What double standard? When it comes to sexual history, two-thirds of college students now judge men and women on a level playing field.
But that doesn’t mean they approve: Nearly half of college kids frowned upon both male and female peers who, in their eyes, “hook up” with too many people.
This startling conservatism, and other findings, emerged from a new survey of 19,000 students at 22 American colleges, research being presented at the 107th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Denver on Monday.
“I expected more of a double standard. Here, three out of four college students had the same standards for women as for men, this ‘What’s good for the goose is good for the gander’ outlook,” said study co-author Barbara Risman, a sociology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
She added: “Once upon a time, we measured the attitudes around premarital activities for women. Now we measure whether or not people disrespect others who have too much casual sex – not some, but too much. That’s a sea change in attitudes toward sexuality in the last generation.”
In the survey, college students aged 19 to 22 were asked to respond to the statement, “If (wo)men hook up or have sex with lots of people, I respect them less.” Based on their answers, the researchers slotted the students into one of four categories: egalitarian conservative, egalitarian libertarian, traditional double standard and reverse double standard.
A breakdown of the findings:
48 per cent: “Egalitarian conservatives” who lost equal respect for men and women they believed were hooking up too much (54 per cent of women surveyed fell into this category, compared with 35 per cent of men).
27 per cent: “Egalitarian libertarians” who do not lose respect for men or women, no matter how much they sleep around.
12 per cent: “Traditional double standard” holders who lost respect for women, but not men, for hooking up too much.
13 per cent: “Reverse double standard” holders who lost respect for men, but not women, for having casual sex with too many partners.
Who believes women can hook up endlessly without judgment, while men can’t? Sorority sisters, that’s who.
The authors discovered that sorority sisters living in “Greek housing” were more likely than other female undergraduates to hold this “reverse double standard.” These sisters were also 42 per cent more likely to hold this unique view than “egalitarian libertarian” beliefs.
The researchers argue this amounts to “gender justice:” Tired of frat boys promulgating the traditional double standard in their social circles, sorority sisters women have invented their own gender bias as a rebuttal. “Women are beginning to have their own double standards, which is sort of a reaction against the sexism of the men with whom they’re dealing,” said Prof. Risman.
Some 37 per cent of fraternity-affiliated men and 38 per cent of male athletes negatively evaluated women, but not guys, for frequent hook ups with many partners; they were the two types of men most likely to hold this view. (Strikingly, 6 per cent of women said they themselves held a traditional double standard.)
As a bias-flipper, non-heterosexual college women and men were less likely than hetero kids to lose respect for anyone based on their casual sex history. The majority here were egalitarian libertarians – that’s live and let live, for everyone.