Is There Equality in Sluttery?

Is There Equality in Sluttery?

Last year, study results allegedly indicated that, as a LiveScience title put it, “College Students Don’t Judge Women For Hooking Up.”

college students often harbor a sexual double standard around dates that is relatively relaxed when it comes to in-the-moment hookups. In hookup scenarios, the study found, students are open to a woman taking the sexual lead.

This year, results of a study out of the University of Illinois at Chicago implied that 75% of college students viewed men and women similarly in the arena of casual sex. Does this really mean that we can stop worrying about the “he’s a stud, she’s a slut” dichotomy and embrace a future where we’re all equally shamed, male and female alike?

Before we tackle what this study in particular might or might not mean, let us look to the not-so-distant past and consider another social issue where people are preoccupied with others’ non-platonic lives: interracial marriage. In the United States, it has gone from being almost entirely taboo to far more acceptable than not, according to Pew — although the level of acceptance varies from region to region and depends on the racial mix in question.

 

 

During the interim between the legalization of interracial marriage and today, when the numbers of interracial couples — and, as a result, mixed-race children — rise exponentially over the years, there was a curious period when the acceptance of such unions seemed to be rising but actual interracial marriage rates were not. The incongruities left much to be explained. If people were so much more accepting of interracial marriage, why were more individuals not embracing the opening of romantic possibilities?

An examination of the studies that allegedly showed a rise in tolerance of interracial marriage revealed a possible flaw in the questioning itself. People were asked if, in essence, they were okay with interracial marriage. To say “no” to a question like that would brand the respondent a racist, so people would answer with an automatic “yes.”

Studies conducted after this reexamination of the methodology added questions that were far less abstract, along the lines of “Would you approve of your child bringing home someone of another race?” These studies showed the gap between the hypothetical and the real that contributed towards the continued stigma towards interracial couples.

 

Your mom and dad are fine with this as long as it stops by the time you grow up.

 

A similar wish to appear more progressive but without actually affecting progressive attitudes in their personal lives could very well be influencing the study participants who allegedly demonstrated that promiscuous people are equally judged across gender lines. In the study cited by the LiveScience piece, people were presented with a hypothetical scenario. The results would have likely varied if the question posed to men were, “Would you go out with a woman who has had casual sex?” or even “Would you date a woman who has had more sexual partners than you have had?”

On a completely speculative note, I would suspect that many men who answered “Sure, I’d be cool with a woman initiating” pictured a conventionally attractive woman (or at least one who is attractive to that particular man) taking the lead in a sexual encounter. Anecdotally, the further away from the “hot” category a woman is, the more likely she is to be pathologized as needy or desperate for making the first move. It would be interesting to see a study where women of varying levels of traits widely considered to be “hot” were each to be judged for initiating flirtation with men.

 

Do you see any equivalent signs for “Mom’s” and their sons?

 

The negative attitudes towards interracial marriage did not change without brave individuals choosing to love whom they wished regardless of quasi-scientific categories of people. Ending double standards has to begin somewhere, too. Refusing to slut-shame or accept others’ slut-shaming is a good first step — as is taking studies like this with a grain of salt.

Heina Dadabhoy [hee-na dad-uh-boy] spent her childhood as a practicing Muslim who never in her right mind would have believed that she would grow up to be an atheist feminist secular humanist, or, in other words, a Skepchick. She has been an active participant in atheist organizations and events in and around Orange County, CA since 2007. She is currently writing A Skeptic's Guide to Islam. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

6 Comments

  1. Hi

    This is my first post. I decided to sign up because the topics are interesting and I am a big fan of The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe. I heard this site mentioned many times on the show and have occasionally checked it out. I decided to give it a go.

    I am not sure I agree with this point:

    “he’s a stud, she’s a slut” dichotomy and embrace a future where we’re all equally shamed, male and female alike?

    Why equally shamed? “Shamed” seems harsh. I am not ashamed of my college experiences and I don’t think any woman should be either. Granted my wife would not appreciate me boasting about previous encounters but I don’t believe I should be ashamed of them either. I would not bring them up only because I respect and love my wife and I know she would not want to hear about it but not because of shame. Some people might feel shame but that might be because of cultural experiences. Aren’t these experiences analogous to using drugs for the first time or getting drunk for the first time? Is that really something to be ashamed of or should we recognize that this is part of growing up?

    • That wasn’t a point I was making. First of all, it ended with a question mark, so it was an inquiry I was posing. It was also a bit of sarcasm: if you follow the link, you’ll see a CBS News article entitled “Even guys get shamed for too much casual sex.”

      If you read to the end of the piece (or so much as glance at any other piece I’ve written on here that has to do with sex), you’ll see that I am adamantly anti-shame and vehemently sex-positive.

  2. I agree with this point you’re making.

  3. One of the problems with studies like this is that I do think, in a collegiate situation, that it is more widely accepted for a woman to be sexually active. It’s not quite *expected*, but it’s acceptable for a woman to engage in casual sex. In college. Before and after, however, not so much – before is when “you’re too young” or “you’re Daddy’s Little Girl”, and after is when you’re expected to “settle down” and date monogamously.

    I’m speaking from my experience at a large state university that I left for a year between my Masters and PhD work to go work in industry. YMMV based on the size and culture of your school – the smaller the community, the more slut shaming is likely, and even *that* is difficult to capture in a psychological study.

    In summary: Better title would be “College Students Don’t Judge College Women For Hooking Up”.

  4. One of the problems with studies like this is that I do think, in a collegiate situation, that it is more widely accepted for a woman to be sexually active. It’s not quite *expected*, but it’s acceptable for a woman to engage in casual sex. In college.

    Yeah, self selection bias. 1. Such things are often “expected” in colleges, due, in part, to how they are seen in nearly all movies, etc. 2. There may be some bias in what sort of people are willing to actually participate in the study.

    What, often, doesn’t ever get done, especially when it involves subjects like this, is actually matching the real behavior, with the expressed opinion on it.

  5. [On a completely speculative note, I would suspect that many men who answered “Sure, I’d be cool with a woman initiating” pictured a conventionally attractive woman (or at least one who is attractive to that particular man) taking the lead in a sexual encounter. Anecdotally, the further away from the “hot” category a woman is, the more likely she is to be pathologized as needy or desperate for making the first move. It would be interesting to see a study where women of varying levels of traits widely considered to be “hot” were each to be judged for initiating flirtation with men.]

    Although, I think your speculation is estimable, and merits a follow up, I find somewhat the opposite from my own personal experiences with guy friends. (Since it is my own personal experience, and my “special” memory is infallible, it is borderline fact–at this point in time.) The more appealing a woman is, decreases a man’s self-confidence that she would be into him, which makes initial moves by the woman all the more reassuring and accepting. On the opposite spectrum of a “less than tempting” woman is assumed by the ego of a “more attractive” man that she is into in. Thus, coming from a position of assumed superiority, he would be equally pleased with the woman initiating the encounter–for he is in a position of power/decision. So, in the end, both scenarios would produce equal results (a wash), one due to self-confidence and the other due to supposed superiority.

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