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"Macho men don't communicate": the role of communication in HIV prevention.

The geographical nature of Puerto Rico as an island presents unique intricacies that need to be considered in research. While there are many studies of sexuality that include Puerto Rican men, most of these studies include groups of Puerto Ricans living in the U.S. mainland, where acculturation is a significant factor and the realities of people living in Puerto Rico are not fully addressed. In the present study, the relational and cultural issues that influence men's sexual communication and sexual practices in Puerto Rico were examined. Attention was given to the everyday realities of men in their personal relationships, thus allowing for culturally based understandings of interpersonal communication about sex, heterosexual relationships, and sexual practices. By treating sex as a communicative form, the interpersonal dynamics that significantly influence and determine the kinds of sexual communication within cultural gender roles for Puerto Rican men were highlighted. Overall, according to the Puerto Rican men in this study, the ability to have meaningful communication about sex and take recommended precautions for safe sex (i.e., monogamy, discussion of previous sexual partners, and condom use) is limited.

Gender Roles: The Intersection of Culture and Communication in Sexual Relationships

Sexual behavior is symbolic. Humans learn sexuality. As individuals we learn what kind of sexual creatures we are as we learn gender roles and acquire cultural guidelines regarding such elements of sexuality as desirability, courtship, foreplay, and sexual positions (Middleton, 2002). While humans are inherently sexual due to a biological imperative to reproduce, cultural learning directly influences how we go about reproduction: where, when, how often, with whom, and why (Kimmel & Fracher, 1992). The influence of culture on sex cannot be discounted, as the "enculturation process is a powerful one, and individuals do not easily cast off its effects" (Middleton, p. 38). From this viewpoint, culture can be approached as a fundamental component of sex, rather than as a variable that influences sexual behavior.

In this research project culture was not merely a variable to be singled out and studied; rather, it is an inextricable part of interpersonal communication, sexual relationships, and relational processes. Fundamental components of machismo are the enactment of macho behavior and the talk that serves to (re)enforce male genders roles, which, for the most part, are accomplished through communication acts. Macho talk is essential to establish and maintain Latino masculinity (Stavans, 1996).

Given Puerto Rico's geographical location, understanding the sexual beliefs and practices of people in the Caribbean is important. In a comprehensive study of Caribbean sexual practices, Camara (2000) found that it is socially acceptable for men to have multiple concurrent partnerships, supported by the fact that sex is viewed as independent of stable relationships, marriage, and love. Furthermore, "there is poor partner communication on sexual needs and concerns, emotional and socioeconomic dependence [females] and male dominance during the sexual act" (p. 19). Island life influences sexual practices and relationships. As one 48-year-old participant in this current study noted, "Puerto Rico is a small island and a small society and many times when a person says that he or she had a romantic relationship with someone else, the new [partner] will know the previous one, or will know someone that knows her and that could cause problems, that's my experience."

Puerto Ricans, while diverse, do share with other Latino groups some core cultural ideals that shape and are shaped by gender. Social expectations for Latino men are reflected in the cultural belief of machismo, which prescribes specific, culturally acceptable male behaviors. Some positive inner qualities associated with machismo are "personal integrity, commitment, loyalty, and most importantly, strength of character" (Mirande, 1997, p. 67), which men admire in other men. Machista (i.e., a man who believes that women are inferior to men) ideals also include promiscuity regardless of marital status, not talking about sex with women, and being in control of the sexual dyad in terms of frequency, initiation, and actual practices. Macho men are "domineering in their relationships with women" (Ramos, 1993, p. 61) and "boast a great deal about their male conquests" (Rodriguez, 1994, p. 70) to other males. Overall, gender research on Latinos has found that women are taught to repress their sexuality and relinquish control to men, while men are taught to seek out sexual experiences with multiple partners and embrace their sexuality (Asencio, 2002; Faulkner, 2003).

