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A sexual double standard is a presumption that men are perceived differently than women when they engage in the same behaviors related to sex and relationship. The way society judges men and women for their behaviors determines what it appropriate and what is not. This is, of course, based on standards set by society as opposed to the wants and desires of the individuals under judgment. Men and women are then free to adhere to society’s norms for their gender or break the rules.
Sexual double standards are influenced by media outlets, family members and friends, and other societal factors. These double standards typically stem from the idea that women want to settle down, get married, and have families while men are happy playing the field.
The most pervasive sexual double standards concern sexual relationships. Women are typically judged more negatively for engaging in casual sex or having numerous sexual partners when compared to the treatment of men for the same behavior. Men may even be praised and called studs, while women engaging in the same behaviors are slut-shamed.
Since women are judged more harshly than men for their sexual behaviors, they do not enjoy the same level of sexual freedom that men enjoy. They may reject sex or feel badly about themselves if they do engage in sex outside a committed relationship. This sexual double standard persists despite changing societal norms. Both men and women are more likely to have sex before marriage, for example, yet women are more likely to be criticized for it.
There are also sexual double standards surrounding the use of condoms, the most effective way to minimize the risk of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. Despite the benefits of using condoms, women are more likely to be viewed negatively when they provide them. Men, on the other hand, are typically seen as responsible when they provide condoms. Women who cave in to the negative backlash may place their own sexual health at risk.
Men can struggle due to sexual double standards, too. Society suggests men will pursue their partners, initiate everything from dates to sex, and want sex all the time. Men that do not fit this mold may also face criticism and may feel less masculine for not measuring up to society's standards.