Search Swinburne Research Bank
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.3/222973
- Safe sex or safe love: competing discourses?
- Rosenthal, D.; Gifford, S.; Moore, S.
- The way in which sex may be constructed as safe through its relationship with 'love' is the concern of this study. Interviews with 112 heterosexual women and men from discos and bars in Melbourne, Australia, catering to single adults revealed the pervasive construction of sex within the discourses of 'love' and 'romance'. The relationship of these discourses to unsafe practices is discussed and the article presents an analysis of the normative function of the sex-as-love/sex-as-desire opposition in terms of safe sex and HIV/AIDS prevention. We conclude that health messages which emphasize that 'sex is unsafe' may be counterproductive. We illustrate how women and some men construct casual sex as a strategy for obtaining the possibility of 'love'. For these women and men, 'safe sex' as 'unprotected sex' is viewed as a strategy for maximizing the possibility that the casual encounter will result in a longer term relationship. On the other hand, 'unsafe sex' as 'unprotected sex' is viewed as a strategy that is more likely to interrupt the construction of romance in the casual encounter thus risking the possibility of love as the desired outcome. Interviews with heterosexual men and women recruited at discos and bars in Melbourne, Australia, in 1993 revealed a tendency--especially among women--to construct sex as "safe" within the discourses of "love" and "romance." The 112 respondents (mean age, 27.4 years) were asked to narrate their experiences of sex, love, romance, and safety, with particular emphasis on casual sexual encounters. Casual sex was viewed as an essential strategy in the search for love, and sexual safety practices were related more to their anticipated impact on finding love than on an assessment of the potential of sexually transmitted disease transmission. This view is consistent with cultural notions of femininity in sex as the relinquishment of control for the sake of love. Both men and women commented on the difficulties of raising the issue of condom use and HIV/AIDS prevention with someone they had just met. This difficulty was even more pronounced among women, who tended to believe insistence on condom use would result in the loss of a sexual encounter with romantic potential. Many men reported they use this perception of potential rejection to convince women to engage in unprotected sex. These findings suggest that current HIV/AIDS prevention messages may be disregarded by individuals--especially unmarried women--who view condom use as an obstacle in their quest for love. Needed are messages that incorporate condom use into the search for love.
- Publication type
- Journal article
- AIDS Care, Vol. 10, no. 1 (1998), pp. 35-47
- Publication year
- Attitude to health; Australia; Barrier methods; Behaviour; Condoms; Contraception; Contraceptive methods; Demographic factors; Developed countries; Emotions; Family planning; Health education; Heterosexuality; Heterosexuals; Human experiment; Human immunodeficiency virus infection; Interpersonal relations; Love; Marital status; Motivation; Nuptiality; Oceania; Partner communication; Population; Population characteristics; Premarital sex behavior; Psychological factors; Research methodology; Risk behavior; Risk-taking; Sampling studies; Sexual behaviour; Sexual partners; Single person; Studies; Surveys; Unmarried; Urban population
- Carfax Publishing
- Publisher URL
- Copyright © 1998 Carfax Publishing Ltd.
- Peer reviewed