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