The belief that women and men are held to different standards of sexual conduct is pervasive in contemporary American society. According to the sexual double standard, boys and men are rewarded and praised for heterosexual sexual contacts, whereas girls and women are derogated and stigmatized for similar behaviors. Although widely held by the general public, research findings on the sexual double standard remain equivocal, with qualitative studies and early attitudinal surveys generally finding evidence of the double standard and more recent experimental vignette designs often failing to find similar results. In this study, we extend prior research by directly measuring the social status of sexually permissive youth. We use data collected from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to relate adolescents' self-reported numbers of sexual partners to a network measure of peer acceptance. Results suggest that the association between lifetime sexual partnerships and peer status varies significantly by gender, such that greater numbers of sexual partners are positively correlated with boys' peer acceptance, but negatively correlated with girls' peer acceptance. Moreover, the relationship between boys' sexual behaviors and peer acceptance is moderated by socioeconomic origins; sexually permissive boys from disadvantaged backgrounds are predicted to have more friendships than permissive boys from more advantaged backgrounds. Our results thus support the existence of an adolescent sexual double standard and suggest that sexual norms vary by both gender and socioeconomic origins.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Social Psychology