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Heterosexual Dating Double Standards in Undergraduate Women and Men

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Traditional heterosexual dating and courtship scripts (e.g., men pay for date, women take partner’s last name in marriage) reflect different standards of desirable behavior for women and men. Analogous to sexual double standards, dating double standards reflect the greater agency and power traditionally accorded to men in society. In the present study, we investigated factors related to young heterosexual adults’ endorsement of dating double standards. Participants were 330 female and male U.S. undergraduates at a California public university (57 % female, ages 18–25 years-old) from diverse ethnic backgrounds. In the Heterosexual Dating Double-Standards Scale, respondents rate the desirability of five dating and courtship behaviors (initiate date, hold door open, pay for date, propose marriage, take spouse’s last name) separately for women and men. Preliminary analyses revealed participants generally expressed double standards by rating the desirability of behaviors differently for female and male characters in the traditional direction (e.g., paying for a date rated more desirable for a man than for a woman). We predicted dating double standards would be positively related to factors previously found to predict traditional gender roles (viewing popular media, religious attendance) as well as attitudes that reflect traditional views (conservative political beliefs, benevolent and hostile sexism, disavowing a feminist identity). These hypotheses were generally supported. Among these correlations, dating double standards were strongly associated with benevolent sexism (among women and men) and with hostile sexism (among men). Implications for future research are discussed.

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The research was supported by a grant from the Academic Senate Committee on Research of the University of California, Santa Cruz. The authors thank Timea Farkas, Rachael Robnett, Antoinette Wilson, Christy Starr, Veronica Hamilton, and Melissa Smith for their suggestions and comments. Preliminary findings from this study were presented at the 2014 Conference of the Association for Psychological Science in San Francisco.

Both authors collaborated in the design of the study and the writing of the article. AP was responsible for initially proposing a study on gender-based double standards. Also, AP identified relevant behaviors to include in the scale. CL was responsible for creating the difference-score format for the scale and conducting the statistical analyses. Also, CL was primarily responsible for revisions of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Campbell Leaper.

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Paynter, A., Leaper, C. Heterosexual Dating Double Standards in Undergraduate Women and Men. Sex Roles 75, 393–406 (2016).

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  • Sex role attitudes
  • Dating
  • Sexism
  • Feminism
  • Heterosexual relationships
  • Double standards
  • Political attitudes
  • Religiosity
  • Mass media