There has been much research on gender roles of Latino and Caribbean cultures. The current research study adds to this body of knowledge by addressing how gender roles influence the communication about sex in interpersonal relationships and how communication influences sexual practices. Specifically, the focus was on the sexual talk men have with friends, family and sexual partners, men's reflections on machismo, and how machismo affects men's sexual communication and practices in order to understand relational and cultural issues that influence men's communication about sex.

Theoretical Concerns

In sexual scripts theory, scripts function as cognitive structures that help participants define a situation, organize the interpretation of events, and guide appropriate performances in situated episodes (Gagon & Simon, 1973; Ginsburg, 1988; Metts & Spitzberg, 1996). In Gagnon and Simon's seminal work, scripts are viewed as interpretive filters and guides for behavior. Communication is essential as it is necessary for the enactment of sexual scripts (Metts & Spitzberg). Communication enables participants to negotiate changes in scripts that are responsive to individual, relational, and situational features. Ongoing communication allows individuals to clarify the meaning of scripts, which results in possible changes ill the interaction (Allen, Emmers-Sommer, & Crowell, 2002). Sexual scripts can determine behavioral outcomes on three levels: cultural, interpersonal, and intrapsychic (Simon & Gagnon, 1987). Cultural scenarios are assemblies of social norms external to the individual. Cultural scenarios function as guides for sexual behavior by specifying appropriate objects, aims, and desirable qualities in relationships (Simon & Gagnon). Social convention and personal desire converge in interpersonal script senarios. In interpersonal scripts, participants invoke cultural symbols in order to engage socially. Intrapsychic scripts are self-process scripts that express individuals' motivation. Intrapsychic scripts are a part of sexual arousal and concern a person's individual sexual desires and preferences (Metts & Spitzberg). Sexual scripts theory is well-suited to frame the study of various forms of communication acts that take place between sexual partners, friends, and family, in a specific cultural context.


Research Process and Participants

In general, it is challenging to collect data on sex because it is difficult for many people to feel comfortable discussing their sexual practices (Wiederman, 2004). Given such difficulties, a unique approach to data collection was implemented. In this project, Puerto Ricans, living on the island, were recruited as interviewers. Interviewers were recruited at a local university and received more than four hours of training on the protocol and interviewing techniques, such as how and when to ask follow-up questions, ethical implications, and how to build trust and maintain confidentiality. There was in-depth discussion about the project to provide participants a background and highlight previous research about sex and communication.

The interviewers were asked to interview an acquaintance of their choosing who felt comfortable discussing sex (i.e., one interviewer for each participant). Both men and women participated as interviewers. In total there were seven female and ten male interviewers. The 17 participants' ranged in age from 18 years to 48 years with an average age of 26 years. The participants were from different socioeconomic backgrounds, including working class to upper class; educational backgrounds varied from people without a college degree but active in the workforce to those with an earned graduate degree. Participants also ranged in partnership status (single, married, cohabitating, and divorced).

Over a two month period, a total of 17 interviews, ranging from one to two hours in length were collected. All of the participants lived in Puerto Rico and self-identified as heterosexual. An additional parameter for participation was that female interviewers could not interview anyone with whom they had a sexual relationship, past or present. Given the sensitive nature of the study precautions were taken; the participants were told the goals of the study, assured confidentiality, and gave oral informed consent prior to the interview. This research was part of a larger study on the prevention of HIV in Puerto Rico and was approved by the authors' Office of Human Research. All participants were given the author's contact information and that of the Institutional Review Board in event of problem or concern.


A semi-structured, open-ended qualitative interview guide made up of 50 questions was developed and pilot tested. Demographic questions and relationship status questions were asked. The interview questions were designed so that they could be answered in an impersonal way; however, all of the participants provided personal examples. A sample of questions of particular importance to this analysis were (1) "To what extent does machismo influence communication between men and women in Puerto Rico?", (2) "Whose responsibility is it to initiate discussions about sex?", (3) "When have you felt the most comfortable discussing sex?", and (4) "If you could change anything about the way Puerto Ricans communicate about sex, what would it be?"


