Sex Roles

, Volume 52, Issue 3–4, pp 175–186 | Cite as

The Sexual Double Standard: Fact or Fiction?



In contemporary society it is widely believed that men are socially rewarded for sexual activity, whereas women are derogated for sexual activity. To determine whether a sexual double standard exists, both undergraduate (n = 144) and Internet (n = 8,080) participants evaluated experimental targets who were described as either male or female and as having a variable number of sexual partners. Targets were more likely to be derogated as the number of sexual partners increased, and this effect held for both male and female targets. These results suggest that, although people do evaluate others as a function of sexual activity, people do not necessarily hold men and women to different sexual standards.


double standard sexuality sex partners attitudes toward sex gender norms gender differences sexual activity gender equality promiscuity. 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Asch, S. E. (1952). Effects of group pressures upon the modification and distortion of judgments. In G. E. Swanson, T. M. Newcomb, & E. L. Hartley (Eds.), Readings in social psychology (pp. 393–401). New York: Holt, Reinhart, & Winston.Google Scholar
  2. Barash, D. P., & Lipton, J. E. (2001). The myth of monogamy. New York: Freeman.Google Scholar
  3. Cejka, M. A., & Eagly, A. H. (1999). Gender-stereotypic images of occupations correspond to sex segregation of employment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 25, 413-423.Google Scholar
  4. Cohen, L. L., & Shotland, R. (1996). Timing of first sexual intercourse in a relationship: Expectations, experiences, and perceptions of others. Journal of Sex Research, 33, 291-299.Google Scholar
  5. Crawford, M., & Popp, D. (2003). Sexual double standards: A review and methodological critique of two decades of research. Journal of Sex Research, 40, 13–26.Google Scholar
  6. Ferrel, M. Z., Tolone, W. L., & Walsh, R. H. (1977). Maturational and societal changes in the sexual double-standard: A panel analysis (1967–1971; 1970–1974). Journal of Marriage and the Family, 39, 255–271.Google Scholar
  7. Garcia, L. T. (1982). Sex-role orientation and stereotypes about male–female sexuality. Sex Roles, 8, 863–876.Google Scholar
  8. Gentry, M. (1998). The sexual double standard. The influence of number of relationships and level of sexual activity on judgments of women and men. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22, 505–511.Google Scholar
  9. Gilovich, T. (1993). How we know what isn’t so: The fallibility of human reason in everyday life. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  10. Lamb, S. (2002). The secret lives of girls: What good girls really do—sex play, aggression, and their guilt. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
  11. Lips, H. (1994). Female powerlessness: A case of “cultural preparedness”? In L. Radtke & H. Stam (Eds.), Power/gender—Social relations in theory and practice (pp. 89–107). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  12. Malamuth, N. M., & Check, J. V. (1981). The effects of mass media exposure on acceptance of violence against women: A field experiment. Journal of Research in Personality, 15, 436-446.Google Scholar
  13. Mark, M. M., & Miller, M. L. (1986). The effects of sexual permissiveness, target gender, subject gender, and attitude toward women on social perception: In search of the double standard. Sex Roles, 15, 311–322.Google Scholar
  14. Marks, M. J. (2002). [Internet survey of attitudes of sexual freedom.] Unpublished raw data.Google Scholar
  15. Milhausen, R. R., & Herold, E. S. (1999). Does the sexual double standard still exist? Perceptions of university women. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 361–368.Google Scholar
  16. Milhausen, R. R., & Herold, E. S. (2001). Reconceptualizing the sexual double standard. Journal of Psychology and Human Sexuality, 13, 63–83.Google Scholar
  17. MTV Networks Music. (2003, August 18). Fight for your rights: Busting the double standard[Television broadcast]. New York: MTV Networks Music.Google Scholar
  18. Njikam-Savage, O. M., & Tchombe, T. M. (1994). Anthropological perspectives on sexual behaviour in Africa. Annual Review of Sex Research, 5, 50–72.Google Scholar
  19. Okazaki, S. (2002). Influences of culture on Asian Americans’ sexuality. Journal of Sex Research, 39, 34–41.Google Scholar
  20. O’Sullivan, L. F. (1995). Less is more: The effects of sexual experience on judgments of men’s and women’s personality characteristics and relationship desirability. Sex Roles, 33, 159–181.Google Scholar
  21. Oliver, M. B., & Hyde, J. S. (1993). Gender differences in sexuality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 29–51.Google Scholar
  22. Oliver, M. B., & Sedikides, C. (1992). Effects of sexual permissiveness on desirability of a partner as a function of low and high commitment to relationship. Social Psychology Quarterly, 55, 321–333.Google Scholar
  23. Richardson, L. (1997). Gender stereotyping in the English language. In L. Richrdson, V. Taylor, & N. Whittier (Eds.), Feminist frontiers V (pp. 112–116). New York: McGraw Hill.Google Scholar
  24. Sheeran, P., Spears, R., Abraham, S. C. S., & Abrams, D. (1996). Religiosity, gender, and the double standard. Journal of Psychology, 130, 23–33.Google Scholar
  25. Sherif, M. (1936). The psychology of social norms. New York: Harper and Row.Google Scholar
  26. Snyder, M. (1981). Seek, and ye shall find: Testing hypotheses about other people. In E. T. Higgins, C. P. Herman, & M. P. Zanna (Eds.), Social cognition: The Ontario symposium on personality and social psychology. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  27. Sprecher, S. (1989). Premarital sexual standards for different categories of individuals. Journal of Sex Research, 26, 232-248.Google Scholar
  28. Sprecher, S., & Hatfield, E. (1996). Premarital sexual standards among U.S. college students: Comparison with Russian and Japanese students. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 25, 261-288.Google Scholar
  29. Sprecher, S., McKinney, K., & Orbuch, T. L. (1987). Has the double standard disappeared? An experimental test. Social Psychology Quarterly, 50, 24–31.Google Scholar
  30. Sprecher, S., McKinney, K., Walsh, R., & Anderson, C. (1988). A revision of the Reiss Premarital Sexual Permissiveness Scale. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 50, 821–828.Google Scholar
  31. Tanenbaum, L. (2000). Slut! New York: Harper Collins.Google Scholar
  32. Turner, J. C. (1991). Social influence. Bristol, PA: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  33. Waggett, G. J. (1989, May 27). A plea to the soaps: Let’s stop turning rapists into heroes. TV Guide, pp. 10–11.Google Scholar
  34. White, E. (2002). Fast girls: Teenage tribes and the myth of the slut. New York: Scribner.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of IllinoisUrbana-Champaign
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyMC 716Champaign

Personalised recommendations