She goes out every night and tries to find "the one". She always has a different story with different men. One night it's Joe, the next night it's Matt. She lives in the moment. She thinks nothing of going to bed with some guy that she just met. She thinks one of these men will love her one day, but until then, has to have sex with each one in order to see which one will love her.
What makes Jennifer the way she is? Why does she engage in sexual behaviors that risk her life and health? Why does she always give in to sex on the first night? Jennifer is a fictional character, but in many ways, represents a sexual risk-taker. Researchers have studied these questions and more in attempt to explain why Jennifer would do such a thing. In reading over the literature, two main theories seem to appear repeatedly and have ample empirical evidence to support them. Self-Presentation and Self-Monitoring are two theories that Snyder (1974), Leary & Kowalski (1990), Snyder, Simpson, and Gangestad (1986), Seal & Agostinelli (1994), and many others have researched to attempt to answer questions like why Jennifer does the things she does and why she takes the risks she engages in. This paper will discuss some of the findings and implications of the studies conducted by those researchers with focus on self-monitoring relationships to risky behavior.
Self-presentation (also called impression management) refers to the processes by which people control how they are perceived and evaluated by others (Leary & Kowalski, 1990). Self-monitoring refers to the extent to which one attends to and manages one's self-presentation in social situations (Snyder, 1974). One might assume that these two theories are clearly related to each other. Indeed, in reading over the literature about risky sexual behavior, it was difficult not to come across both self-presentation and self-monitoring. .
According to the theory of self-monitoring, people would differ in the extent to which they can and do engage in expressive control (Snyder & Gangestad, 2000).