Why Does the Double Standard for Women and Sex Persist?

This is partially inspired by Kalhoun’s IMHO thread on Purity Balls and by a review I read of a book on the culture of hooking up. Despite 40 years of feminism, give or take, there still seems to be a double standard when it comes to women having casual sex versus men having casual sex. The people participating in the Purity Balls Kalhoun talked about seem very concerned about preserving their daughters’ virginity, but no mention is made of their sons’. In Unhooked Laura Sessions Stepp talks a great deal about young women hooking up for casual, no strings attached sex and, in the review I read, she seems to think it’s more a problem for young women than young men, although she also said she wanted to focus more on women than men.

Why does it seem like casual sex is still less appropriate for women than men? It can’t all be due to the fact that women can get pregnant, can it? I don’t have any answers, only questions. It might make for an interesting discussion though.

I’d postulate that partly, even though we have 40+ years of feminism behind us, there’s approximately 5000 years of non-feminism behind that. Ingrained behavior patterns (that suited humanity well in terms of survival and expansion) don’t go away overnight because of an intellectual argument.

There’s also the ever-popular thing about men being wired for casual sex more than women. But I don’t know what research is out there concerning it.

I think it pretty much can be. Contraception and paternity testing and a society so rich that even single mothers can survive without the help of their family are all pretty recent developments, on a timescale relevant to the development of our brains and our culture.

Females, through childbirth and breastfeeding, are unavoidably associated with their children. Males not so. Until recently, the extended family was the basic economic unit:

1/ If your daughter or sister got casually pregnant, you would have had to support her if the impregnating male didn’t.

If your son or brother got a female casually pregnant it may have caused you economic stress but the female probably wouldn’t have been able to prove anything and anyway even if she could, she may not have been able to force you to support her, meaning you pass on some genetic material without having to “pay” in terms of providing support.

2/ If the mother of your children got casually pregnant you may not even have known that you are bringing up someone else’s genetic material, and even if you knew, if she’s also the mother of your children you may still have had to support her thus diluting the economic support you could give to your own offspring carrying your own genetic material.

If the father of your children gets some other female pregnant, the other female probably wouldn’t have been able to prove anything and anyway even if she could, she may not have been able to force you or the father of your children to do anything about it, thus no dilution of the economic support the father of your children can give to your children.

3/ If your mother gets casually pregnant you may not even know that you are helping bring up siblings that share only half your genetic material, and even if you know, she’s still your mother so you may still have to support her children as part of the extended family thus diluting the support you can give to your siblings who have more genetic material in common with you than your half siblings.

If your father gets some other female (not your mother) pregnant the other female probably wouldn’t have been able to prove anything and anyway even if she could, she may not have been able to force you or your father to do anything about it.

The whole thing is too asymetrical for it to be surprising that we might be culturally and mentally less comfortable with females having casual sex.

maybe. But I’d say it’s more of a holdover from the male dominated society. With proper use of birth control methods, the chance of pregnancy is essentially nil, so close as to be reasonably considered zero (again with proper use. So personally, for those who practice safe sex, I think the double standard is ridiculous. A standard based on the safety of the sex you practice could equally be applied to both genders, but instead we have a religious/cultural hold out. I commented in another thread, the funny thing is, guys who don’t get any from some girl one night will call a girl a prude, but a girl who has sex with a couple other people becomes a slut. So really girls are sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place.

I’d attribute it to sociobiology – a theory feminists hate because it appears to justify the double standard, but it doesn’t, really – science as science makes no value judgments – it merely explains it. What it comes down to is, all living organisms strive to maximize their differential reproductive success – not consciously, but instinctively, because they are the descendants of a long line of organisms that achieved such success and the successful strategies are coded in their DNA. Applying this to humans: Men and women have fundamentally different reproductive strategies. A man is potentially capable of siring more than 300 children in a year, provided he has access to that many fertile women. A women can bear at most 20 children in her lifetime, and she only needs one man for that. Therefore, a man’s instinctive drive is to scatter his seed far and wide – and to make sure every woman with whom he companies is faithful to him, so he doesn’t end up taking responsibility for some other male’s offspring. A woman’s drive is to find The One man who can not only get healthy children on her, but can provide her and them with adequate food and protection. This explains why men are instinctively both more promiscuous and more jealous than women. A woman with a steady man can afford to tolerate his infidelity – just so long is it doesn’t progress to the point where he abandons her for a new woman. From her POV, OTOH, cheating on her man is a perfectly viable reproductive strategy, so long as he doesn’t find out and kick the cuckoos out of his nest.

This even seems to apply to gay men and women. Correct me if I’m wrong, but gay men are typically much more promiscuous than lesbians, or at least that’s the impression one gets from popular culture and history. A gay man is still a man with a man’s sexual instincts, though their expression is fundamentally divorced from reproduction.

It is also why straight men of all ages are tempted by young women. You might think an older women with more sexual experience would be a much better lay – but a young woman is in her prime breeding years, able to produce a large number of healthy offspring between now and menopause. A man who ogles women, of course, is not consciously thinking of getting children on them; his reaction operates on a level that bypasses conscious thought. It is hard-wired in his brain.

Of course, just because a given behavior is “natural” in the sense of being mandated by our inherited instincts, does not mean we should do it. In many respects, our instincts our obsolete. All humans are descended from primitive hunter-gatherers in the Sudan, we are adapted to survive and thrive in that environment, and our culture and technology have progressed drastically since then while our basic genome has changed very little. We instinctively eat as much food as we can at every meal, because when you’re a hunter-gatherer you never know when you’re going to get any more; but if you consistently yield to this instinct in modern society you will become grossly overweight, diminish your reproductive potential and shorten your lifespan.

