Sexual double standard refers to gender differences in sexual freedom (Gentry, 1998). In 1960, Ira Reiss defined orthodox double standard as premarital sex prohibition on women but not on men (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). This social standard became the conditional double standard wherein females are only allowed for sexual relationship within marriage while males are not prohibited to incur sexual relationship as many as they can (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). As stereotype, society generally condones certain sexual behaviors only for male but considered as taboo for females (Gentry, 1998).
From the early historical period of the Western nations, the unequal treatment between men and women regarding with sexual issues have been recorded (Haavio-Mannila and Kontula, 2003). Women were usually expected to preserve virginity upon marriage and to avoid sexual contact with any one even after legal separation or husband death (Haavio-Mannila and Kontula, 2003). This sexual inequality orientation became the traditional moral standards for both male and female groups but with strict provisions on women.
Further, this inequality, according to Williams (1987), was resulted from the early conception that women are valuable property of men and an object of exchange (Haavio-Mannila and Kontula, 2003). As such, sustaining female value requires virginity preservation. In connection to this, the strict observance of chastity has been implemented within a clan for the prevention of unwanted pregnancy, preservation of family honor, and assurance of proper social-class marriage (Haavio-Mannila and Kontula, 2003).
After 1960s’ and 1970s’ decades of sexual behavior liberalization, sexual double standard is deemed to be gone (Gentry, 1998). Although arguments on this matter until this present are still in existence, most researches failed to provide a strong ground for the continuous existence of sexual double standard (Gentry, 1998). In spite of this, sexual issues such as teenage pregnancy, rape, illegitimacy of birth, pre-marital relations, and even sexual-related diseases like AIDS are continuously perceived with respect to gender-based sexual attitudes (Gentry, 1998).
In fact, studies on the sexual behaviors for both male and female showed the persistence and effects of double standard for both sexes (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). Literature Review During 19th century sexual differences has became the focus of scientific investigation (Haavio-Mannila and Kontula, 2003). For instance, Havelock Ellis treated women’s sexuality as weakness while the Kinsey era supported the equality of gender (Haavio-Mannila and Kontula, 2003). Nonetheless, Masters and Johnson proved the similarity in sexual response between male and female (Haavio-Mannila and Kontula, 2003).
Meanwhile, the emergence of more equal opportunities for both sexes was ascribed to the socioeconomic developments (Haavio-Mannila and Kontula, 2003). At this time, equal educational opportunities for men and women have started to be provided. Moreover, increasing socioeconomic affluence and wealth have improved means and styles of living (Haavio-Mannila and Kontula, 2003). This paved the way towards sexual exploration, adaptation and revolution (Haavio-Mannila and Kontula, 2003). Gender differences in sexual behaviors, based on evolutionary psychology, are brought by human evolution.
Gender differences are related with reproduction; to ensure the survival and perpetuity of species, male organisms needed to impregnate many females as they can (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). On the other hand, as explained by social learning theory, since sexually-permissive women are ostracized while men with multiple partners gained societal popularity, the society was conditioned to delimit sexual relationship of women into monogamous relationship while giving reinforcement to males having many sexual affairs (Milhausen and Herold, 1999).
This notion gave way to the rise of sexual script theory that catered explanation for the sexual behavior patterns. In accordance with this theory, to abide with the traditional script, men are used to have many sexual partners while women are exclusively intended for one-partner relationship (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). However, amidst these glaring differences, studies on double standard have produced conflicting results. The differences in results for those studies were ascribed to the instruments and criteria utilized by researchers in the conduct of their study (Milhausen and Herold, 1999).
In her study, Gentry (1998) failed to provide conclusive findings on traditional sexual double standard in accordance with gender-based perceptions of her respondents. Also, the respondents’ perception depended mainly on the target’s type of relationship and sexual activity. As consistent with other studies, respondents gave more positive rating on the target with below average sexual activity and in monogamous relationship (Gentry, 1998). Still, the female participants rated an assertive and liberal woman as with higher level of sexual activity (Gentry, 1998).
On the other hand, the degree of assertiveness and sexual activity were not significantly associated with the concept of liberal men (Gentry, 1998). As such, it was noted that male and female participants both used social and physical attributes in their perception of a desirable individual (Gentry, 1998). Generally, male respondents relied on gender and sexual activity data in conceiving the personality of male targets and classified targets with below average sexual activity as less appealing (Gentry, 1998).
