In chapter four of Hooking Up, Bogle tackles how the sexual double standard isinfluenced by hook-up culture. While people might assume that hook up culture liberates women and grants them the ability to satisfy their sexual needs without facing judgment, we know that, historically, women’s’ sexual expression will usually be judged harsher than men’s’ no matter what.
Take the 19th century character Hester Prynne, for example, who was forced to wear a scarlet “A” on her chest every day as punishment for committing adultery. Or fast forward a century and look at Marilyn Monroe’s reputation as a vixen as well as “the other woman.” And even today, in a time where women’s sexuality is embraced much more than it was a few decades ago, we still see judgment from both men and women (the latter being the more depressing) when a woman is seen as promiscuous.
Bogle summarizes that “the sexual double standard leads to an environment where women need relationships in order to protect their reputations. For women who are active participants, the hookup system is fraught with pitfalls that can lead to being labeled a ‘slut.’” (103). Conversely, men have virtually no rules when it comes to the hook-up script, thus leading to the slut/stud phenomenon. That is, if a girl hooks up with a lot of guys, she is a slut. But if a guy hooks up with a lot of girls, he is a stud. This double standard is outdated, yet it still dominates people’s beliefs toward hook-up culture.
Because hook-up culture tends to be a lose-lose situation for the woman involved, it creates confusion towards her sexual liberation. We live in a time with birth control and push-up bras and female singers dressing/dancing provocatively. But at the same time girls and women, alike, still chronically fear developing a reputation as a “slut.” Deborah Tolman supports Bogle’s findings and explains that, “As we enter the next decade of the twenty-first century, the tightrope that girls walk separating good girls from bad has not been taken down but has in fact gotten tighter…Girls want relationships, boys want sex, but everybody is just hooking up– no strings attached” (NSS 153). Young women are sent mixed messages about their very own sexual agency. As if hook-up culture is not a already an extremely complicated phenomenon, factor in the fact that half the people involved, risk ruining their reputation if the hook-up does not evolve into an exclusive relationship.
But Bogle’s findings about the sexual double standard go further than just passing judgment. In fact, according to a September 2014 study from Brown University, girls who have engaged in sexual intercourse are more than two times more likely to be bullied than boys. Hailee Dunn, the former manager of the Center for Evidence-Based Medicine and leader of this study was inspired by the 2012 rape case in Steubenville, Ohio. Dunn explains that she “had read an article about the backlash that this girl had gotten through social media networks, not just from boys but from girls, too. It showed how we continue to enforce this rape culture.” Throughout the semester we’ve continued to study and confront rape culture and how it plays out on a local, national, and global level. All the way from a Sudanese woman who was stoned to death for adultery, to a middle school teenage girl who was cyber-bullied for being a “slut”, (whatever that means in middle school these days…) there is no doubt that the sexual double standard permeates every inch of our world.
In order to have a thorough understanding of the hook-up culture its important to recognize the consequences and backlash for women who are involved. This double standard is more than just unfair, it is damaging to the woman. Bogle finds that “a woman labeled this way (and treated accordingly) is affected both emotionally and, in turn, behaviorally. Sociologists argue that labeling can affect behavior by altering one’s sense of identity”(113). We see that supporting this sexual double standard has deeper effects than people might realize. The impacts of the double standard can be as mild as lowering a woman’s self-esteem all the way to extreme cases in which a woman results to suicide to free herself from her damaged reputation. In chapter four, Bogle confronts how seemingly liberating hook-up culture still manages to promote the sexual double standard that has plagued women for centuries.
How do you see the sexual double standard play out in your life? Do you disagree with Bogle and find that hook-up culture actually minimizes the double standard for women? How do you see the connection between rape culture and the sexual double standard? Do you see the sexual double standard one day becoming an outdated, illogical belief or has it been around too long for that to ever be possible? If you had to theorize really hard, why do you think women inevitably face more scrutiny and judgment when it comes to their promiscuity than men?