The Sexual Double Standard Starts With Making Out, Study Suggests

Academic studies can be fascinating… and totally confusing. So we decided to strip away all of the scientific jargon and break them down for you.

The Background
By the time teens reach ninth grade, about 30 percent of them have started experimenting with sexual activities, whether that means sexual intercourse or “hooking up.” These teens may feel ready to explore their desires, but they may not be aware of the sexual scripts that they’re about to take on. Extensive research on the topic suggests that there are specific parts each gender must play in order to fit in: Men are supposed to innately want sex, not romance, while women must value romance over sex and act as “gatekeepers,” the ones who hold power by withholding sex.

This social construct presents a double standard in which men are encouraged to have as much sex as they want, but women have to suppress their sexuality to avoid judgement. This is problematic — especially for teens, who are still discovering who they are and trying to be accepted by their peers as they experience those first (perfectly normal) jolts of sexual desire. So how does this sexual script play out in the actual hallways of today’s middle schools and high schools? A new study from Pennsylvania State University provides some insight into how nuanced that double standard can be.

The Setup
The researchers used survey data from the PROSPER longitudinal study, which followed two groups of sixth grade students in Iowa and Pennsylvania until they reached ninth grade. Each fall and spring for those four years, the 921 students would complete the study questionnaire during school hours. They were asked about their friend circles and could nominate up to seven “best or close —> Read More