All interviews were transcribed and participant responses for each question were coded into categories by the author and a colleague, a communication studies faculty member at the University of Puerto Rico. Discrepancies in coding were discussed and resolved among the research team. Alter this initial coding, a thematic analysis was performed (Owen, 1984). Consistent with Owen's three criteria, a theme's emergence was noted when there was 1) recurrence (similar meaning was communicated but different words used), 2) repetition (the reiteration of key words and phrases), and 3) forcefulness (indicated by vocal features such as inflection, volume, or pausing that set off certain portions of an account from others).

Results and Interpretation


Participants reported that machismo is an overwhelming cultural force in Puerto Rican society, guiding the way many participants talked about sex and, moreover, how they acted in sexual relationships. All the participants agreed that most Puerto Rican men are stereotyped as machista and that these stereotypes are accurate to varying degrees. All the participants had an awareness of machismo, could describe it and provide numerous examples and stories where they witnessed machista behavior, and verbalized that machismo was a prevailing constraint in their lives. One 48-year-old participant explained machismo this way, "Machismo is the concept ... the man can do what he wants and the woman must accept it." A 20-year-old man explained, "I don't know, it's like men have a greater role than women in life itself."

It was clear that machista attitudes and practices are embedded in the culture, since participants of all ages felt that machismo significantly affected relationships. As one 22-year-old reflected, "I have a lot of friends and they are in relationships and they're kind of macho sometimes. It's just little things that make the relationship not work." Expectations of men and women in romantic relationships are clearly defined by the machista culture:
 I've seen that a lot of time, all the women do the things that they
 have to do, like cleaning clothes, cleaning the house, making food,
 checking the babies, everything that a woman has to do. I think
 that you don't have to be too rough with women because they have
 their own expectations. (18-year-old man)

 I think Puerto Rican men, they always try to be stronger than the
 woman in terms--not only physically but emotionally--in the
 relationship. They always try to have control over the relationship
 and do whatever they want, not allowing the woman to do the same,
 and they're very jealous, that's one of our lacks, we're very
 jealous men. In the worst cases we treat women like possessions,
 not a human being. That's just part of our culture. Okay, so this
 may be the stereotypes, but I don't agree with that at all, but
 that's my vision as I said before of Puerto Rican men. (26-year-old

Even the younger men were acutely aware of the prevalence of machismo and its effect on romantic relationships. It is interesting that the 18-year-old man acknowledged women's participation in the maintenance of gender roles: "I think that you don't have to be too rough with women because they have their own expectations." Even if a man does not consciously enforce any set of behaviors, women self-regulate their behavior and, at times, regulate their male partners' behavior. Numerous participants felt that if men lapsed out of their machista roles someone was there to regulate them: their female partners, their family, or their friends. These results are not new to the realm of Latino men's studies; Alabos (2005) explains, "[T]hose men who refuse to be subservient to the male role given to them by the culture that leads us to control ourselves unconsciously though repression and fear are not real men. They are called "viejas" old women who can't measure up" (p. 161).

The regulation of male gender roles in sexual relationships was a recurring theme when participants discussed the expectation that a man ought to have concurrent sexual relationships. Most participants reported that they would definitely be pressured or teased by their male friends if they expressed a desire to be faithful to one woman that they loved (married or not). Men reported that if they were approached--in the presence of male friends--by a woman and did not make an effort to seduce her or at least flirt, he would be taunted by his friends. In an unusually extreme response, one happily married participant explained that his male family members accused him of "being gay" because he did not have extramarital affairs. Having multiple partners is viewed as acceptable and even expected, as many participants explained.
 I don't see a problem with a man going around and doing anything he
 pleases. A woman, she has to be more careful because she has more
 to lose.... Getting pregnant, that could ruin her life. The fact
 that most of Puerto Rico society is composed by machismo so she'll
 be very criticized. (20-year-old man)

From a communication perspective, one significant implication about these findings is the fact that the men do not openly discuss the idea of multiple sexual partners with their partners. If it is indeed the predominant force reported in this and other research, why aren't sexual partners broaching this subject? One main reason why people in Puerto Rico are not talking about the reality of multiple partners (and why it is happening in the first place) can be linked back to the machista culture. One 20-year-old male said, "Machismo influences a lot.... A woman feels a lot of pressure and the woman will feel scared to tell things about her to her boyfriend that is doing machismo with her." Another male responded, this one 45 year old, "We don't let them speak freely. What we say, stands." This may explain why women do not initiate discussions with their male partners, and, it may be rather obvious why men do not broach the topic: they do not have to and they do not want to.

