Why Girls Want to Define the Relationship (DTR)

Looking through a heteronormative lens, girls typically are more eager than boys to define the relationship they are in with their romantic partner. This could be the case because of sexual double standards that exist in society today. In the book, Hooking Up, Kathleen A. Bogle explores how the term sexual double standard refers to how women face judgement when they are promiscuous, while men have the freedom to be as sexual as they want in society. While women are seen as immoral when they express their sexual desires freely, men are praised for having many sexual interactions, whether they are monogamous or not. As women are constantly under society’s judgement because of the sexual double standard, many girls are compelled to define the romantic relationship they are in as a way to shield themselves from society’s criticism.

In society, it is acceptable for women to behave sexually if they are in a committed relationship. Many girls want to have an exclusive partner so that they can express their sexuality freely, without fear of being looked down upon. However, in college it becomes more difficult for women to be in committed relationships because hookup culture is so prevalent. As a result, some women opt to participate in hookup culture so they can satisfy their sexual desires. However, in Hooking up, Bogle describes how “For women who are active participants, the hookup system is fraught with pitfalls that can lead to being labeled a ‘slut”’ (Bogle 103). Ultimately, college hookup culture sets the foundation for double standards to flourish and for harsh judgment against promiscuous women to surface.

Furthermore, having a boyfriend enables college women to gain social status. As getting a boy to commit is more difficult in places where hookup culture flourishes, a girl is seen as more desirable if she can get someone to devote himself to her in this context. Consequently, girls often feel compelled to use social media devices, like Facebook, in order to receive social recognition.

Another contributing factor as to why girls want to define the relationship is that women feel more pressure to get married younger than men. Bogle mentions in her book that most women want to get married at around 25 years of age, while most men want to get married at around 29 years of age (Bogle 101-102). This could be contributing to the prevalence of sexual double standards, as it is more socially acceptable for guys to be promiscuous because they face less societal pressure to settle down earlier in life. Women may be under more stress to marry younger than males because of child baring pressures. Men are not in as much of a time crunch as women are in terms of fertility, which is why men do not feel as compelled to commit.

In college, some people use the phrase “ring before spring” to describe girls who want to find a husband before graduating college. This reflects how women want to find that special someone, for they may feel pressured to conform to social standards of normality and marry during their early to mid twenties.

Although many women want to be in a relationship, Bogle discusses in her book how girls sometimes hesitate to bring up defining the relationship in college because of the sexual double standards and hookup culture that seem to be so appealing for men.

I have notice in college that many female students do not want to bring up being exclusive with their sexual partner because they do not think their partner would be willing to give up the sexual freedom society encourages men to explore. Women assume that men do not want to be in a committed relationship because of their preconceived notions about sexual double standards in relation to men being promiscuous. Settling down with one person would mean that men would have to sacrifice some of their sexual freedoms.


Another reason why girls may be compelled to define the relationship is because of social media. Television shows, like Awkward, revolve around the idea that girls have an ongoing desire to find a man who is willing to commit to them, and shows, like Girl Code, discuss defining the relationship and how it can be challenging to get to this stage in a relationship. These media influences, combined with how sexual double standards manifest in one’s immediate society, create a foundation for women to feel as though they need a boyfriend to prove themselves. This contributes to how females can become dependent upon men in society. Women often feel that they need to find a man to commit to them, so they can overcome the double standards that label women as slutty and promiscuous in society when they are simply exercising their sexual liberties.

During my time at Vanderbilt University, I have noticed many girls refrain from defining the relationship in terms of being boyfriend and girlfriend out of fear that they will be rejected. Many people choose to participate in friends with benefits relationships though, as it is a better alternative to hooking up with a different person every weekend even though it is not ideal. Men seem to be more likely to agree to friends with benefits, as there is a lack of emotional commitment, but usually these relationship do not last very long. The lack of emotional intimacy makes it more difficult for these types of relationships to survive. While these relationships may be a decent alternative to total hookup culture for women, girls cannot fully escape the sexual double standards through being in friends with benefits relationships. The fact that a girl is willing to be in this type of relationship is commonly seen as slutty, as it is solely based on sex. Girls fool themselves into thinking they have the relationship they want through friends with benefits, even though it does not compare to an exclusive committed relationship. In reality, these types of relationships often cause people to view women in terms of their sexual behaviors which is somewhat degrading.

Have you noticed sexual double standards in society? Are there ways to limit the effects of the sexual double standards? Why do you think hookup culture is so prevalent at colleges? How do you think committed relationships are regarded at Vanderbilt University? Do you think the idea of marriage influences how students behave in college?

