A Tale of Two Standards: An Examination of Young Adults’ Endorsement of Gendered and Ageist Sexual Double Standards
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- Lai, Y. & Hynie, M. Sex Roles (2011) 64: 360. doi:10.1007/s11199-010-9896-x
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Current North American sexual standards allow women to be sexual within committed relationships but may still restrict women’s sexuality to a greater extent than men’s. We investigated whether these gender double standards interact with an age double standard that describes the elderly as less sexual than the young, to create particularly limiting sexual standards for older women. 305 Canadian undergraduates completed a 2 (target age) × 2 (target gender) × 2 (participant gender) within-subjects study measuring perceptions of younger (own age) and older (over 65 years old) men’s and women’s interest in traditional sex (e.g., cuddling, intercourse with main partner) and experimental sex (e.g., extra-relationship sex, viewing erotic materials). ANCOVAs controlling for ageist and sexist beliefs revealed the ageist double standard; the elderly were perceived to be less interested in sex overall than the young. There was also a sexual double standard; women were perceived to be more interested in traditional sex than men, and men more interested in experimental sex than women. For traditional sex, women perceived younger targets as more interested than the older targets, and women targets as more interested than men. For experimental sex, a three-way interaction showed the interplay between the sexual and ageist double standards. Elderly female targets were perceived as least interested, and young male targets as most interested. Results reinforce that the current sexual standards distinguish between sex for intimacy and sex for other reasons (e.g., pleasure) and that the standards are particularly restrictive for older women.