Sluts and Studs
The classic tale of the double standard
Published: Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 21:07
The double standard of sexual behavior
We've been hearing it since junior high and high school. "I heard she kissed Tommy at the water fountains. Total slut."
We've also been hearing, "He banged two girls at that party and nailed David's mom later? That's so pimpin'."
Boys and girls, this is called the double standard of sexual behavior. The double standard of sexual behavior is a code that permits greater sexual freedom for men than for women. (For an even more detailed definition and a synopsis of its effects, visit this website.)
Anyway, it's oppressive and ridiculous and I hate it.
It stays forever
The bad thing about this double standard is that, unlike acne and gangly legs, it never really leaves after junior high, unless everyone decides to stop participating in its madness, a.k.a. society changes.
Break-through feminist blogger and activist Jessica Valenti explains it perfectly in this excerpt. (The rest of this article is available for reading on this website.)
"Naturally, I'd be called a slut many times over later in life — not unlike most girls. I was called a slut when my boobs grew faster than others. I was called a slut when I had a boyfriend (even though we weren't having sex). I was called a slut when I didn't have a boyfriend and kissed a random boy at a party. I was called a slut when I had the nerve to talk about sex. I was called a slut when I wore a bikini on a weekend trip with high school friends. It seems the word slut can be applied to any activity that doesn't include knitting, praying or sitting perfectly still lest any sudden movements be deemed whorish."
It doesn't really apply to men. Sometimes, but mostly not.
I'll give you an example.
Some teenage girls attend Purity Balls, a prom-like event where they promise their fathers their virginity. The fathers promise to be the ‘keeper' of their daughter's virginity until he hands it over to her future husband. The whole event is about advocating purity in girls/women.
But what do teenage boys have? Integrity Balls. Only these are different because they aren't about advocating purity and virginity in men. They're about advocating purity and virginity in women. The focus is on these boys not having sex because they don't want to defile someone else's future wife. In other words, they aren't defiled for having sex, but women are.
(And I'm not knocking Purity/ Integrity Balls. Nothing wrong with virginity at all.)
Other examples include the classic hailing men as ‘studs' for sleeping with one or more women, but shaming women for sleeping with one or more men. Media and pop culture completely backs it up in music, TV and movies. In fact, the film What's Your Number, released last year, was entirely about a woman trying to keep her ‘number' (the number of men she's slept with) down in order to increase her worth and become respectable. But the man she falls in love with, portrayed as a lovable, harmless hunk, literally had sex with a different woman every night. He wasn't even the bad guy.
Pardon the pun, but can anyone else see how screwed this is?
How do we change it?
I honestly don't know. But, I think the first step is to get informed and perhaps stop calling women sluts. It's hurtful and one-sided. It's OK to not approve of open sexual behavior, that's an individual decision, but please don't limit it to women.
Every woman, just like every man, has the choice to decide what she wants to do with her libido. Whether she wants to adhere to a set of personal rules or not, that's her business.
As far as becoming informed on the topic goes, here is the link to Jessica Valenti's website. She's written a good deal on this and other subjects and reading her work is a great first step to understanding these kinds of things.
Jennifer is a senior English major. She has been interested in women's issues and promoting women's equality since reading the charmingly oppressive Little House On The Prairie in sixth grade.