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Candy hearts: messages about love, lust, and infatuation.


Students will be able to

1. Analyze the influence of the media and its messages regarding love, lust, and infatuation.

2. Define love, lust, and infatuation.

3. Effectively communicate ways to express needs, wants, and feelings related to love, lust, and infatuation.

4. Develop interpersonal skills.

5. Define characteristics of healthy relationships.

Timing: 2 hours.


Students are constantly being bombarded with media messages about relationships, sex, and sexual behavior. These media messages often come from the television and Internet and promote attitudes and behaviors that glamorize sexual involvement without realistically portraying its potential consequences such as pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. The mixed messages students receive from the media (as well as from their peers) implicitly and explicitly replicate messages about love, lust, and infatuation and are often initiated and reinforced by popular culture's notions of these ideas. Students may consider engaging in sexual relationships because of the lack of attention given to the realistic portrayal of sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy. In addition, students may also lack the knowledge and skills necessary to make decisions about contraception (1) as well as negotiate their way out of sexual situations. This lack of skills coupled with the media's ability to influence and shape attitudes and perceptions about love, sexuality, and sexual involvement may leave students feeling confused about how to manage their feelings. (2) Students may feel confused about the conflicting messages they see and hear from these popular media sources such as the television and the Internet. But what about other media sources?

This lesson is intended to (1) address the mixed messages that students receive from multiple sources (such as the media); (2) identify strategies for students to address and monitor these negative influences and to develop skills to counter these negative influences; and (3) use "I" messages that are consistent with body language and that utilize the 3 Cs of responsible sexual behavior.

Grade Level

This lesson is intended for middle school or high school students but may be easily adapted to college-level students.

Materials and Resources

Approximately 15 advertisements clipped from various magazines.

Figure 1: Media Messages.

Figure 2: Candy Heart Phrases.

Figure 3: Candy Heart Phrases Answer Key.

Figure 4: Example: Candy Heart Bingo Card.

One copy of Media Messages, Candy Heart Phrases, and Candy Heart Bingo Card is needed for each student.

Activities and Strategies

Step 1

Critical Content for Teachers. Teachers will engage the students in a whole-class discussion, using the critical content listed below. By the end of this lesson, students will be able to respond to the following prompts.

A. Media

1. What is the media?

A medium for disseminating information. In addition to disseminating information, many media sources advertise and sell products or ideas for profit or gain. Not all media sources sell products. National Public Radio is a media source that is void of advertising.

2. What are the various types of media?

A. Macromedia Sources--Television, radio, billboards, the Internet, newspapers, books, newsletters, pamphlet, magazines, etc. For the purpose of this lesson, the macromedia source to be critically analyzed is the magazine advertisement.

B. Micromedia Sources--Any type of medium that transmits the cultural values of the dominant population in implicit or explicit ways but do not necessarily gain additional profit by transmitting these messages. Messages transmitted through tattoos, T-shirts, and bumper stickers are examples of micromedia sources. For the purpose of this lesson, Candy Hearts is an example of the micromedia source to be deconstructed and analyzed.

3. What is the primary purpose of the media? The primary purpose of the media is to inform as well as sell products.

4. Where do adolescents frequently get messages about love, lust, and infatuation? Parents, teachers, peers, siblings, media sources, etc.

B. Love, Lust, and Infatuation

1. What are definitions of love, lust, and infatuation? Love = Strong, passionate, deep, and tender feelings of affection and devotion toward another person. Lust = Sexual desire accompanied by strong physical attraction. Infatuation = Strong feelings toward another person often confused as love based on shallow or misguided feelings.

2. What are the characteristics that define love, lust, and infatuation?

A person who is experiencing love will likely have

* A realistic vision of who the person is.

* An appreciation of the entire person (has a holistic vision--mentally, emotionally, physically, socially, spiritually).

* Deep feelings of commitment despite realizing the person's flaws.

* A realization that the person has a life outside of you.

* An understanding that a relationship develops over time.

* An understanding that a long-term relationship is strengthened over time.

* An understanding that many characteristics attract you to that person versus just 1 or 2 characteristics.

* A consistent interest in the person.

* A strong concern for the wants, needs, and desires of the other person.

A person who is experiencing lust will likely have

* A physiological response when thinking about or encountering the person they desire.

A person who is experiencing infatuation will likely have

* An unrealistic vision of who the person is.

* A superficial attraction toward the person (typically physical attraction).

* Fails to see the flaws in the other person.

* Gone out of their way to please the person even if it means giving up things that are important to them.

* A romance that starts quickly.

* A romance that ends quickly.

* Only a few characteristics that attract you to that person.

* Interest in the person; however, this interest will be inconsistent.

* A selfish attitude toward the relationship.

3. What are the messages that the media sends about love, lust, and infatuation?

The media transmits intense messages in very brief amounts of time. As a result, the media is selective about the messages they portray. The result of the dynamics of this intense saturation of messages is that love, lust, and infatuation are often portrayed as one and the same. Realistic visions of the emotional components of relationships are often overshadowed with visions of lust and physical attraction as the primary emphasis in the advertisement or commercial. Loveless and/or abusive relationships are often simplified, ignored, or minimized.

