THE SEXUAL DOUBLE STANDARD AND ADOLESCENT PEER ACCEPTANCE
I know it's been said before but, as a teenage girl with friends of both genders, double standards are a massive issue for me. It's come to a head. The relevance of this double standard for sexual development and gender activity (e.g., on a “first-date”, prior to marriage, in a non-committal relationship, etc.); .. gender and the enforcement of sexual standards in adolescent peer culture. public, research findings on the sexual double standard remain equivocal, with qualitative studies and early . sexual activity (e.g., on a "first-date", prior to If not, the culture is threatened sexual standards in adolescent peer culture. Third.
Ethnographies of secondary schools and early attitudinal studies found evidence of the double standard Eder, Evans, and Parker ; Oliver and Sedikides ; Sprecher, McKinney, and Orbuchwhereas more recent experimental vignette studies generally fail to find similar results Gentry ; Milhausen and Herold ; Marks and Fraley ; The existence of a modern sexual double standard thus remains in doubt, opening the door for further research and innovative study designs.
However, studies in this vein have primarily relied on undergraduate convenience samples that may not generalize to adolescent populations. Moreover, the attitudes captured in survey designs may not translate to the enactment of gendered behaviors in social situations, leading to a disjuncture between motives and outcomes Reskin School-based ethnographies and individual case studies address this issue by focusing on the expression and consequences of gendered sexual attitudes in specific social contexts.
These studies therefore link psychological concepts with their socially constructed meanings and outcomes, bringing us closer to understanding how sexuality is regulated in a given social context and who potentially benefits or is stigmatized by these processes.
Such studies are not without their own limitations, however. The small scale and relatively homogenous samples of most qualitative studies limit their generalizability and ability to make statistical comparisons. In this study, we build on the strengths of both survey and ethnographic research by quantitatively measuring the expected social consequences of sexual behavior in a national sample of adolescent youth. Specifically, we rely on network data collected from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health Add Health to test whether the association between adolescent peer acceptance and the number of self-reported sexual partners varies significantly by gender.
Our use of peer-network data allows us to statistically compare the peer status levels of sexually permissive boys and girls and their non-permissive peers.
Colemanin his seminal work Adolescent Society, found that social class background, athletics, physical attractiveness, and material possessions e.
For the most part, the criteria for adolescent popularity operate in the same directions for both girls and boys, even if some characteristics or activities — such as attractiveness, athletics, or physical aggression — may have stronger associations with peer status for one gender than the other Coleman ; LaFontana and Cillessen ; Steffensmeier and Allan Sexual behaviors may provide an exception to this pattern.
According to the sexual double standard, the social consequences of early romantic and sexual experiences differ substantially by gender, with gender-specific norms governing the appropriate number of sex partners; the conditions under which it is acceptable to engage in sexual activity e.
Although gendered norms of appropriate sexual conduct have existed for centuries e. Shifts in sexual norms may result in a single standard of sexual conduct that is applied to both men and women Marks and Fraley Accordingly, negative perceptions of sexual permissiveness may lower the social desirability of a sexual actor regardless of his or her gender.
Tests of a modern sexual double standard remain inconclusive and contested. We first review this research, paying particular attention to modern adolescent peer contexts and potential gender differences in sexual norm enforcement. We also consider sociodemographic variations in the double standard, such that gender and socioeconomic background may combine non-additively with sexual experiences to affect adolescent peer acceptance.
Teenagers and Double Standards
Finally, we discuss those individual and social characteristics that may moderate or make spurious any link between sexual behavior and peer status. In perhaps the earliest study of sexual attitudes, Reiss asked student respondents to directly comment on normative sexual behavior, finding that a majority of the respondents who did not endorse sexual abstinence agreed that it was acceptable for a male, but not a female, to have premarital intercourse.
Similarly, more recent survey research suggests that respondents perceive women to be judged significantly more harshly than men for having higher numbers of sex partners Milhausen and Herold ; Sheeran et al. These findings are commonly confirmed in school-based ethnographies. If not, the culture is threatened by her philanthropy, and punishes her by ruining her reputation and taking away her status.
Results from experimental vignette designs have been much less consistent. In these studies, subjects are provided with sexual information e. The sexual information and gender of the target are then randomly varied to test for the existence of a double standard. Although early studies with this method tended to find evidence of the double standard, recent studies fail to find similar results.
To reconcile these null results with pervasive beliefs in the double standard and results from earlier attitudinal studies and ethnographic research, Marks and Fraley suggested that the double standard is a cultural fiction reified by individuals who selectively attend to confirming evidence presented to them in the media or in conversations, but not personally endorsed by them.
Teenagers and Double Standards - Women’s Media Center
A social network consists of a set of interdependent nodes e. At the level of the individual i. Incoming friendship nominations thus provide a measure of peer status for each individual in the network. A network approach shares the advantages of experimental vignette and ethnographic designs.
Similar to experimental designs, our approach overcomes much of the response bias arising from self-reported measures of sexual attitudes Paulhus Our method eliminates this problem by directly measuring the presumed outcome of the sexual double standard e. Variations by Gender of the Evaluator Another advantage of a network approach is that it allows us to examine the characteristics of the peers who provide status to sexual actors Newcomer et al.
A critical question regarding the sexual double standard is whether the gender of an evaluator matters for the sanctioning or support of sexual behaviors.
“Double standards” in teens’ sexual attitudes and behaviors
Previous ethnographic and interview research suggests that girls are the arbiters of female sexual conduct Coleman ; Eder et al. The authors speculated that the increase in female sexual insulting of other girls during adolescence might result from an increasing awareness of sexual double standards, jealousy, or the lack of alternative discourses regarding adolescent female sexuality.
If sexual standards do differ by gender, then sexually permissive women may not be accepted by female peers, but be well liked by male peers. Similarly, permissive men may be accepted by other men, but be disfavored by women. The double standard may also be obvious in attitudes about behaviors: Peer acceptance has been shown in research to be positive for boys with many sexual partners but negative for girls with many sexual partners.
As a doctor for teenagers, I am frustrated by this double standard. I recently asked a teenage boy, "What if your teenage sister had the same number of lifetime partners that you have had? Teen boys may not think of consequences because they aren't the ones who get pregnant. In May,a billboard campaign featuring images of "pregnant" boys was launched in Chicago with the goal of reducing teen pregnancy rates in the city. The Chicago Department of Public Health chose the unusual images because it wanted to impress upon young males that preventing teen pregnancy is not just the girl's responsibility.
The ad campaign was seen on billboards in the city, in the suburbs, on buses and on trains. A similar campaign was previously conducted in Milwaukee.
My advice to parents: Talk with your children about the double standards that exist in our society. Teach them that the Golden Rule applies to sexual behavior, too: December 17, - 5: