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Washington State University

WSU researchers discuss relationships findings in new book

Kathleen Rodgers and Stacey HustDrs. Kathleen Boyce Rodgers and Stacey Hust want their research to impact lives and promote healthy, egalitarian romantic relationships among adolescents and emerging adults. In their recently published book, Scripting Adolescent Romance: Adolescents Talk about Romantic Relationships and Media’s Sexual Script, they share adolescents’ and college students’ perceptions of media’s messages about romantic and sexual relationships and how media informs teens’ and young adults’ sexual and romantic attitudes and behaviors.

Because popular media portray stereotypical gender roles and sexualization of women, Rodgers and Hust were interested to know how such messages inform adolescent and young adults’ sexual scripts. In focus groups with over 100 high school and college students, and 16 in-depth follow-up interviews, they asked participants to talk about media messages about romantic and sexual relationships and how these messages may or may not reflect real-life situations. Another unique aspect of their research is the use of “room tours” and “social media tours” to learn how messages about gender and relationships in media are expressed in teens’ and young adults’ private spaces and public spaces. Through the interviews and analysis of décor in rooms and content on social media, Rodgers and Hust identified several themes around romantic relationships and how teens and college students negotiate sexual experiences.

Themes they discuss in their book include virginity, pressures to have sex, sexual coercion, and the “scorecard script.” The scorecard script refers to pressure men feel to “score” or have sex with as many women as possible. Women and girls in their study talked about ways they avoid scorecard-scripting men. Despite the gendered scripts and pressures to “score,” Rodgers and Hust found their participants wanted meaningful relationships, and that although “hooking up” could be fun, it wasn’t always as personally fulfilling as they hoped – or as it is portrayed in media.

In general, Hust and Rodgers found that young people understand that romantic relationships in media are gender-stereotypical. Still, many look to these portrayals to know how to act in romantic or sexual relationships.  Their work has received global attention and was recently featured in the Seattle Times.