LOVE MEANS NEVER HAVING TO BE CAREFUL

The Relationship Between Reading Romance Novels and Safe Sex Behavior

Authors


Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Amanda Diekman, Northwestern University, Department of Psychology, 2029 Sheridan Road, Evanston IL 60208. E-mail: diekman@nwu.edu

Abstract

According to the sexual script portrayed in romance novels, true love is demonstrated by being “swept away” in passion. To the extent that this traditional romance script influences romance readers' own sexual scripts, readers may express greater reluctance to engage in precautionary sexual health behaviors, such as using condoms. We explored the relationship between women's reading of romance novels and their attitudes toward condom use, reports of past condom use, and intention to use condoms in the future. A systematic content analysis of modern romance novels documented the extremely low incidence of portrayals of condom use in initial sexual encounters. Study 1 demonstrated that high levels of romance reading were associated with negative attitudes toward condoms and reduced intent to use condoms in the future; 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.

Ancillary