4. What are the potential consequences of confusing love with lust or infatuation?

As students recognize the differences between love, lust, and infatuation, they will become empowered to make healthy, well-informed decisions about who they choose to enter into a relationship with. If students are not informed about the characteristics of a healthy relationship, they are susceptible to being taken advantage of on many levels: emotionally, physically, socially, and spiritually. Students are susceptible to emotional abuse if they are not aware of the characteristics that define a healthy relationship. If emotional abuse is prevalent, it is likely that physical abuse may also be present in the relationship. If students make uninformed decisions about sexual activity based on displaced feelings, they may experience ridicule from peers. As a result of engaging in a sexual relationship, students may feel a sense of spiritual disconnection based on their choice to become sexually active.

C. Interpersonal Communication Skills

1. What are strategies for effective communication in a relationship?

* Demonstrate a commitment to the relationship by being consistent with words and actions. Effective communication means consistency in the message as well as in its delivery.

* Use "I" messages such as "I feel hurt when --."

* Establish trust. Be prepared to feel vulnerable. Communicating your needs and feelings may leave you revealing personal information about yourself making you feel particularly vulnerable.

* Be honest with the other person. Knowing that honesty is a part of your relationship will assist you in revealing your true self to the other person.

* What is an 'T' message? An I message is a message that conveys feelings communicated while speaking in the first person. Speaking in the first person is a strategy for avoiding blaming and displacing feelings on others while speaking. The benefit in using an "I" message is that it often diffuses confrontations.

* Use the 3 Cs of responsible sexual behavior: Commitment, Contraceptives, and Consideration of Consequences.

2. What interpersonal skills are needed to maintain successful relationships?

Students should be aware that the skills that are needed to maintain a healthy friendship are the same set of skills that are needed to maintain a healthy love relationship. These skills include decision-making skills and communicating "I"' messages effectively.

3. What are the characteristics that define a healthy relationship?

The characteristics of a healthy love relationship are often the same set of characteristics that define a healthy friendship relationship. Ask students to identify characteristics of healthy friendships. These characteristics may include: communicating feelings openly and honestly, establishing trust, loyalty, displaying fairness, being assertive not aggressive in the relationship, being supportive of the other person's aspirations, dreams, wants, and desires, etc.

Step 2

Deconstructing Macromedia Messages. Teachers will provide examples of advertisements clipped from magazines to demonstrate how the macromedia portrays love, lust, and infatuation. Students will determine if the advertisements used images of love, lust, or infatuation to sell their product. Students will demonstrate their understanding of the concepts by completing the "Media Messages" worksheet (Figure 1).

Step 3

Deconstructing Micromedia Messages. Students will analyze the micromedia messages found on Candy Heart Valentine's Day candy. Using the Candy Hearts Phrases worksheet (Figure 2) students will evaluate the "hidden" media messages regarding love, lust, and infatuation. Students will read the Candy Heart Phrases and identify if the phrases imply love, lust, or infatuation. Students will then write self-affirming statements that counter the Candy Heart Phrases on the same worksheet.

Assessment Technique

Preassessment Activity. Teachers conduct an informal brainstorming session with the students to determine their preexisting knowledge regarding (1) major and minor (macro- and micro-) media sources as well as (2) the messages these media sources are sending regarding love, lust, and infatuation.

Postassessment Activity--Comparison of Macro- and Micromedia Messages. Students will find that the micro- and macromedia messages are often consistent, irrespective of the type of media (television, candy hearts, etc.). Teachers will distribute the Media Messages handout (Figure l). Students will complete the worksheet in small groups identifying the media source and the implied love, lust, or infatuation messages presented. Upon completion of this activity, the teacher will facilitate playing Candy Heart Bingo to review the concepts taught within the lesson. Students will self-select 24 of the Candy Heart Phrases (Figure 2) to write on their blank, eg, Candy Heart Bingo Card (Figure 4). Figure 4 has been filled in to give the reader an example of what the bingo card might look like when completed. The teacher will "call" the phrases, and students will cover the phrases as they appear on their bingo cards. Students who earn Bingo will briefly explain the implied love, lust, or infatuation messages for the candy heart messages that were identified on their bingo card and that were called during the bingo game. Students will also orally state the prepared alternative "I" messages used in Figure 1 (Media Messages) to counter the Candy Heart Phrases messages.

Commentary, The teacher may want to use the actual Candy Hearts to select which phrases will be "called" while playing Bingo. Students can use Candy Hearts to cover their bingo squares as well (although they do not have to match the Candy Heart with the written phrase as this would probably be very time consuming). In lieu of writing the phrases on the bingo cards, students could place the Candy Hearts on the squares prior to playing the game. As the phrases are called out, the Candy Hearts could be removed from the game card to indicate which phrases have been called. For each game, the students could adjust the placement of the Candy Hearts on the bingo cards to create a "new" card.

National Health Education Standards

This lesson addresses these National Health Education Standards?

* Students will analyze the influence of culture, media, technology, and other factors on health.

