How the Double Standard is Here to Stay

Throughout the years, the term “hooking-up” has had an extremely fluid definition that could imply that society is becoming both more sexually active and sexually acceptable. In both our class discussion and my personal experience, “hooking-up” tends to be inclusive of having sexual intercourse.  I would assume there has been a generational shift, as my parents have told me that when they were teenagers “hooking-up” did not go hand in hand with sexual intercourse. Due to the fact that these were all based on personal assumptions, I decided to check out the facts.  Paula England, a professor of sociology at NYU, researched the hook-up culture at Stanford University.  Her findings were that only thirty to forty percent of students responded that hook-ups involved sexual intercourse, and one third of the respondents said that it only involved making out and some touching (England, 1). England’s study also resulted in the same findings as Bogle’s study, in that there was a clear double standard amongst females and males when it came to hooking up.

It is clear that there is a double standard amongst genders that if women hook-up too often they are perceived as sluts where males are patted on the back, but what constantly comes up is that men cannot define how much is “too much.”  In Bogle’s study, the male student she interviews gives a convoluted and then an almost ludicrous response that “females who hook up with twelve males in a short period of time or five guys a week are considered sluts” (Bogle, 136).

One of the main things that has contributed to the double standard is that relational orientation is gendered.  Women have a stronger desire, especially in college, to be in a committed relationship than men.  Although we often would like to place the blame of this double standard on male judgment, a lot of it is caused by females feeling as if they are going to be judged by their sexual partners and peers.  Having the stigma of being a slut often taints you as damaged goods. In both Bogle’s and England’s studies boys talk and it is generally made known which girls are sleeping around.  England offers the anecdote of her mother saying to her when she was 19 that she needed to be a virgin at marriage because otherwise, if you have had sex and it does not work out, you do not marry that man, and then no other man will marry you.  Because in our current culture almost everyone has premarital sex, excluding Evangelical Christians, there needs to be a definition of how much is “too much” (England, 7).

The reason why “too much” exists is due to the fact that there is an underlying fear of being judged by one’s peers.  England asks the question “Have you ever hooked up with someone and then respected your hookup partner less because they hooked up with you?”  There was a minority of both men and women who answered yes, but slightly more men did. On the other hand, when England posed the question “Have you ever hooked up with someone and then felt that your hookup partner respected you less?” almost half of the female respondents answered yes in comparison to only 20% of males. What this shows is that although many times we fear that males will label us as “sluts”, women are more worried of this happening and think those guys have thought this more than it has actually happened (England, 8).  This gendered script that females hold themselves to only acts to reinforce the stigma that males attach to them.  It is evident that there has yet to be a definition on what “too much” is but the there is a commonly held belief that the notion does exist, and it exists in such a way that it will take a while to get rid of.

Bogle, Kathleen. “Hooking Up: Men, Women, and the Sexual Double Standard.” Hooking Up: Sex, Dating, and Relationships on Campus. New York: New York University Press. 2008.

England, Paula. “Understanding Hookup Culture: What’s Really Happening on College Campuses.” Media Education Fund. 2011.

6 thoughts on “How the Double Standard is Here to Stay

  1. While I definitely agree that we are perpetuating this double standard by continuously feeding into the hook-up culture, I disagree that women are reinforcing the stigma of hooking up by thinking that they are being judged more than amount men actually judge them. I think this mentality of women can contribute to a decrease in their personal feelings of self worth and might be a reason they are so much more likely to experience regrets. This perhaps might lead to further hook up experiences or behaviors that increase the judgement of their peers or alternatively, it may lead them to fore go future hook up experiences.

    Also, I would just like to say that there are a lot of people who don’t participate in premarital sex apart from “Evangelical Christians.”

    • If this is only a mentality about self worth, would this lead to one trying to force a relationship out of a what was only meant to be a hook-up? I have heard stories of friends (both guys and girls) who have hooked-up with someone then suddenly are having to “talk” with the counterpart about what happened. I would suspect that this feeling of regret would force one to consider becoming a “hook-up buddy” or more in order to avoid the potential social stigma that would come with a one night stand. But how would this increase a feeling of acceptance, or does this just prolong the regret?

    • Just to add to what j thinks has said, I too think that many religions, other than Christianity, have rules about no premarital sex. Whether or not followers abide by those rules is another thing.

  2. The Block: you have done a great job using correctly cited evidence from both course readings and research outside of class to support your argument. Keep up the good work. I think what you are suggesting here is that young women need to “flip the script” about women and hooking up. How can they (you) do that? Is it just about changing their own minds (and then that change will emanate out into society) or does it require and external societal transformation?

  3. It is interesting that the term “hooking up” has different definitions amongst various types of people. I feel this has to do with not only social settings, but also family upbringings. I would be curious to see how the Standford results would differ if a different location was used (maybe not a University setting)?

  4. Agreed cheddar and Dr. DT, hooking up has a malleable definition and there are man religious sex rules and taboos.
    I think that hooking up and specifically sex all has to do with will the value in the relationship and in one’s significant other. If you do not have the will to resist or the interest to keep you occupied, you will get physical. It is entirely possible, I think, to hook up and not even really…hook up. I can get together with a female I’m close with and we could have a very intimate night and not do anything. We could do other stuff, options are never limited, its just what the mood is that dictates the moves made. I know for a fact that I enjoy a girl, in terms of enjoy as a person, more if I am willing to chill with her and not do anything too physical.
    For me that is where the double standard can develop from. Is this girl in front of you someone you are trying to have sex with or is it someone you are trying to just chill with. Maybe she is both. A woman who can capture my attention 100%, regardless how much we physically hook up, is more important than a girl I have to have physical relations with order to maintain my interest in her. Men often think bluntly, at their core and base. Often times the thought is rude and mean. This is where the negative implication in the term slut comes from when implied to women.
    This was a subject me and my best friend talked about. It was a man cave…dudes at the round table scene. And the question was asked, “….how many girls should I have had sex in, through the eyes of my girlfriend…?” In other words, through the eyes of a woman who is interested in you and sexually attracted to you, how much does it matter how many girls you have slept with. What is the right number? The consensus was that it fluctuates with how much one likes their significant other; someone who has been their and done that, as apposed to someone who would have a learning curve.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *