carry condoms and to &scuss condom use with a partner. & Keuer. This construction of women’s sexuality as reactive rather than proactive is amplified in romance novels’ portrayal of the swept away myth. These gender roles generalize to the area of sexuality so that men’s and women’s sexual scripts are primarily differentiated by the expectation of assertive behavior for men and passive behavior for women (Amaro. 1993). Women need to be empowered to contribute to the decision to use condoms: they have greater responsibility for pregnancy and greater fear of contracting STDs (Campbell et at IOWA STATE UNIV on November 29. higher numbers indicate greater endorsement. women’s attitudes toward condoms became more positive. lendmg them considerably greater influence over the condom use decision (Sacco.g. in press). 1987. it is noteworthy that women’s preferred strategies are more passive and likely to result in less sexual experience. thus making persuasion more likely (Green & Brock.. Both men’s and women’s preferred strategies decrease risk of STD exposure and pregnancy. these changes in the public lives of female characters are not accompanied by portrayals of increased power in sexual decisions. whereas women are expected to comply with or restrict men’s actions (Rose & Frieze. Accordmg to romance scripts. Levine. 1996). 1995). condoms may be considered a “male” domain (e. (Attitudinal ratings were on a 5-point scale and behavioral ratings were on a 7-point scale. 1992). and in Study 1.. This is reflected in gender differences in comfort with safe sex practices: although men and women are equally comfortable using condoms. 1995). 1995).g. 1996).. and the sexes are assumed to possess characteristics that equip them for such roles (Eagly. Eagly. Examination of the effects of the romance script is important because this script perpetuates tradtional gender roles. Hyde. The majority (58. Men have traditionally occupied positions of greater power and status than women. Wright & Kyes. nonetheless. Recall that. & Reed.7%) of HIV cases with an identified source of exposure were con- Downloaded from pwq.sagepub. men are expected to initiate sexual encounters. Mean attitudinal and behavioral ratings by safe sex or traditional romance reading condition. in previous work (e. 2. Wood. the notion that women can be persuaded by sexual stones depicting condom use was called into question. & Diekman. In contrast. wherein women never initiated discussions about condom use. this dlssociation may serve to reinforce the idea that the best way for a heroine to retain her femininity in a sexual relationship is to maintain her passivity. Kyes et al. asking the partner about his sexual history or an HIV test.Love Means Never Having To Be Careful 7 185 0 Safe Sex T Ambivalence IntentionTo Use Condoms Past Condom Use Fig. men are more comfortable buying condoms than engaging in other safe sex practices.wherein we found that those women who read the most romance novels were especially unlikely to intend to initiate condom use. as illustrated by the findmgs of our content analysis. 1991. and abstaining (Jadack.. and women are more comfortable limiting sexual activity to one partner.. It is possible that romance novels may allow women to be transported more easily than erotic stories without romance themes. 2011 . we found that when sexual portrayals incorporated elements of romance scripts in addition to condom use. Compared to other forms of birth control.