* Students will demonstrate the ability to use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health.

* Students will demonstrate the ability to use goal-setting and decision-making skills to enhance health.


(1.) Wingood GM, DiClemente RJ, Harrington K, Davies S, Hook EW, Oh MK. Exposure to x-rated movies and adolescents' sexual and contraceptive-related attitudes and behaviors. Pediatrics. 2001;107(5): 1116-1119.

(2.) Brown JD. Mass media influences on sexuality. J Sex Res. 2002: 39(4):42-45.

(3.) Joint Committee on National Health Education Standards. National Health Education Standards: Achieving Health Literacy,. Atlanta. Ga: American Cancer Society; 1995.
Figure 1
                          Media Messages

Type of Media                     Example of media message about love,
                                  lust or infatuation from that
                                  particular media source

 1. --           [right arrow]                   --
 2. --           [right arrow]                   --
 3. --           [right arrow]                   --
 4. --           [right arrow]                   --
 5. --           [right arrow]                   --
 6. --           [right arrow]                   --
 7. --           [right arrow]                   --
 8. --           [right arrow]                   --
 9. --           [right arrow]                   --
10. --           [right arrow]                   --

Compare your answers to the Candy Heart phrases listed on the "Candy
Heart Phrases" worksheet. Are they similar or different? Explain.

Figure 2

Cand Heart Phrases

Directions: Read each of the phrases below. Decide what the
unstated (hidden) message is within each of the phrases. Determine if
the phrase would likely be used in a love relationship, a relationship
based on lust, or a relationship based on infatuation. For any message
that is based on lust or infatuation, write an alternative message to
offset the implied message. When appropriate, write an "I" message
that corresponds with your interpretation of the Candy Heart Phrase to
express appropriate ways to demonstrate affection.

Candy Heart    What does this phrase really      Alternative Message
Phrase         mean? Love, lust, infatuation,
               all three, or none)

Ask Me                     --                            --
Awesome                    --                            --
Be Mine                    --                            --
Be True                    --                            --
Dino-mite                  --                            --
Fax Me                     --                            --
First Kiss                 --                            --
Get Real                   --                            --
Go Boy                     --                            --
Go Girl                    --                            --
Got Cha                    --                            --
Got Love                   --                            --
Hello                      --                            --
Hey Babe                   --                            --
I Love U                   --                            --
Just One                   --                            --
Mad 4 U                    --                            --
My Boy                     --                            --
My Girl                    --                            --
My Hero                    --                            --
No Way                     --                            --
See Ya                     --                            --
So Fine                    --                            --
Soul Mate                  --                            --
True Love                  --                            --
U R Mine                   --                            --
You Rock                   --                            --
You Rule                   --                            --

Figure 3

Candy Heart Phrases--Answer Key

Student responses to the Candy Heart Phrases may vary. Below is a
sampling of the Candy Heart Phrases, the deconstructed media message,
as well as accompanying alternative message.

Phrase       What does this phrase really mean?    Alternative Message

                 (Love, lust, infatuation,         (Alternative message
                  all three, or none)              that promotes the
                                                   characteristics of a

1. Ask Me        (Love and/or lust)                "Would you like to
                                                   go out on a date?"
                                                   (Open communication)

This statement implies interest in someone. Students may be confused
when people imply interest in a relationship through vague language.
Words can be confusing when body language does not match the words
that are spoken. "Ask me" implies a level of communication not present
in a relationship based on infatuation.

2. I Love U      (Love and/or lust)                "I have very strong,
                                                   feelings for you."

Many people say "I love you" but fail to understand the full
implications of this statement. The depth and level of commitment
required to maintain a love relationship is often overlooked or
minimized as well as glamorized within the media. Discuss with students
why a person might say "I love you" when dating. Possible answers
include: (1) Words to express sincere feelings of affection; (2) Saying
"I love you" as a way to convince someone that a potential love
relationship is possible; (3) Saying "I love you" may intentionally
distract from a person's true intentions of wanting to engage in sexual
behavior rather than fostering a love relationship (as the other person
may have been led to believe); or (4) To express a very strong
unexplained attraction toward someone. These feelings of attraction may
be feelings of infatuation versus true love. The characteristics of
love relationships are missing when infatuation occurs. (Review the
"Critical Content" for additional explanations.)

Figure 4

Example--Candy Heart Bingo Card

    C           A          N           D           Y
    H           E          A           R           T
 Ask Me     True Love    Fax Me     U R Mine    Mad 4 U
Dino-mite   You Rule    Too Hot    First Kiss   You Rock
I Love U    Soul Mate   [heart]     My Hero     Be True
 So Fine     Be Mine    Just One    Get Real    Hey Babe
 My Girl     No Way     Got Love     See Ya      Hello

Cristy Jefson, PhD, Assistant Professor, (, Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Coaching, University of Wisconsin- Whitewater, 800 W. Main St, Whitewater, W153190-1790.
COPYRIGHT 2006 American School Health Association
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Title Annotation:Teaching Techniques
Author:Jefson, Cristy
Publication:Journal of School Health
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2006
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