9 thoughts on “Why Girls Want to Define the Relationship (DTR)

  1. I wrote my entire op-ed piece on this topic, so this post is extremely relatable for me! I definitely see the sexual double standard on our campus today, and I think it is especially prevalent in the hookup culture. While guys are congratulated when they hook up with girls, girls are given labels like “slut”, for example. I also believe that many women tend to search for relationships so they can get away from being labeled in the hookup scene. Do you think it is possible for our society to ever reach a “gender neutral” society, or will the double standard always be existent? Great post!


  2. I see this gender double standard so often in society. A woman that has been with multiple men is deemed a slut, but a man that has been with various women is a stud, or a player. Men are congratulated and given a pat on the back for their numerous sexual conquests, but there is a definite social stigma for women who express their sexuality as freely as men. As Bogle pointed out in her book, women face societal pressures concerned with sexuality much more than men do. Women are constantly trying to conform to the role that society has shaped for them. It’s so true that girls are more willing to be in committed relationships than men; they feel the pressure to abide by the rules society has set for them.


  3. I believe that one of the reasons women tend to desire relationships more is absolutely because they will not be judged as severely by their friends and surrounding culture for experimenting sexually with a monogamous partner. At the same time, however, men are recieving validating for having as many sexual partners as possible. Because the social scene at a lot of Universities– including Vanderbilt–revolves around fraternies, relationships (or fraternization if you will) begins to conform to the expectations of the man. In my opinion, this is origin of hookup culture.
    I, too, have heard the phrase “ring by spring” tossed around at Vanderbilt. I believe this more prevalent at Southern colleges, and students participate due to cultural expectations and the idea of being grown up in college. It is interesting to observe the dramatic difference between the hooking up mindset and “ring by spring,” because they are so polarized and I haven’t yet observed much of a middle ground.


  4. To answer your question about committed relationships at Vanderbilt, I think they are looked at positively. In several conversations I’ve had about serious relationships with people who are single, they have expressed admiration for couples on campus. I feel as though more people than we realize are interested in relationships, but shy away from them because of the fear of what they’d be losing out on: hookup culture. Engaging in casual sex and hookups is fun for many people, especially on college campuses. I believe many students don’t want to “settle down” while in college because they feel as though they have the rest of their lives to do that, and college is their chance to explore and have fun…guys especially. They have to live up to expectations and standards society, their friends, and their family puts on them; which is why women are probably more likely to DTR than men are.


  5. Nicole, you bring up several great points arguing why girls want to “define the relationship” more than boys. I have obviously noticed that sexual double standards still run rampant in society, particularly on college campuses. I even had one guy friend who stopped hooking up with a girl because she “got around too much,” meanwhile he was quite comfortable playing the field just as much, if not more. I’m not sure if there is a way to combat these antiquated sexual standards because, unfortunately, they have been around for so damn long. However, I would love if future generations of women embraced their sexual subjectivity without facing societal judgement or backlash. Wishful thinking for now but perhaps one day…
    In terms of marriage, I believe college students are actually thinking about it much less than a couple decades ago. For example, my older sister is a senior in college and has many plans for post-graduation life (working, grad school, traveling) none of which involve settling down. While the idea of child-bearing poses a bit of a time limit, I think women today, generally, are thinking about marriage much less in college because of all the opportunities granted to them after graduation.


  6. I had never heard of the term “DTR” before reading your post, however I have definitely seen the idea play out amongst friends of mine at Vanderbilt. Just recently one friend was telling me how she had told a guy she was hooking up with, a person she considered to be her friend, that she liked him and his response was to suggest they be non-exclusive friends with benefits. She told me she knew this wasn’t what she wanted, but was considering it anyway because it was the only way to really continue to be with that guy. She, like the girls you discussed, is afraid to push for more out of fear of losing this guy entirely. I find it very interesting that there is this power struggle of who is more of a commodity, which allows for men on campus to have such a command over how hooking up, even when feelings are involved, to play out.


  7. I really enjoyed this post because there is so much truth to it. I agree with what you said about Bogle’s book about sexual double standards. I know we all see this on Vanderbilt’s campus, especially if you go to a frat party on the weekend. It’s also interesting as to why women are seen as “crazy” for wanting to DTR, because in reality, if girls don’t bring it up, who else would? It’s an important part of a relationship (if it is a relationship) if either person wants it to grow.


  8. Hook up culture is prevalent on college campuses because it is the first time in peoples lives where hook ups are so accessible. The environment makes it very easy for an individual to find someone else, and when going out, alcohol typically plays a role in this whole scene as well.


  9. I have definitely noticed sexual double standards in society especially on the college campus. I believe the book Hooking Up describes the culture on college campus rather well, stating that there are not really any relationships going on, just a lot “hooking up” to any extent. But, with this guys are not getting judged like the females get judged for hooking up with someone outside of a relationship.
    I think that committed relationships are supported here at Vanderbilt, but hard to keep because of the party life. I think this because the temptations are hard to avoid if you are out drinking and partying and are not in the right state of mind, especially if you have just started a new relationship and are not used to the expectations that that relationship comes with.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s