. can involve planning. We &d not ask directly about participants’ race or ethnicity. romance novels are but one medium for the portrayal of the swept away myth. appears to discourage condom use among women. 1997).5% in Study 1) of participants reported reading at least one romance novel a year.14).15) and negativity ( r= . p < . Initial submission: March 2. in short. 1996. we found that participants’ age was negatively associated with ambivalence (r = -0.025). A limitation of our research is that the sample was drawn from a predominantly Caucasian student population. Unfortunately.005) and intention to use condoms in the future (r = -.g. Correlations performed on raw scores were similar: insist. even passionate romance. 1999 h i t i $ acceptance:]une 14. sexual behavior is complex and multiply determined. but the major publishers have recently introduced new lines of books targeting Latino and African American women (e. This research joins a very small literature emphasizing the role of affective as well as rational beliefs in predicting condom use (e. as it currently is conveyed through romance novels. Millions of romances are sold every year (e.g. Romance scripts are certainly not the only factor entering the decision to use condoms. p < . 1998). 1993). African American women: Wilson et al. love can mean being careful.. Frequency of reading romance novels was negatively correlated with reports of past condom use (r = -34. and although not significant. It is particularly frightening that the cardinal rule of the happy ending in romance novels practically ensures that heroines will never be portrayed as encountering disease transmitted through unprotected sex. far surpassing the projected change in women’s purchases of other types of books (Dortch. Even in our university sample. as indicated by the results of a nationwide telephone survey in which 33% of respondents reported that they currently read romantic fiction (45% of women and 16% of men sampled. Individuals are not likely to surrender their romantic ideals. Although not all women read romance novels repeatedly. 2011 .com at IOWA STATE UNIV on November 29.9% over the next decade. 1999 NOTES Multivariate analyses of variance were also conducted including al attitudinal and behavioral measures for both l Study 1 and Study 2. correlations were in the predicted directions for positivity ( r = -. we hope that introduction of romance scripts targeting these populations will not decrease the likelihood of safe sex behavior for women of color.025).sagepub.186 DIEKMAN AL. effects on their safe sex attitudes should be similar to the effects found for Caucasian women.. including sexual risk taking. p < . Raw correlations were similar to those reported in the text. the vast majority (82..g. In our exploration of whether these measures were correlated with any of the participants’ demographics. To the extent that women of color are exposed to and transported by the romance script. Our findings reinforce existing evidence that affective attitudes may be particularly influential in deciding whether or not to use condoms (Galligan & Terry. and year in college was negatively associated with positivity (r= -24. Love. but perhaps ideas about romance could be expanded to include safe sex practices. Moreover. and concern for oneself and one’s partner.MI). television. societal norms.” 1998). 1993). Galligan & Terry.34. p < ..001). Maritz. There are reasons for both pessimism and optimism in our findings. and movies. positive attitudes toward condoms) predict condom-related behaviors in women of different ethnicities (e. 1999). Latino and non-Latino white women: G6mez & Marfn. Henderson. The effectiveness of public awareness campaigns about the advantages of condom use may be elevated by appeals to romance beliefs in addition to appeals regarding vulnerability to diseases and pregnancy. 1997).g. The results were similar to those found in univariate analyses. leaving the impression that passionate encounters preclude STD dangers. To the extent that other media portrayals of the swept away myth operate consistently with our findings for romance novels. must take such ideals into account. preparation. A full understanding of sexual behavior. “Kensington Adds and Subtracts. Because such topics are contrary to romantic ideals. the implications of this myth are indeed consequential. Some research has shown that similar factors (e. 1998). and so for ease of presentation we report the univariate analyses. These statistics prokide converging evidence that romance novels indeed have a widespread influence. ET tracted through heterosexual sex (Division of STD Prevention..55. the romance script. Downloaded from pwq. and the number of women purchasing romantic fiction is projected to increase by 28.g. Romance publishers have traditionally targeted Caucasian women. and male-to-female transmission is much more likely than female-to-male transmission (Segal. p < . Our work illustrates that the influence of the swept away myth on safe sex attitudes exists naturalistically and can be produced experimentally. Nonetheless. 1993). this depiction of sexuahty is also present in other literary genres. and thus we do not know whether race or ethnicity moderated the effects of the romance script on condom use attitudes within our sample. there is cause for optimism insofar as these findings may offer a new route to persuading women that they can take an active role in protecting their sexual health through the use of condoms. women’s safe sex strategies and concerns are not typically incorporated into portrayals of romantic sexual contact (confirmed by our content analysis findings of only four discussions of STD danger as a reason for condom use). Given our findings. the probability of exposure to the traditional romance script in romance novels is relatively high.24. Frequency of reading romance novels was positively correlated with ambivalence toward condoms (r = . 1999 Final acceptance: October 2.

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