Machismo, then, limits the ability to discuss various aspects of sex with and between sexual partners. Many male participants indicated that that they did not feel comfortable discussing sex with a sexual partner, before, after, or during sex. One reason was they claimed they did not want to hurt their partner's feelings by talking about the sex because it might make it seem as if they were judging their partner's performance. Others said that they did not want to talk about past [or current] relationships because it would cause a fight or a simple lack of knowing what to say and how to talk about sex. One 19-year-old male said he is most comfortable talking about sex, "when I'm speaking with my best friend and my sister because they're not judgmental." The data suggested that men had very few opportunities to engage in meaningful communication about sex and relationships with anyone.
 I think women communicate between them easier than us men, [men]
 just say ... [things] in order to make us more macho. But the weird
 thing, I think we don't speak about it [sex] with friends as women
 do. They do speak about their orgasms, what do they like doing or
 to be done that we men don't do. We just speak about how our girl
 looked when we had the sexual relationship and how many there were.
 Maybe how was the system we used to make her have sex with us.
 (26-year-old man)

Communication about Sex with Friends

Thus far, the results of this study have shown that most men do not communication about sex with their sexual partners and believe that women have better communication with their female friends. We have also learned that men pressure other men to be macho. So, what kind of communication about sex do men have with other men? Most participants reported that they talk about sex a great deal with their friends, however, as one participant explained, while "men have more communication with their friends, at least that is what I tend to believe, but the quality is poor. This not meaningful communication about sex." Others described what this man meant by poor quality, the conversations are filled with jokes about sex and exaggerations to support the macho image.
 At least with men, men tend to invent more stuff than what really
 happened and maybe you, I don't know, you are talking with your
 friends about having sex with your girlfriends and you exaggerate
 and you tell your friends, I made her come three times or something
 like that, and she was faking it the whole time. It's hard, men
 tend to exaggerate. (20-year-old man)

 Some guys they talk about how good she was and what she looked like
 with no clothes on, that kind of stuff, you know, stupid stuff. And
 with family, I don't really talk about sex with my family.
 (22-year-old man)

 It's an open communication, there's no subject that is taboo so. I
 mean, at least me, I feel totally free talking about my sexual
 experiences with my friends, it's okay, it doesn't bother me.
 Unless it's a very serious relationship I don't need to talk about
 my sexual experiences. If your relationship is serious, that's
 private. But I'm talking the casual sex encounter.... No, we're
 joking, we're joking all the time. It's not serious, we don't take
 it that seriously.... And, it's a normal thing to have casual sex.
 (22-year-old man)

All of these quotes indicate that kind of communication men have with other men is explicit and superficial, meant to entertain their friends and to prove their virility. One 18-year-old participant indicated that he just had to talk about his sexual experiences with his male friends,
 In Puerto Rico, every time a man has sex with a woman, everyone
 knows because he can't have this secret, he has to tell it because
 he feels he has too much pressure in his body.

 Male interviewer: Do you think he says it because he wants other
 people to know he did that or ...?

 To feel more like a man.

The one time men will not talk explicitly about sex is when they are in a serious relationship--out of respect for their partners.
 Well sometimes but it depends because if you're involved more
 emotionally it won't be the same to talk about a female than if you
 weren't that involved with her because you're involved with her,
 obviously you care more about her, and you would care more about
 other people's opinion about her and you tend to protect the image,
 the reputation. Very important. (20-year-old man)

There are issues of importance in this theme. First, casual sex is regarded as natural, even if participants were in a serious relationship. Second, if men cannot talk about their "serious relationship" sexual conquests--it could pressure men to have multiple partners so they can participate in the sex talk--to be a part of the conversation and prove their virility. Third, it is important for men to have the space to have someone they can have meaningful communication about their sexual relationship--especially when it is a serious relationship, given the importance of having a satisfying sexual relationship and living up to the role of macho man. If men are not talking to their partners or their family or their friends, then with whom are the speaking? Finally, participants indicated that safe sex was not a part of the conversations they had with their friends.

