Essay, Research Paper: Safe Sex


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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 significantly more ⌠Takes
Charge■ when they proposed a condom (M = 5.29) than when they did not (M =
4.52), F(1, 60) = 10.12, p = .002 (see Table 2). However, The context sentence
used did not seem to alter observers responses, because a main effect was not
statistically evident (as seen in Table 2). Similarly, no interactions were
found between the two independent variables for this scale. Table 2: Mean
Ratings of ⌠Takes Charge■ as a Function of Condom Proposal and
Context Sentence Context Sentence NOTHING CONCERN Condom NOTHING 4.63 4.4 4.52
Proposal "WITH ME" 5.27 5.31 5.29 4.94 4.87 A significant main effect
for context sentence was found for the ⌠Sexual Attractiveness■
scale. The participants rated the target as more ⌠Sexually
Attractive■ (see Table 3) when they said nothing (M= 5.36) than when they
said that they said that they were ⌠concerned■ (M = 4.89), F(1, 60)
= 7.85, p = .006. Unlike the previous scales, the rating of ⌠Sexual
Attractiveness■ did not differ in regards to the condom proposal variable
(see Table 3). The variables of condom proposal and context sentences did not
show any significant interactions amongst them. Table 3: Mean Ratings of
⌠Sexual Attractiveness■ as a Function of Condom Proposal and Context
Sentence Context Sentence NOTHING CONCERN Condom NOTHING 5.42 4.91 5.13 Proposal
"WITH ME" 5.29 4.87 5.04 5.36 4.89 As seen in Table 4, the target was
perceived as significantly more ⌠Responsible■ when she professed
that she was ⌠concerned■ (M = 5.46) than when she said nothing (M =
4.83), F(1, 16) = 60, p = .001. Although the averages for condom proposal
differed, there were no statistical differences between proposing a condom or
saying nothing for the rating of ⌠Responsibility.■ As in the other
scales▓ statistical analysis, there were no interactions found for this
scale. Table 4: Means for ⌠Responsible■ Ratings as a Function of
Condom Proposal and Context Sentence Context Sentence NOTHING CONCERN Condom
NOTHING 4.88 5.37 5.17 Proposal "WITH ME" 4.79 5.55 5.24 4.83 5.46 The
target was assessed as significantly more ⌠Nice■ (see Table 5) when
she expressed ⌠concern■ (M = 5.34) than when she said nothing (M =
5.07), F(1, 60) = 3.82, p = .052. She was also seen as statistically more
⌠Nice■ when she proposed a condom with her (M = 5.24) than when she
said nothing (M = 5.17), F(1,60) = 2.70, p = .102. There was a significant
interaction found among the independent variables F(1,60) = 7.06, p = .009.
Women who said nothing were considered more ⌠Nice■ when they did not
propose a condom (M = 4.88) than when they did (M = 4.79). But when the female
target said she was concerned, the participants rated her differently. The
observers saw the target as less ⌠Nice■ when she said nothing (M
=5.37) than when she said she had a condom with her (M = 5.55). Table 5: Mean
Ratings For The ⌠Nice■ Scale as a Function of Condom Proposal and
Context Sentence Context Sentence NOTHING CONCERN Condom NOTHING 4.88 5.37 5.17
Proposal "WITH ME" 4.79 5.55 5.24 4.83 5.46 Main effects for the
⌠Exciting■ scale (see Table 6) were found for both independent
variables as well. The female target was seen as more ⌠Exciting■
when she did not propose a condom (M = 4.47) than when she expressed that she
had a condom with her (M = 4.80), F(1, 60) = 5.59, p = .019. The female target
was also seen as more ⌠Exciting■ when she said nothing (M = 4.98)
than when she said she was ⌠concerned■ (M = 4.40), F(1, 60) = 17.35,
p = .001. Significant interactions were not rendered within this scale. Table 6:
Mean Ratings For The ⌠Exciting■ scale as a Function of Condom
Proposal and Context Sentence Context Sentence NOTHING CONCERN Condom NOTHING
5.39 5.3 5.34 Proposal "WITH ME" 4.72 5.37 5.12 5.07 5.34 DISCUSSION
This study was conducted to ascertain what types of perceptions people acquire
towards other▓s actions within a sexual situation. Specifically, what male
observers thought of women▓s actions in a sexual situation. Different
scales were formed to assess the observer▓s perceptions of the targets
actions within this situation. The women who said they were concerned about the
situation were perceived differently than the women who said nothing about the
situation. Similarly, women who proposed a condom (that she brought) was
evaluated differently than the woman who did not propose a condom. Correlation
Hypotheses Before the dependent variables could be used as gauges of different
and distinct evaluations of the targets by the observers, it had to be
ascertained that when they were grouped into larger scales the scales were
indicative of certain evaluations (i.e. the Active, Brave and Strong dependent
variables grouped all reflected an evaluation of ⌠Takes Charge■).