However, the findings of this study did not reflect the noticeable gender bias in the university where it was conducted; the pathway towards female residence halls was named as “walk of shame” which is an insinuation against female student who spent overnight with male (Gentry, 1998). In 1982, Spreadbury reported that women respondents tended to rate the sexual behavior of women as more promiscuous than men which denoted their support towards double standard (Milhausen and Herold, 1999).
Also, in 1987, when it comes to the assessment of the first sexual experience of a hypothetical case, Sprecher, Orbuch, and McKinney revealed that respondents gave negative more negative rate on female case than male case (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). In terms of preferences for a partner, in 1995, O’ Sullivan revealed that both male and female respondents less favored for a highly sex-experienced person (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). Moreover, in 1997, Sprecher, McKinney, and Regan showed that both male and female respondents preferred for a date without any sexual experience (Milhausen and Herold, 1999).
Nonetheless, in 1992, Sedikides reported male respondents much preferred sexually experienced women for casual date (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). This male preference for casual date reflected the double standard among male participants. In relation to this, in 1992, Oliver and Sedikides reasoned out that male respondents choose women with more sexual experience as casual dates to gain sex experience but much preferred women without sex experience as their marriage partners (Milhausen and Herold, 1999).
This is again an indication of a double standard. In the same manner, as explained by Sprecher, Orbuch, and McKinney in 1991, the refusal of female respondents with highly sex-experienced men in any relationship, implied reversed double standard (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). In their study among university women in Canada, Milhausen and Herold (1999) found that students are personally against double standard even if women’s behavior was deemed harshly than men (Milhausen and Herold, 1999).
They also favored for the importance of sex, thus, rejecting one notion of double standard (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). In addition, the respondents gave negative rating for both male and female with more sex experience (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). Still, they perceived men with multiple sexual partners as exploitative, sexual predators, and manipulative (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). They also perceived that other women mostly gained criticism from other women than men due to their sexual behavior (Milhausen and Herold, 1999).
Furthermore, the respondents denounced the idea of supporting either a female friend in dating with highly sex-experienced man or even a male friend dating with highly sex-experienced woman (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). This signified the discouragement for double standard. However, if the highly sex-experienced man has other positive characteristics, the respondents gave possible chance of dating with that man (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). Personality attributes take precedence in choosing a partner rather than sexual experience (Milhausen and Herold, 1999).
Conversely, there were respondents that even in the presence of good personality traits in a sex-experienced man would still turn down the date (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). In line with this, women who had multiple sexual relations tended to choose men who also had multiple sexual affairs (Milhausen and Herold, 1999). The experimental investigation of Sheeran, Abrams, Spears, and Abraham in 1996, respondents perceived that female should have lower number of sexual relationship than male (Crawford and Popp, 2003).
In addition, as perceived by both non-religious female and religious male, sexually active women are seldom observed (Crawford and Popp, 2003). Moreover, participants rated women who have changed sexual partner for several times in a year as more irresponsible than men of the same case (Crawford and Popp, 2003). In the same year, Sprecher and Hatfield observed that male respondents signified a double standard for both male and female in casual dating but not for male and female in a pre-engage or serious dating stage (Crawford and Popp, 2003).
In a cross-cultural study, Russian students have higher tendency for traditional double standard even during the dating stage (Crawford and Popp, 2003). In contrast, higher tendency for double standards endorsed by male respondents than female respondents were observed for the United States participants than Japanese and Russian participants (Crawford and Popp, 2003). As such, in the United States, male respondents associated permissiveness more on males than females (Crawford and Popp, 2003). As a general observation, male in the United States have greater inclination towards double standards than female (Crawford and Popp, 2003).
In terms of personality attributes, Morris, Young, and Jones (2000) found that Bolivian elite students, both male and female, having high self-esteem generally involved in sexual intercourse. In contrast, home self-esteem was associated with conservative sexual behaviors. Analysis and Conclusion Event though double standards may seem to vanish but its contemporary form may emerge which in turn affects human sexual behavior (Crawford and Popp, 2003). Evidences of heterosexual standards emanated from respondents as they proposed dissimilar levels of accepted sexual activity for both male and female (Crawford and Popp, 2003).
Similarly, double standards may arise through the responses of the participants with regards to specific behaviors. Also, double standards can be noticed and evaluated based on the purpose of sexual activity and global measures respectively (Crawford and Popp, 2003). Meanwhile, double standards in sexual issues have been captured the attention of social and biological researchers, the studies have poor methodological designs (Marks, 2008). In relation to cognitive theories, in 2006, Marks and Fraley postulated that observations congruent with the double standard are easily encoded in mind than deviant events (Marks, 2008).