Childhood Reflections: Messages Received about Relationships, Sex, and Machismo

The gendered expectations for men to be promiscuous begin when they are children. None of the 50 protocol questions asked directly about participants' childhood, yet every respondent brought up some aspect of his childhood in the interview. Men indicated that they were raised to have many sexual partners, a pressure felt from family members, friends, school, and the media.

Social messages about sex were clear: boys must do it, girls should wait until marriage. Participants also received messages about machismo, how to treat someone in a relationship, and what to talk about with sexual partners. When discussing the role of machismo in communication, one 23-year-old respondent stated, "There's a lot of influence of machismo in the way men and women communicate I think. That's the way that parents choose to raise their kids."

Clearly, both sexual ideals and sexual behavior vary somewhat across cultures, but they also change through history within a single culture (Middleton, 2002). How much are they changing in Puerto Rico? When participants, even young men at 20 years of age think, "mothers teach their boys to be machista" calls into question the idea of how much things have changed in Puerto Rico regarding machismo. But, some things on the island have clearly changed, women are having more premarital sex and HIV is quietly proliferating. A consequence of raising children in specific gender roles is that gender roles significantly hinder their ability to have safer sex. The majority of younger participants reported difficulty having serious conversations about sex, especially with their parents. Most respondents stated that their parents gave them basic information about procreation, but nothing on how to act in a sexual relationship or how to communicate feelings and needs with partners. Also, according to all of the participants, dating significantly changed in Puerto Rico since their parents dated:
 It's funny because my morn always says that, "Oh, I know all about
 dating, I know all about it." But she doesn't know shit, you know?
 She doesn't know. Because right now it is as natural as it wasn't a
 few years back. Right now you can just go and date someone and be
 with them in bed in a few hours. That's how it is here. It's kind
 of stupid but that's how it is. (19-year-old male)

By encouraging gender roles, parents fail to acknowledge that things have changed dramatically since they were dating. Part of the problem lies in the fact that children do not talk about sex with their parents, allowing them to maintain the facade of their assigned traditional gender roles. Most of the other participants reported learning about sex "on the street," from friends or an older brother, and through pornography.

Although all the participants stated that it was important to have more education and communication about sex at the family level, none of the younger participants actually wanted to talk to their parents more about sex. Likewise, the participants that were parents, also thought that while more communication and education was extremely important, yet they did not want to talk to their children about it either. The irony is that these participants agreed to take part in this study and were candid and open about sex in the interviews--with acquaintances--but did not want to talk about sex with their immediate family members.

In addition, almost all of the participants thought that "more education" about sex was necessary; however, from all indications, the participants were well-educated about sex-related topics, and none could define what "more education" meant to them. Therefore, one could interpret this to indicate that "more education" does not really mean more education about the mechanics or consequences of sexual relationships, but rather about the sexual relationships themselves: how to talk about sex and safe sex, as well as how to negotiate the cultural gender roles expected for men and women within cultural realities. The participants repeatedly explained the significance of the family, where gender roles are first taught, modeled, enacted, and enforced, thereby pinpointing the family as one of the key places where change can be effected. The topic of family is pertinent to the second significant conclusion within this theme, the interesting paradox that, although participants expressed that parents and children should communicate more about sex, most did not personally want to talk about sex with their parents or child(ten). Could this mean that they desire not more technical talk but instead more meaningful communication about sexual relationships, specifically about how gender roles and cultural expectations influence these relationships and sexuality?