This was done by running some statistical analysis on the various descriptive
terms to assess first, if they were similar enough to each other to validate
their being grouped together into one scale and secondly, whether they were
different enough from each other between the items and the scales and also
between any two scales, to be considered different scales. As seen in Table 1,
the similarities within scale▓s items and the differentiations between
scales were achieved. Since the ⌠Nice■ and ⌠Exciting■
items are inherent aspects of all evaluations, one of these scales was always
slightly associated with items within the other scales, a phenomenon that has
been found within most person perception evaluations (Casteneda & Collins,
1995; Collins & Brief, 1995; Mc Kinney et al., 1987; Chassin et al., 1981).
Context Sentence: I am Concerned Vs. Nothing As hypothesized, the woman who
vocalized her feelings (⌠I am concerned■) was perceived as different
from the woman who said nothing on four of the five measurement scales. As seen
in Tables 3, 4, 5, & 6, women who were ⌠concerned■ were rated by
observers as less sexually attractive, more responsible, more nice and less
exciting as compared to the woman who said nothing. These results are similar to
rationale given to results of other studies on sexual communication. That is,
emotional reactions to a sexual situation have been hypothesized based on other
tested sexual communications, but have never been directly tested in a person
perception paradigm (Lear, 1995; Castenada & Collins, 1995). However, on the
scale that measured the female target▓s initiative (⌠Takes
Charge■ scale) there was no perceived difference recorded by the observers
between the context sentence. Originally it was hypothesized that the woman who
expressed concern would be more bold than the woman who said nothing, simply
because she voiced an opinion. Since the results did not corroborate this
hypothesis, something in the theorizing must have been incorrect. Perhaps the
problem with this reasoning was that it did not take into account the meaning of
the statement. Although the woman might have been ⌠taking charge■ by
voicing something she was not perceived as being especially brave or strong by
saying ⌠I am concerned.■ Emotional pleas to contraceptive use have
been hypothesized as less likely to elicit perceptions of competence than other
means in other studies as well (Lear, 1995). It would be interesting to pursue
the use of different types of emotional pleas in future research. Perhaps
context sentences including, ⌠I am concerned,■ as well as other
sentences such as, ⌠I▓m anxious,■ and ⌠I feel weird
about this,■ and ⌠I▓m uncomfortable■ could be used in
future studies on other▓s perceptions of how emotional feelings affect
different personality measures. Condom Proposal: ⌠With Me■ Vs.
Nothing It was hypothesized that a woman who claimed to have a condom with her
would be more ⌠Takes Charge,■ more ⌠Sexually
Attractive,■ more ⌠Responsible,■ less ⌠Nice,■ and
more ⌠Exciting■ than the woman who said nothing about a condom.