For instance, a woman maligned due to extramarital affairs easily clings in the mind of the public than a woman given reinforcement because of sexual activity. Also, in 2007, they endorsed that individuals while in group, tended to support double standard than when alone because of interactions among the respondents (Marks, 2008). The social interaction among the participants may trigger cognitive functions leading to the use of stereotypes, thus, signified the tendency of the respondents to endorse double standard in public but not privately (Marks, 2008).
Most of the researches conducted in this endeavor, utilized fictional approach instrumentation in eliciting respondents’ perception regarding every possible aspect of double standard; thus, failed to accurately quantify the sexual double standards in real-life basis (Marks, 2008). In this approach, hypothetical cases in the form of interview or stories will be given to the participants and allowing them to form judgments based on case specificity. However, double standard stereotypes were formed as general impression for a specific class of individuals (Marks, 2008).
Hence, the purpose served by the research technique mentioned earlier was individuation not as stereotypes. In connection to this, Marks (2008) found that participants rated both males and females equally with respect to double standards on full attention basis. On the other hand, when their attention was divided, they favorably rated sexually-active men than women (Marks, 2008). Based on the results of his study, Marks (2008) reported that sexual double standard was more common than what has been suggested by previous researches.
In addition, the fictional strategy in the assessment of double standard can hardly measure the extent of double standard in sexuality (Marks, 2008). Based on the abovementioned literature, socio-cultural factors shape gender stereotypes which in turn lead to the practice of double standards in sexuality. However, contemporary researches showed that sexual stereotype does not hold true for general cases (Clements-Schreiber and Rempel, 1998).
For instance, McCormick (1979) reported that students generally attributed sex goal to males and sex avoidance to females but contemporary researches revealed that women initiated sex with their partners as men showed some form of resistance towards sexual intercourse. In line with this, the value given by the society to sexual double standard is a determinant of gender inequality. On the other hand, double standard may affect women positively. For example, women are prohibited for multiple sexual affairs but men are condoned for such practice.
This double standard saves women from unwanted pregnancy and transmission of sexually-related diseases like HIV/AIDS and gonorrhea. Additionally, having unplanned children form different men will also be lessened; hence, causes reduction of population explosion and deterrence of its inevitable consequences such as poverty and food scarcity. Therefore, in a way or another, sexual double standard was spontaneously established through norms, mores, and traditional beliefs of the early society to regulate sexual relationship which in turn leads to a strong clan foundation.
As supported by the findings of McCormick (1994), since women in general, make the crucial decision on the extent of sexual behavior in heterogeneous relationship (Milhausen and Herold, 1999), they have been the subject of the preconceived inequality in sexual relations. Hence, for a better perspective of this sexual double standard, contemporary research findings should be integrated with the historical and traditional rationale of double standard existence. In the end, the persistence or re-emergence of any sexual standards in the contemporary society will always depend on individuals themselves. References Clements-Schreiber, M. E.
, Rempel, J. K. , and Desmarais, S. (1998). Women’s Sexual Pressure Tactics and Adherence to Related Attitudes: A Step Toward Prediction. The Journal of Sex Research, 35 (2), 197-205. Crawford, M. and Popp, D. (2003). Sexual Double Standards: A Review and Methodological Critique of Two Decades of Research. The Journal of Sex Research, 40 (1), 13-26. Gentry, M. (1998). The Sexual Double Standard The Influence of Number of Relationships and Level of Sexual Activity on Judgments of Women and Men. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22, 505-511. Haavio-Mannila, E. and Kontula, O. (2003). Single and Double Standards in Finland, Estonia, and St.
Petersberg. The Journal of Sex Research, 40 (1), 36-49. Marks, M. J. (2008). Evaluations of Sexually Active Men and Women Under Divided Attention: A Social Cognitive Approach to Sexual Double Standard. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 30, 84-91. Milhausen, R. R. and Herold, E. S. (1999). Does the Sexual Double Standard Still Exist? Perceptions of University Women. The Journal of Sex Research, 36(4), 361-368. Morris, J. , Young, M. , and Jones, C. (2000). Self-Esteem and Adolescent Sexual Behavior Among Students at an Elite Bolivian School. The International Electronic Journal of Health Education, 3(1), 36-43.
Subject: Gender Differences,
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 3 October 2016
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