Sex Roles

, Volume 60, Issue 5–6, pp 357–365 | Cite as

Common vs. Uncommon Sexual Acts: Evidence for the Sexual Double Standard

  • Peter K. JonasonEmail author
  • Michael J. Marks
Original Article


The lack of consistent evidence for the sexual double standard may be related to the rather benign nature of the heterosexual behaviors often studied (e.g., casual sex, premarital sex). College students from the southwestern U.S. evaluated targets who engaged in mixed-gender threesomes (where three people engage in simultaneous sexual acts; Study 1: N = 120) and targets in a monogamous sexual relationship (Study 2: N = 105). Evidence for the sexual double standard was found via effects of targets’ gender among those who engaged in threesomes. Targets who had monogamous sex were evaluated more favorably than the targets who engaged in threesomes. We suggest that the sexual double standard may still exist for uncommon sexual behaviors.


Sexual double standard Gender differences Threesomes Act-frequency Person-perception 



The authors would like to thank Pamela Izzo, Laura Madson, Danielle Popp, and Gregory Webster for help in preparing this manuscript. Thanks also to Mary Gourley for help collecting data.


  1. Allport, G. W. (1979). The nature of prejudice. New York, NY: Perseus.Google Scholar
  2. Anthill, J. K., & Russell, G. (1982). The factor structure of the Bem sex-role inventory: Method and sample comparisons. Australian Journal of Psychology, 34, 183–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Asch, S. E. (1946). Forming impressions of personality. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 41, 258–290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Aubrey, J. S. (2004). Sex and punishment: an examination of sexual consequences and the sexual double standard in teen programming. Sex Roles, 50, 505–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baumeister, R. F., & Twenge, J. M. (2002). Cultural suppression of female sexuality. Review of General Psychology, 6, 166–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Buss, D. M., & Craik, K. H. (1983). The act frequency approach to personality. Psychological Review, 90, 105–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brown, N. R., & Sinclair, R. C. (1999). Estimating lifetime sexual partners: men and women do it differently. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 292–297.Google Scholar
  8. Browning, J. R., Hatfield, E., Kessler, D., & Levine, T. (2000). Sexual motives, gender, and sexual behavior. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 29, 135–153.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Browning, J. R., Kessler, D., Hatfield, E., & Choo, P. (1999). Power, gender, and sexual behavior. Journal of Sex Research, 36, 342–347.Google Scholar
  10. Cohen, J., Cohen, P., West, S. G., & Aiken, L. S. (2003). Applied multiple regression/correlation analysis for the behavioral sciences (3rd Ed). Mahwah, NJ: LEA.Google Scholar
  11. 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.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Farky, F. H., & Muellerms, C. B. (1978). Arousal, personality, and assortative mating in marriage: Generalizability and cross-cultural factors. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 4, 50–53.Google Scholar
  13. Fisher, T. D. (2007). Sex of experimenter and social norm effects on reports of sexual behavior in young men and women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 36, 89–100.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gallup, G. G., Jr, Burch, R. L., & Mitchell, T. J. B. (2006). Semen displacement as a sperm competition strategy: Multiple mating, self-semen displacement, and timing of in-pair copulations. Human Nature (Hawthorne, N.Y.), 17, 253–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hughes, S., & Gallup, G. G., Jr. (2003). Sex differences in morphological predictors of sexual behavior: Shoulder to wait ratios and waist to hip ratios. Evolution and Human Behavior, 24, 351–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hughes, S. M., Harrison, M. A., & Gallup, G. G., Jr. (2004). Sex differences in mating strategies: Mate guarding, infidelity, and multiple concurrent sex partners. Sexualities, Evolution & Gender, 6, 3–13.Google Scholar
  18. Hynie, M., & Lyndon, J. E. (1995). Women’s perceptions of female contraceptive behavior. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 19, 563–581.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Jacoby, A. P., & Williams, J. D. (1985). Effects of premarital sexual standards and behavior on dating and marriage desirability. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 47, 1059–1065.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jenks, R. J. (1998). Swinging: A review of the literature. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 27, 507–521.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jonason, P. K. (2007). A mediation hypothesis to account for the sex difference in reported number of sexual partners: An intrasexual competition approach. International Journal of Sexual Health, 19, 41–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jonason, P. K., & Fisher, T. D. (2008) The power of prestige: why young men report having more sex partners than young women. Sex Roles, in press.Google Scholar
  23. Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexualities: Sexual practice in the United States. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  24. Louderback, L. A., & Whitley, B. E., Jr. (1997). Perceived erotic value of homosexuality and sex-role attitudes as mediators of sex differences in heterosexual college students’ attitudes toward lesbian and gay men. Journal of Sex Research, 34, 175–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 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.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Marks, M. J., & Fraley, R. C. (2005). The sexual double standard: fact or fiction? Sex Roles, 52, 175–186.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Marks, M. J., & Fraley, R. C. (2007). The impact of social interaction on the sexual double standard. Social Influence, 2, 29–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Milhausen, R. R., & Herold, E. S. (2001). Reconceptualizing the sexual double standard. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 13, 63–83.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Oliver, M. B., & Hyde, J. S. (1993). Gender differences in sexuality: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 29–31.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Reiss, I. L. (1960). Premarital sexual standards in America. New York, NY: Free Press.Google Scholar
  31. Reiss, I. L. (1967). The social context of premarital sexual permissiveness. New York, NY: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.Google Scholar
  32. Sanders, S. A., & Reinisch, J. M. (1999). Would you say you had sex if…? Journal of the American Medical Association, 28, 275–277.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sprecher, S. (1989). Premarital sexual standards for different categories of individuals. Journal of Sex Research, 26, 232–248.Google Scholar
  34. 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.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sprecher, S., McKinney, K., & Orbuch, T. L. (1991). The effect of current sexual behavior on friendship, dating, and marriage desirability. Journal of Sex Research, 28, 387–408.Google Scholar
  36. Sprecher, S., Regan, P. C., McKinney, K., Maxwell, K., & Wazienski, R. (1997). Preferred level of sexual experience in a date or mate: The merger of two methodologies. Journal of Sex Research, 34, 327–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Whitley, B. E., Jr, Wiederman, M. W., & Wryobeck, J. M. (1999). Correlates of heterosexual men’s eroticization of lesbianism. Journal of Psychology & Human Sexuality, 11, 25–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wiederman, M. W., & Whitely, B. E., Jr. (2002). Handbook for conducting research on human sexuality. Mahwah, NJ: LEA.Google Scholar
  39. Wilcox, S. (1997). Age and gender in relation to body attitudes: Is there a double standard of aging? Psychology of Women, 21, 549–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology DepartmentNew Mexico State UniversityLas CrucesUSA

Personalised recommendations