However only some of these hypotheses were confirmed by statistical analysis of
the results (as seen in Tables 2-6). Respondents did rate women who proposed a
condom as more active and initiative than the woman who said nothing. This
result corroborates other studies that view condom proposal as indicative of
self efficacy (van der Pligt & Richard, 1994; Bengel et al., 1996). Previous
studies have also predicted and found that assertiveness is correlated with
condom usage (Bengel et al., 1996). The respondents also rated the condom
proposer as less ⌠Nice■ than the woman who did not propose a condom,
as hypothesized. An interaction was found in the way the participants rated the
likability of the target. She was seen as less nice when she proposed a condom
and said nothing than when she just said nothing, but she was rated most nice
when she proposed a condom and expressed concern. This difference in tone of the
context a condom is proposed in can be observed in a previous study. Women who
introduced a condom with a theme of care and responsibility were seen as more
nice than a woman who introduced a condom and used a context sentence which
focused on the partner (without explicit care or responsibility themes) (Casteneda
& Collins, 1995). The adjective ⌠caring■ can be correlated with
the current study▓s use of the word ⌠concern.■ When a woman is
perceived as caring, it▓s ⌠nice■ of her to introduce a condom,
but if she is just focused on the partner, or as in this study, says nothing,
concern is not sensed by the participant and he rates her as less nice. Thus,
the seemingly conflicting findings of the ratings of condom proposal and concern
in this study are probably the result of relationship type; in less caring or
more casual sexual relationships, women who propose condoms are less
⌠Nice.■ Similar results have been found when observers have
evaluated the condom usage in other casual sexual relationships (Lear, 1995).
The other hypotheses were not confirmed. Women were not seen as more attractive
when they proposed a condom than when they did not. This may be because a woman
who says nothing is perceived as more mysterious and thus more sexual than a
woman who says nothing. In a similar study it was found that a condom proposal
in a relationship elicited higher ratings for ⌠Sexual
Attractiveness■ for people who proposed a condom as compared to those who
didn▓t (Castenada & Collins, 1995). As in the consideration of the
⌠Nice■ results, this difference may be because of the relationship
type. That study also found that males responded differently to this rating than
did females, and also that the ethnicity of the rater influenced their rating of
⌠Sexual Attractiveness.■ Since it has been found that sex and
ethnicity influence ratings of attractiveness for condom proposal, future
studies using this paradigm should involve both sexes and different ethnicities
in order to get a more complete picture of the exact ways the perception of
⌠Sexual Attractiveness■ of an individual differs across the
population. Surprisingly, the woman who proposed a condom was not seen as more
⌠Responsible■ than the woman who said nothing. This result seems
counterintuitive to the inferences given to safer sex behavior in sexual
encounters. One explanation of this result can be postulated based on the new
expectancies associated with sexual behavior in the era of AIDS. This is
reflected by the responses within one study on safer sex practices, where
respondents explained their lack of discussion about safer sex was because safer
sex was expected and not an area where negotiation was needed (Bengel et al.,
1996). Thus, those results can be applied to the little differentiation found
between condom proposal and no condom proposal in this study. That is, perhaps
women who did not explicitly propose a condom were not seen as less responsible
because it was assumed by the observers that a condom would be used in a sexual
situation such as the one depicted. In order to clarify the exact thought
process that the observers used to evaluate the accountability of the women
targets in the situation, future studies should include a third presentation.
This situation would depict a woman who did not propose a condom, while
indicating that she did not plan to use one. The observers might then be forced
to evaluate the women who propose or do not propose condoms differently. The
other hypothesis that was not confirmed by the statistical analysis was the
hypothesis that the woman who proposed a condom would be seen as more
⌠Exciting■ than the woman who said nothing. It was reasoned that the
woman would be seen as more exciting because using a condom might lead observers
to conclude that she was more sexually active than saying nothing would have.
Perhaps proposing a condom is less risky, and therefore condom proposal is
perceived as less exciting than saying nothing in this context. Methodological
Issues This study had a few potential problems in the way that it was
constructed. While it provided a valuable look into how females are evaluated by
males in a sexual situation, the situation may have been slightly confusing to
the participants because of a problem with the ecological validity of the
situation. For example, one of the possible scenarios an observer could have
been exposed to was a sexual scenario where the target woman says ⌠I am
concerned■ and who doesn▓t offer a condom. This manipulation lacks
ecological validity, because in the real world, if a woman said that her partner
might respond by saying ⌠what are you concerned about■ or something
to that effect, thus getting at the reason behind her concern. In this
experiment, no other explanation is given to this context sentence and observers
are left to interpret this cryptic message for themselves. It was used as part
of the experiment to see how people react to just an emotional plea and balance
the manipulation of variables, but it is not at all realistic. Perhaps the
participants who were told to respond to this a scenario were confused and not
able to complete the person perception evaluation because of the confusion.
