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    The Social Meanings of Condom Use in Sexual Relationships

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    Many theories and much research have 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 a 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 occurs 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 their perceived personality. Males rated the females on such items as whether they were active or passive, whether they were promiscuous or not, and so on. 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 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.).

    It has been found that contraceptive behavior is evaluated differently by an outside observer who is exposed to a vignette depicting a sexual situation involving issues of contraception and personal attitudes (1987).

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    The Social Meanings of Condom Use in Sexual Relationships. (2019, Jan 28). Retrieved from

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