Safe Sex: Talk and Action
 It's natural for men to get desperate and you know. Some people
 just go for it. They live in the moment, if there isn't a condom,
 oh well. That's exactly the sort of thinking that's gotten so many
 people STDs and so many girls pregnant. You're not thinking, you're
 in the moment, you're not thinking, you're just letting your
 body--you're just letting yourself go. (22-year-old man)

Participants were asked numerous questions about their sexual practices, in particular their practices and beliefs about safe sex and HIV. For example, participants were asked: "Whose responsibility is it to initiate discussions about birth control and STD prevention?" "What are five things you believe about HIV/AIDS? STDs? Unplanned pregnancies?"

No surprisingly, all of the participants knew and accurately described how HIV and other STDs were transmitted and fully comprehended the necessity of disclosing sexual histories, getting tested, using condoms, and being monogamous. However, very few of them indicated that they regularly practiced safe sex or even used condoms. The responsibility for birth control was viewed as a "woman's concern" and most indicated that safety was the woman's responsibility, even in casual encounters. So, it seems men think women are responsible for initiating discussions about safe sex, if the discussion is going to happen at all, and practicing safe sex. One participant claimed that men are more promiscuous; women should be aware of this fact and protect themselves. Another claimed that, like the person in the quote at the beginning of this section, that men are sometimes too overcome with sexual desire to be responsible. One 20 year old summarizes many of the participants responses succinctly:
 The female [is responsible].

 Male interviewer: The female? Because of birth control or because
 of everything?


 Male interviewer: You're giving responsibility to the female?

 Yeah, because males, they tend to be more unfaithful, so the female
 should be more worried about that....

 Male interviewer: So men can rely on being reckless, knowing that
 they're going to have a female that's going to be aware of....

 Yeah, exactly.

Another participant stated:
 I'm not a woman so I cannot say if a woman feels the same that a
 man feels but I have to say that sometimes it's difficult for a man
 to control himself. I think maybe it's their instinct or something
 like that, more aggressive, some part of nature. (20-year-old man)

Some participants felt that discussions involving sex in general are both open to men and women.
 I believe in decency. If I have a partner I try to be decent and
 not to speak about sex, not to make her uncomfortable but I believe
 that if I'm thinking of going there, taking that step, I believe
 that I have to talk with her a lot before we take the next step.

 Interviewer: Do you think that talking about sex is indecent?

 Well, no, not talking about sex, but really, really early in the
 relationship if you're kind of telling her about sex and everything
 you might lose her, if she's shy. (19-year-old male)

Some felt that discussions about sex were simply unnecessary.
 We have sex and that's it. There's not a lot of people who talk
 about their experiences with their partners. I guess men ask the
 women if they liked it, you know, it's something that's on the
 guy's mind but it's not, I don't know if it's that important.... I
 don't ask, I don't need to ask. Sometimes you just know.
 (22-year-old male)


Alabos (2005) calls for consciousness of machismo, however, all of the participants in this current study seemed to be acutely aware of machismo. On many levels participants exhibited a consciousness of the limitations that living up to the image of a "real" Puerto Rican man placed on their ability to communication meaningfully-with sexual partners, friends, and family. The participants discussed, in depth, how their families and friends are macho and how detrimental this is, yet none seemed to confront their implicit participation in perpetuating machismo. As one 45-year-old participant said, "We're still brought up as Latin lovers or macho men where they cannot say no. They have to live up to their image.... He wants to be the boss. He wants to take over. And he won't let his female partner make decisions." This is particularly important given the responses to the safe sex questions: If men are "the bosses" in sexual and/or romantic relationships, then it is very difficult given these sexual scripts, for women to initiate discussion about safe sex, and more importantly, condom use, especially given that men think it is a woman's responsibility to do so.

Communication is the intermediary because communication within an interpersonal relationship directly influences safer-sex practice. And by communication, one necessarily implies and includes cultural gender role expectations. Therefore, cultural gender roles inform, to a large extent, the kind of sexual communication that guides sexual encounters. Cobley (2000) acutely noted, "[I]t has been a popular misconception in Western societies that the study and treatment of disease is essentially a matter for medical science. In reality, however, outbreaks of disease profoundly shape, and are profoundly shaped by, the social, cultural, political and economic contexts in which they occur" (p. xvi). So while it has recently been acknowledged that culture needs to be taken into account in the design of safer sex interventions, it is also imperative to include communication: to address the relational dynamics and restraints that create a confluence of implications for communication about sex for both women and men.

