The Never-ending Sexual Double Standard

In Chapter Six of Bogle’s book, Hooking Up, she addresses the sexual double standard between men and women. When men and women first enter college, they typically take part in the hook-up culture equally, yet Bogle argues that over time men and women begin to want different things out of their relationships. According to her study, as women in college get older, they want to be in more committed relationships, while men prefer hook-up culture. Women are more likely to desire being in a relationship, while men are not interested in dating, just hooking up.

Bogle argues that one reason women seek out relationships in college is that many women desire to be married soon after they graduate. Another reason women may seek out relationships, rather than just hooking up is that when women hook up with numerous partners, they are often seen as being promiscuous or are labeled as a slut. Many women would prefer to be in a committed relationship to preserve their reputation.

Men face no stigmatization when they hook up with numerous girls, but girls are extremely scrutinized when they partake in similar behaviors. Men tend to be congratulated or applauded for hooking up with numerous girls. When a woman hooks up with numerous men she is simply seen as easy and is often less respected by her peers.

Not only can a woman’s sexual behavior lead to her being negatively labeled, but so can the way they dress and present themselves to others. According to Bogle, men often view women who dress seductively as women who were looking to hook up with someone. Women have to be more cognizant of their behavior than men do when attending parties. Even though men partake in similar behaviors, if a woman drinks too much or seems to be flirting, she will be negatively labeled. Although men desire to hook up with numerous women, they don’t want to date a woman who has hooked up with numerous men.

When it comes to partaking in hook-up culture on college campuses, women are severely disadvantaged. Women often hook up with other students because it is the only option, and for many, and some may even hook up with someone in hopes that a relationship may develop. Furthermore, women are extremely scrutinized if they act as sexual as men do.

Although Bogle does not address it in her book, I think that men can develop negative reputations in college, yet they are not as harmful as a woman’s may be. Men are more likely to get a bad reputation for hurting a girl’s feelings than for sleeping with numerous women. However, the reputation may only be perceived as negative by women and not by men. Yet, when a woman is seen as a slut, both men and women judge her behavior harshly.

As seen in Deborah Tolman’s piece, “Adolescent Girls’ Sexuality,” girls are taught from a young age to suppress their sexuality and their desires, yet boys are not taught the same. Women are told that they shouldn’t enjoy sex as much as men do, and when a woman does she is often labeled a slut. The sexual double standard between men and women begins at such an early age that it is difficult for individuals to escape.

The sexual double standard appears in many television shows and movies. There are numerous films and television shows, which portray the men as having sex with numerous women without ever being chastised by their peers or society. Throughout time it has been acceptable for men to have multiple sexual interactions with women outside of marriage, but women are expected to be pure for their future husbands. The film Casanova, starring Heath Ledger, presents a character that prides himself on sleeping with numerous women, yet his reputation is never harmed and he still manages to get the girl in the end. In the film John Tucker Must Die, John Tucker dates multiple women at the same, yet women constantly pine over him. Many television shows and movies often have nameless women having sex with the main male characters and then they simply just disappear with no mention of them again. Even when there is a sexually liberated woman on a television show, such as Samantha on Sex and the City, she is met with much criticism by her peers because it is not seen as the acceptable thing for a woman to be doing.

Instead of confronting the sexual double standard between men and women, both sexes continue to perpetuate it by being critical of women who sleep with numerous men. The phrase “If a key opens lots of locks, it’s a master key. But if a lock is opened by lots of keys, then it’s a shitty lock,” is often used to support and justify this double standard. It is extremely unfair for men to expect women to meet a standard that they themselves have no intention of meeting. Even worse however, is that women continue to be critical of other women who are in control of their sexuality and act how they please.

Are there any films or television shows that portray women who frequently have sex with multiple partners and don’t face any scrutiny by their peers? How would this sort of behavior be perceived on screen if it ever were to be shown?

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