Similarly, participants who were given the scenario where the target said
nothing about either her emotional state or a condom might have wondered what
they were supposed to be basing my evaluation on to fill out the questionnaire.
It may have been interesting to have each respondent exposed to each scenario
and use the nothing/nothing scenario as that respondent▓s baseline - -
measuring his other responses when they diverged from this baseline. A
within-subjects design is proposed for future research to compare participants
reactions to different scenarios. Another methodological issue that was
problematic in this study, that is apparent in many studies which utilize rating
scales, was that the respondents never varied much from the middle of the scale.
This showed that they did not rate the person as strongly one way or another for
any one scale. For example, on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 = Active and 7 = Passive) a
respondent for any given scenario usually rated the target as a 4. Although
there was often enough variation to suggest statistical difference between
ratings, the average rating of 4 is right in the middle of the scale and this
response is ambiguous. Perhaps the respondent didn▓t think the target was
either, or perhaps he didn▓t have any feeling about this evaluation, so he
chose neither, or perhaps he did not feel like answering the questionnaire, so
he only marks 4▓s. Any of these explanations may be correct, all with the
same outcome. There is not much variation from the middle for any of the scales,
which indicates that may be the scales need to be altered in order for more
respondents to practice more variation among their assessments. If they varied
their scoring more, the differences among the various scales would be larger and
we could tell more clearly where their perceptions lay. One possible alteration
to the scale might be to use more scales, without such dichotomous word choices,
that were more specific to the situation. For example, the Active/Passive scale
might be broken into two scales, one which measures Very Actively Involved to
Actively Involved and then another scale which rated Somewhat Actively Involved
to Passive About Issues. In this way the experimenter might be able to more
accurately gather the respondent▓s true impressions of the target in a
sexual situation. Another problem that could be addressed in future studies is
that the current study was aimed at evaluating people▓s perceptions of
sexual situation involving the use of condoms, and yet there was no mention of
the reason why condoms as opposed to other methods of contraception was given.
Since condoms are an important part of sexual disease prevention this aspect of
their use should have been one of the manipulations used. Perhaps another factor
could behave been added to the context sentence, about the target▓s
concern about AIDS or another sexually transmitted disease. A future study that
questioned participant▓s impressions of women who mentioned each type of
sexually transmitted disease that college age students are exposed to, might
help in the development of intervention strategies for combating the spread of
these diseases. How This Study▓s Findings Relate to AIDS Intervention
Programs Although this study did not specifically mention AIDS in it`s
manipulations, the results of participant`s perceptions toward a target who
introduced a condom is relevant to AIDS intervention programs. As it has been
emphasized, any sexually active person is capable of carrying the disease - -
indicating that a vast majority of the population is at risk (Surgeon General).
Because of the prevalence of people at risk and (as the current study has found)
the prevalence of different impressions about women who express concern or
propose a condom in a sexual situation, prevention models must be created to
effectively confront the disease. Personal perceptions of other`s decisions are
relevant to every facet of the AIDS intervention process. AIDS must be addressed
on the individual, familial, local organizational, and communal levels to be
effective (Flora & Thoresen, 1989), and all of these levels involve personal
perceptions of the issue. Not only do person`s perception affect people on an
individual level, people`s perceptions of others vary in response to the type of
groups others are affiliated with as well. Intervention programs must be
sensitive to the multitude of influences which affect people`s decisions in
order to be effective. As Flora & Thoresen have pointed out racial, ethnic,
socio-economic and gender status each contribute to the individual differences
that must be part of the intervention process (1989). Much more research is
needed to find out the exact ways that people perceive others who use condoms in
order to better target attitudes of the people involved in intervention
programs, so that their attitudes towards safer sex will be healthy ones.

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