The importance of love and understanding: Speculation on romance in safe sex health promotion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


The expectations associated with romantic love ill-prepare many young women for negotiating safety in sexual relationships. Romantic love tends to emphasise an intensity of emotional engagement, stressing reciprocity, and certainty. This conflicts with sexual health promotion efforts among young people, in a context where serial monogamy is common practice, that seek to promote the perception that all unprotected sex is risky. However, romance contributes a highly enjoyable aspect of many young women's experiences of sex, and offers a compelling a socially approved narrative of desire and pleasure. The issue of pleasure, more than the issue of risk, should be the key to making safe sex a personally meaningful and acceptable aspect of sexual practice. This article considers the problems and pleasures of romance, and argues that safe sex health promotion must acknowledge that the romance remains a potent site for a cultural elaboration of women's sexual desire and pleasure. I draw on a range of work, including feminist analysis, social theory, textural readings, and my own efforts in researching sexual health issues for young women to argue that the meanings of romance are not fixed and immutable, and should be utilized and reworked in safe sex promotion efforts that will be both appealing and relevant to young women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)241-252
Number of pages12
JournalWomen's Studies International Forum
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 04 Jul 2001


Dive into the research topics of 'The importance of love and understanding: Speculation on romance in safe sex health promotion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this