Double Sstandard

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The perception that a double standard exists between men and women, with regard to matters sexual in nature, is our topic of study. The World Book dictionary defines a double standard as principles applied more leniently to one group than another. A sexual double standard asserts that “men have greater sexual freedom than women, and that society accepts and tolerates from men certain sexual behaviors, such as premarital and extramarital sex, that it does not from women” (Gentry 1998: 505). Many researchers have studied this topic from a variety of viewpoints. For example, the idea that desiring sexuality is positively regarded in men, but denigrated and regulated by negative labeling in women was assessed in one study in New Zealand ( Jackson and Cram 2003: 115). Some studies take a sociobiological approach in examining differences in sexual arousal to sexual stimuli. In one study, the assumption was that women were less responsive than men to sexual stimuli (Murnen and Stockton 1997: 135). In another, the assumption was that men are designed to be stimulated visually, while women are designed to be stimulated in a more auditory and tactile manner (Malamuth 1996: 8). A more lighthearted approach to a sexual double standard was taken in a study done in Texas examining country music lyrics. All of the songs used were sung by female artists. Interestingly, these researchers found that female singers excused infidelity from married women but not married men. However, the view that only men have sexual relations before marriage or outside of it was accepted by men but rejected by women. Overall, though, the lyrics supported traditional gender roles and restrictions (Chandler and Chalfant 1985: 155). Mary Vause from the University of Virginia examined what appeared to be the taboo topic of women and masturbation. Masturbation was a subject of major confusion to girls, Vause found. She attributed this confusion to “ a shocking double standard” created and it seems, encouraged, by our culture. Vause felt that our society views “girls interest in sex as threatening or just plain wrong, while boys sexual pursuits are treated as a completely natural phenomenon (2004: 58). In contrast, according to Baumeister and Tice in their book The Social Dimension of Sex, there are many more similarities than differences between men and women both psychologically and sexually (2001) , While it seems widely agreed that some level of a sexual double standard does exist, its negative effects are not just an impact on women. The long-term effects on middle-years and older men are quite harmful for the man and the marriage (McCarthy 2001: 29). Regional differences, specifically the Northern and Southern states, in the sexual double standard have also been studied. In a study entitled “Jocks, Nerds, Babes and Thugs: A Research Note on Regional Differences in Adolescent Gender Norms”, it was found that although boys are likely to gain prestige from their peers through sexual activity in both regions, girls from the south were more likely to gain prestige by having a good reputation than their Northern sisters (Suitor and Carter 1999: 87). Emily White devoted an entire book to a girl’s reputation. She initially intended to write an article from the perspective of the high school class “slut.” It turned into a book after she ended up interviewing over 150 girls and women who had either been labeled the class “slut” or considered themselves one. Time and again throughout the book, the enormously negative impact of this label is spelled out in social consequences. Sometimes, although the label may have been inaccurate initially, the girl ended up fulfilling the role eventually. It seemed that quite often truly fantastic and unbelievable stories became attached to the girl and her supposed exploits. Somewhat more positively, the book outlined the movement in the 1990’s to repossess the word slut to deflate its...
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