But standards like this are societal standards, not personal ones, so it makes sense to consider the average use of birth control, not perfect use. In which case, it’s not nearly as effective.

I’ve seen a lot more young women undergo emotional trauma as a result of sexual relationships they have at a young age then I have young men. That’s anecdotal, I know, but it seems that when it comes to sexual relationships the young woman is more likely to be left out in the cold than a young man. Keep in mind I’m not necessarily referring to what we might call emotional or physical abuse. It’s just that young women seem to become more attached to their sexual partners than young men.


Why is the word “young” necessary in this sentence?

And I think this happens because it’s what they’re told will happen. Girls are supposed to think of sex and love as inseparable things. They’re pushed this message that they will be emotionally fucked up if their first time isn’t fairy tale perfect from parents, older siblings, friends, books, magazines, movies, schools and churches that sex cannot be separated from love and that if they have sex with someone who they don’t love and who doesn’t love them, it will cause them brutal emotional scars and turn them into a wreck.

Maybe we should stop feeding them the fairy-princess-rescued-by-the-handsome-prince-and-married-happily-ever-after message from the time they’re born and see what happens.

The OP does not ask a moral question, though that seems to be what you are discussing. The OP is about societal attitudes. I think that what you need to ask yourself is why, given the obvious assymetry, attitudes to casual sex for women and men would be the same.

Gee, BG, I’m not quite sure how I should take this question. Why are you asking it? It it some passive aggressive effort to put me on the defensive? To answer you question, let us first take a look at the OP.

The bolding is mine, not Siege’s. I mentioned young women in particular because, like the author of Unhooked, I think that young women are more likely to be in a bad position than older more experienced women. I hope that answers your question in a satisfactory manner.


That might be a part of it though I’m not convinced that’s the whole of it. I doubt we’re going to stop feeding men or women on the idea of finding a good mate. Usually, in the case of young women, the problem starts when they’re out with a dirtbag that everyone else knows is a dirtbag but them. For some reason, young women seem to think he’s a diamond in the rough and he can be changed. As I said earlier, I acknowledge that my experience in anecdotal and hardly represents any major study.


Here’s my own personal theory I thought of in study hall when I was a junior in high school.
The reason why guys are considered studs and such if he can bed a lot of girls is because he has to work for it. Women, for the most part, control whether or not sex happens. Yes, there’s equal say blah blah blah, but in all honesty women really do have the power. Chances are a man’s not going to stop the woman.

Whereas any woman can get a guy. If she may not get ‘good catches’ and all, but she can always find someone. She gets hit on, a guy has to do the hitting, if that makes any sense.

The thing is, there appears to be a double standard of double standards. In some circles, like much of the media, men who want sex are condemned as “predators” whereas for women, sex is “empowering” because they’re doing what they choose to do with their bodies.

there definitely is a double standard, but it isn’t all a one way street. more of a trade off really.
you are absolutely right, in our civilization, women who were more sexually active have been given a bad name where men have not. BUT–
a) we all need sex, whether we’re single or coupled up. any average looking female with a decent build can go into any applebee’s on a given night and have guys (not just average guys, but guys who would probably be a little above who she might normally date) buying her drinks and pining for her attention. if she wants sex she will probably have her choice of men to take home. a decent looking guy can walk into a pub and more than likely line up with the other average joes, chances are very slim that a female who is normally a bit out of reach will be trying to get him into bed. are most jokes about girls getting hammered at a bar and going home with an ugly guy? no, they are usually the exact opposite.

b) we all age and lose our physical appeal. why is it viewed so differently when an older women, maybe a middle aged teacher, has a fling with a 16 year old boy, but when a middle aged male teacher even LOOKS at a 16 year old girl he is scum?

c) of probably 90% of all younger married couples that I know or have known back when I was one, the wife controls the sex. in the 20 years I have been in housing sales and finance, I could not tell you how many couples I’ve befriended thru work, and how many wives have basically promised sex (even a few times made a DEAL, ie a month of all the sex the husband wants) if she gets her way and he agrees on major decisions.

women had it a lot harder than men for a lot of years and it still isn’t exactly equal, I agree. but please stop whining about the so called double standard of sex. it really does go both ways.

And don’t forget the double-standard that women demand equal pay, but men are still expected to buy dinner.

I was merely pointing out that women of all ages, not just the young, are more likely than men to get emotionally attached to their sex partners.

I have a GQ’ish question about this: Is it possible that after a lot of sexual encounters, the female anatomy is not the same (and less pleasurable to the male partner) as it was in the beginning, while the male anatomy is pretty much unchanged by any amount of sex?

If the above is true, and I don’t have any data to prove it true or false, could this be one source of the double standard?

If a woman can still be a good fuck after bearing a child (and how would large families be possible otherwise?), a woman can still be a good fuck after taking a large number of cocks much smaller than any baby’s head.

Besides, I don’t see how having sex with 100 guys one time each would affect a woman’s vagina any more than having sex with one guy 100 times.

Having a baby puts the body in a condition that cannot be compared to day-to-day situations, due to the various hormones involved.

Comparing passing a baby’s head once or twice in a lifetime, under the deluge of the hormones released during childbirth (which, among other things, loosens the woman’s joints), with passing a penis hundreds of times, under the deluge of the hormones released during intercourse, is not necessarily a valid way to predict what would happen in the latter case.

There may still be zero effect from a woman having sex hundreds of times, but I think what happens during childbirth is only loosely related to what happens to a woman’s body in normal situations.

At least that one guy would have enjoyed the first 99 times :slight_smile: