Sexual Double Standard

I did a search on Double Standard, and didn’t find anything recent on this specific topic. Forgive me if this has been beaten to death.

In this thread, Wranglerette touches upon a subject that is of interest to me by defending the Bible’s stance (more specifically, the Old Testament) on sexual behavior, which seemed to be that a woman had to be a virgin when she came into marriage, but that a man could have multiple wives, and sleep with women outside marriage.

I had just been discussing something similar with a young woman, a senior in high school, who is my daughter’s friend. She is generally quite liberal in her thinking, but last night I heard her call a television actress a whore because of things she had heard about this person’s personal life. I brought up the stance that there is the slut word usually applied to women, and the closest equivalent word applied to men is stud.

What I’m hoping to discuss and debate here is to what extent this double standard still exists, and if anyone can actually come up with a good defense for it, it being this: that men should be allowed more sexual freedom than women, and women should be denigrated for sleeping around, and men should not.

Well, it’s a poor start for a debate, but I can’t really defend men having more sexual freedom (These days) than women.

I suppose the closest I can get is that, historically, (pre birth-control times) a woman that slept around a lot would tend to have children with no identifiable father. Although it’s not a big deal now, in those times it was a problem for both mother and child.

So, the only reason I think of right now is that in previous days a woman who slept around a lot could reasonably be considered as lacking in foresight, hence the derogatory terms.

Sorry, but that’s the best I can do right now.



Well, according to Engels the double standard was deliberately imposed to shame women from sleeping around, so that men could be sure the kids they were passing their inheritance onto were actually their kids. Don’t have a cite for this and I doubt it was really much more than speculation on his part anyway, but it’s an interesting idea.

I, too, think that is probably the historical reason that women had this standard imposed upon them. But I am not quite sure why this attitude hangs on so much today.

This area (St. Cloud, MN) seems to be very conservative in its views, and I have heard the term slut applied to women who have multiple partners. I hear both men and women using this term, and by doing so, I believe they are buying into that double standard.

I recently had occasion to sort of counsel (the advice was not asked for, nor was it well received) a girl who is still in her middle teens and has been sexually active for over a year. My concern for her was the possibility of venereal disease and unplanned pregnancy, and I directed her to several possible sources of help. I have heard through other sources that this girl is being called a slut and whore by some of the same people who either purport to be her friends or have slept with her. I don’t know why this attitude is still around.

The aforementioned attitude is still around for the same reason that society generally condemns nonheterosexual relationships and polyamorous relationships: irrational attachment to hysterical raisins.

I think its an outdated idea and perhaps a little naive. As there is always a split of 50/50 girls and boys then who exactly are the ‘stud’ boys sleeping with if the girls are all virgins.


I think there is a strong argument for saying that your testosteren ( sorry, can’t spell ) level determines your sex drive and some women have a lot of it ( as do some, well a lot, of men ) and hence its just part of there nature.

I can think of at least a couple negative words to describe this kind of man: womanizer and philanderer. You don’t hear these terms used much any more, but if anybody wants to resurrect them…

This is most likely a generational thing, but many people my age and younger use the word “slut” to refer to men as well as women. This is often done with a sense of irony, although sometimes it is said in all seriousness. I think, eventually, the word will lose it’s feminine connotation.

Also, “stud” is not the closest equivalent word to “slut” in modern parlance. “Player” or “dog” are closer, but neither of these are used as often as “slut”. There really isn’t a very good match for “slut”. “Stud” is approximately the equivalent of “babe”.

(I just Previewed, and noticed scratch1300’s post mentioning womanizer and philanderer. These are indeed matches for “slut”, but, as scratch1300 points out, they are not widely used anymore.)

I do not believe that women are denigrated for sleeping around any more than men are. I readily admit that this is based on my very limited experience with such matters.

KellyM said

I would put it differently. The slut/stud and hetero/homo standards don’t make sense because social mores don’t make sense. We are humans, not Borg.

It also makes little or no sense to:

wear clothing in public at all times
not swear
eat with utensiles
dress fashionably
own house pets
care about the color of our house
close the door to the bathroom
Have kids
If we could act on the basis of pure reasoning, life wouldn’t be that much fun, now would it?

Being in a patriarchal(sp?) society: It’s a social control built in to ensure that the dominant male passes-on his genes. It, to a lesser degree, also has some relationship to our society being moslty descended from marginal agrarian societies, meaning poor farmers, always close to starvation. Women that have children w/out husbands or other sources of resources are likely to starve to death, reducing the viablity of the comunity, and incidentally, limiting the spread of her parent’s genes. The more resources are available, the lower the onus of bastardry, and by extention, the less concern over promiscuity.

In many matriarchal societies, and in some pathriarchal societies, one woman may have several husbands. Matriarchal society also (gererally) place less condemnation on promiscuity. After all, while the father may not be known, the mother sure as hell is! This is also an adaption to resource levels. In one that I can think of, resources are so limited that the multiple husband rule limits births (can only be pregnant so many times), while in another, it’s a resource rich enviroment, and it just fell out that way. There is also a tribal group in Africa wherein mongamy is practiced, but semi-casual sex outside the mariage is the norm.

The range of social behaviors in the human condition are enourmous. Too bad we, as a society, come from the starving farmers: We’d all likely be less stressed if our cultural heritage came from somewhere more open.

I also read an explanation of the different points of view from an animal behavior standpoint (from a textbook I know longer have):

Women have more of a chance of passing on their genes into the gene pool by having a mate that stays with them and helps raise the children so those children will survive to procreate. Men have more chances to insert their genes into the gene pool by having multiple partners and hoping that at least some of the offspring will survive.

I don’t know how well those two theories actually mesh (or how well I stated them). But it could explain why, traditionally, men have been more promiscuous (and/or maybe less discreet about it?).

The fact that we come from a patriarchal society does explain to a great degree why promiscuity is tolerated among males more than among females.

A minor quiblle, while many matrilineal societies have been recorded, and in many of these women enjoy far more power and authority than strongly patriarchal societies, I know of no instances of a strongly matriarchal society (i.e. men unable to own property, practice self-determination in choice of mate, conduct commerce, etc.). Admitedly, my readings in cultural anthropology have been sporadic, but if you have an example of a strongly matriarchal society I would be quite interested in it.

Re the OP
I think your observation is sound. A double standard does exist toward sexual promiscuity. On the bright side, this trend has shifted significantly in the US since the 1950’. I can only hope that it continues to do so.

Ruadh and Tranquilis have it right. At Cornell University there is a database called the Human Resource Area Files, which was developed by the anthropology department. One of the many ways it classifies societies is by the patterns of inheritance, family dominance, residence. Societies can be matrilineal (wealth passes along maternal lines, usually from the mother’s oldest brother to his oldest nephews), patrilocal (wife moves to husband’s dwelling) and patriarchal (Dad is “head of family”). Or the opposite. Or these parameters can vary along a continuum.

One observation of anthropologists is that the greatest premium is paced on pre-marital chastity and post-marital fidelity for women in PRECISELY those societies where inheritance is patrilineal, especially if a primogeniture rule applies (first son gets the lion’s share, or everything). Why? Because pregnancy is very diffiult to conceal, being a nine-month long condition culminating in a fairly dramatic event, while conception is essentially a short duration event(you know what I mean, relatively speaking) and practically always conducted in conditions of extreme privacy. Those are the very societies wher we can flog sexy teenage chicks and stone adulterous women.

Think about this. When there’s REALLY a lot at stake in a patrilineal society, women sometimes have to give birth in public, so there won’t be any “substitutions” for stillbirths. The queens of France are an example: custom required that the doors of the palace be opened when the queen went into labor and any passing Frenchman could come into the birth chamber to make sure that the child born was ACTUALLY a boy, born of the queen. Succession to the throne of a monarchy is about the biggest benefit you can collect in a patrilineal society.

Hysterical Raisins?

Engels quite beside the point, I don’t think it had much to do with rich fellows wanting to be sure they were passing along their properties to those to whom they had passed along their genes. I offer as evidence in support of this the observation that rich men have tended to sow their genes every-which-a-place and even among those they have acknowledged have historically tended to leave the child-tending to others, so why would they give a shit if these particular rugrats inherit their millions?

No, it is a far simpler form of social control, I think: the rich men want to control the circumstances under which men in general have access to females. If you have that control, you’ve pretty much got the men under your control as well, i.e., “get 'em by their balls and their hearts and minds will follow”.

Sex is widely perceived as being something for which men are more eager than women (whether or why this is true is irrelevent). It is frequently assumed that, in a new relationship, a man will be the one who is more interested in this aspect, and the woman as the one who goes along. For this reason, a man who has successfully bedded alot of women will have an aura of a successful conquerer - he has what it takes to get alot of women to go along with his desires. A woman who sleeps with alot of men will be perceived as someone who gives it up too easily. These are stereotypes that may be wrong in a given instance, but I believe they go a long way to explaining this double standard.

It’s been about 15 years, I’ll have to do a bit of digging for specific material. You may have the right of ‘matrilineal’ vs. ‘matriarchal’, I think.

…raisins? not dates?

Interestingly enough it fluctuates. If women think most men are going to leave them ‘holding the baby’ they go for the most attractive to mate with using the idea that this will lead to children ( especially boys ) who other women want to mate with.

IF, however, they value or think some men may stay around they often have a long courtship ritual as a test of this ‘determination’ and check how domestic they appear.

Considering this, the double standard view is basically created by men for men, if women sleep around then there is more chance that you raise someone elses child ( bad for the man ).

Its still silly though in that if all the men are studs and all the women are virgins where exactly are the sluts ?

Perhaps women just boast less ?mmm

In a way, this is sort of what I am trying to ask about; why are non-virgin women considered sluts and non-virgin men considered studs? Your terminology (and I may be misinterpreting it) seems to fall into this.

The term slut is more degrading than any term such as philanderer or womanizer was. Another term that was used for promiscuous males, rake, was almost a compliment, as in, a rakish smile.

And women boast less about sexual encounters because society still seems to frown upon those who do.