Foreign affaires : a sociological exploration of 'holiday romance'.
'Holiday romance' is a term used in everyday language to refer to new sexual and
romantic relationships that occur on holiday (usually abroad). Whilst there have been
a number of quantitative studies exploring the sexual behaviour of travellers, little is
known about the context in which these relationships occur and the meanings they
have to the individuals involved.
The aim of this study was to explore women's understandings and experiences of
holiday romance. This was a qualitative exploration which involved focus groups and
in-depth interviews with women of a range of ages. Women who participated in focus
groups had travelled abroad without a partner in the last two years and women who
participated in in-depth interviews had had a new romantic or sexual relationship
abroad in the last two years.
Women's retrospective accounts were used to examine how holidays compare and
contrast to everyday life and how new sexual relationships abroad are negotiated and
maintained through time and space. Particular attention was given to the process of
negotiating sexual intimacy, and how decisions are made and accounted for.
It was found that holidays were seen as a period distinct and removed from everyday
life. There was a change in the experience of time: on holiday time became
compressed and often inverted. The nature of new sexual relationships abroad varied
from romantic relationships that involved emotional attachment and intimacy, to
'holiday flings' which were based on mutual attraction and sexual gratification.
Physical intimacy within these relationships was negotiated through a system of silent
signs and signals and was typically led by the male partner. This study showed that
sexual intercourse was seen as the inevitable end point of sexual intimacy and an
increasingly expected part of a relationship.