Participants in this study indicated that they are pressured to enact a role of the sexual dynamo, the "Latin lover." Participants indicated that Puerto Rican men were expected to have sex, to talk about sex with their friends, and to seek out multiple partners. Men are expected to have sexual escapades and voice them forcefully, publicly, and repeatedly to other men. Social messages from multiple arenas pressure men to think about sex, to talk about sex, to obtain sex, and to have and satisfy their sexual needs. Because male cultural gender roles are so rigidly enforced and followed, men are, in part, denied their own volition when it comes to shaping their sexual relationships. They are denied a space to have meaningful communication about their sexuality--with friends, family and sexual partners. Machismo permits only restricted sexual relationships and limited communication about sex. Within these restrictions and limitations, there is no space left for communication about safer sex. For instance, although most participants stated that communication about sex was most common and comfortable among their friends, topics about safer sex were generally not discussed between friends. Culturally, safer sex is not part of sexual scripts in Puerto Rico. Culture teaches us what is valued; in Puerto Rico, because the process of safer sex is ignored and erased, it renders both men and women unable and/or unlikely to meaningfully communicate about it.

Abalos (2005) discussed archetypes, archetypal stories, and archetypal ways of life of Latino men. "Masculinity has too often in the Latino culture been defined as a form of gallantry, the domination of other males, or being the person who stands at the center of the lives of women as both protector and dominator" (Mirande, 1997 as quoted by Abalos, p.160). Abalos claims masculinity is a story, "a sacred story that possesses us when we remain unconscious of it" (p.160). While this research certainly supports his claims, one can see an awareness on the participants' part about the ramification of machismo on communication in their world. One 26-year-old participant succinctly stated the potential of interpersonal communication, "I think that communication is very important for all of us ... Sometimes we think that we're the only ones that think that way or that feels that way but when you're able to talk about it you realize you're just another person just like everybody else". Comments such as this indicate that some men are interested in having more meaningful communication in their relationships. There seemed to be a genuine yearning for the space to have more meaningful communication, and at the very least, an open mind regarding communication.

The qualitative methodology used in this study poses benefits and limitations. There were multiple advantages to this methodology. For instance, the fact that the interviewer and interviewee knew each other perhaps facilitated the interviewee's ability to discuss sex freely, to voice their questions and concerns about the research topic and process, to express uncertainty about both question meaning and language, and to answer questions in an interpersonal context. However, although the participants seemed comfortable and open on the tapes, they may have been uncomfortable sharing intimate information with a known acquaintance or they may have given a perceived desired response. This research has limited scope and therefore results are not intended for broader generalizations. These accounts are rooted in a fixed social location, Puerto Rico, and may not be generalizable to Puerto Rican men living elsewhere. Instead, illustrations are useful for developing sexual scripts theory for the sexual behaviors of men living in Puerto Rico. Finally, these data are based upon self-report. However, self-report data can be beneficial to cast light on meaning and perception.

In future research it would be beneficial to collect dyadic data on male communication about sex with sexual partners. It would also be interesting to collect ethnographic data on male conversations about sex with their friends. Understanding male communication about sex is vital for many reasons ranging from enhancing interpersonal relational satisfaction to reducing the ever-increasing HIV rates due to heterosexual sex on the island of Puerto Rico.


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Northeastern University

Carey Noland, Department of Communication Studies, Northeastern University.

This project was funded by the Provost's Instructional Development Fund Grant at Northeastern University. The author gratefully acknowledges the assistance of Janet MacLennan, University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras, and all the participants in this project.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Carey Noland, Department of Communication Studies, 101 Lake Hall, Northeastern University, Boston, MA 02115. Electronic mail:
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Author:Noland, Carey
Publication:The Journal of Men's Studies
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1U0PR
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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