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?