Times are changing, ladies! In Beyoncé’s’ song “Flawless” the lyrics bring to light the double standard women experience in society. The song states, “we say to girls, you can have ambition but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful otherwise you will threaten the man.”1 Women now encompass 57% of college students and obtain 60% of the master’s degrees in the United States2. This emphasis on female education has an effect on relationships. Some studies have found that women are purposefully not pursuing relationships in college in order to focus on increasing their self-development3. In fact, both men and women are spending more time single and unmarried. The age at which people marry has increased in recent decades. For women, the average age of marriage was 20 years old in 1960 and has increased to 26.5 years old in 20104. Among men in which the age at which men first wed increased from 23 years old in 1960 to 29 years old in 20104. Having more time being unmarried allows for longer periods of sexual exploration. This can be seen in the current “Hook up Culture” Millennials are engaging in.
Sexual Double Standard in Hooking Up: Are Women Sluts?
Hooking up has even become more common than traditional dating among college students5. In fact, among Millenials, this is the new way to form relationships. Both men and women believe that having no expectation of a commitment is a major positive aspect in hooking up6. According to gender stereotypes, men are the pursuers of sexual activity and women are the gatekeepers, deciding whether or not to have sex7. Women and men are viewed very differently in relationship to sexual exploration. What is societally accepted for men, may result in a feeling of shame for women. Undergraduate college students participating in previous psychological studies indicated that women are labeled as “sluts” for having nondating sex whereas men gain status8.
According to the Sexual Double Standard5 theory, women are allowed to have sex within a committed relationship, while men are free to pursue sex regardless of relationship status. Women are often judged more negatively for engaging in multiple hook ups according to one study conducted with college students5. In fact, men report getting more sexual pleasure than women from hooking up5,6. Previous psychological studies have found that among first time hook ups, women orgasm only 32% as often as men, suggesting that men’s sexual pleasure takes precedent over women’s in hook ups9. Perhaps men are experiencing more sexual pleasure as they benefit from being social accepted for their engagement in hook up sex therefore, they do not have any shame or psychological confusion about their experiences.
The Millennial generation holds more nontraditional views when it comes to forming relationships through hooking up and what a relationship requires than previous generations10. Perhaps the sexual double standard of women being stigmatized for expressing their sexuality.
1 Knowles, B., Nash, T., Hollis, C., & Reel, R. (2013). Flawless [Beyonce]. On Beyonce [CD]. New York, New York: Parkwood Entertainment & Columbia Records.
2 Sandberg, S. (2013). Lean in: Women, work, and the will to lead. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.
3 Hamilton, L., & Armstrong, E. A. (2009). Gendered sexuality in young adulthood: Double binds and flawed options. Gender & Society, 23, 589-616
4Payne, K.K. & Gibbs, L (2011). First Marriage Rate in the U.S., 2010 (FP-11-12), National Center for Family & Marriage Research.
5 England, P., Schafer, E. F., & Fogarty, A. C. K. (2007). Hooking up and forming romantic relationships on today’s college campuses. In The gendered society reader, edited by M. Kimmel. New York: Oxford University Press.
6 Bradshaw, C. K., Kahn, A. S. & Saville, B.K. . (2010). To Hook Up or Date: Which Gender Benefits? Sex Roles, 62, 661-669. doi: 10.1007/s11199-010-9765-7
7 Canary, D. J., Emmers-Sommer, T. M., & Faulkner, S. (1997). Sex and gender differences in personal relationships. New York: The Guilford Press.
8 Giordano, P. C.,. Longmore, M. C., & Manning, W. D. (2006). Gender and the meanings of adolescent romantic relationships: A focus on boys. American Sociological Review, 71, 260-87.
9Armstrong, E. A., England, P., & Fogarty, A. C. K. (2009). Orgasm in college hookups and relationships. In B.J. Risman (Ed.), Families as they really are, p. 362 – 377. New Your, NY: Norton.
10Blancharg-Fields, F., Hertzog, C., & Horhota, M. (2012). Violate my beliefs? Then you’re to blame! Belief content as an explanation for causal attribution biases. Psychology and Aging, 27 (2), 324-337.
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