College students who "hook up" too much lose the respect of other students, a new study indicates.
Although there is less of a double standard for women, nearly half of students have negative attitudes toward other students who appear to engage in a lot of casual sexual activity, researchers found.
"Men and women are increasingly judging each other on the same level playing field," study co-author Rachel Allison, a doctoral candidate in the department of sociology at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in a news release. "But gender equality and sexual liberation are not synonymous. While we've come a long way in terms of gender equality, it seems that a large portion of both college men and women lose respect for individuals who they believe participate in too frequent casual sexual activity."
The researchers conducted an online survey of more than 19 000 students from 22 colleges. The students were asked if they lost respect for women who hook up or have sex with many people. Based on their response, the participants were divided into four groups: egalitarian conservative, egalitarian libertarian, traditional double standard and reverse double standard.
The study revealed that roughly 48% of the college students in the survey were egalitarian conservatives. These students judged all other students in the same way and would lose respect for both men and women that engaged in frequent casual sexual activity.
The researchers noted that women were more likely than men to have this view. About 54% of the women surveyed fell into this category, compared to about 35% of the men. Meanwhile, about 27% of the students were considered egalitarian libertarians. This group of students said they would not lose respect for men or women regardless of their sexual activity.
The researchers also found nearly 12% of the students held a traditional double standard. These students would lose respect for women who hooked up often, but not men who engaged in the same behaviour. The researchers pointed out that only 6% of women held this view, compared to nearly 25% of men.
Although the majority of men didn't hold a traditional double standard, 38% of male athletes and 37% of men in fraternities held a traditional double standard. The researchers pointed out that these people's views may influence campus culture.
"Because Greek brothers and athletes tend to be at the top of the social stratification ladder - the big guys on campus - we see this adversarial double standard infused in people's perceptions of college and hook-up culture," study co-author Barbara Risman, a sociology professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, said in the news release. "These men, who are in fact the minority, end up holding a great deal of social power on campus."
Roughly 13% of the students had a reverse double standard and said they would lose respect for men who hooked up too much, but not women. The researchers pointed out that women in sororities who lived in Greek housing were 42% more likely to hold a reverse double standard than an egalitarian libertarian view of hooking up.
"Women who hold to this reverse double standard are invoking a kind of gender justice," Risman explained. "They are critical of men who treat women badly and they do not accept a 'boys will be boys' view of male sexuality."The researchers said students' religious affiliation, sexual identity and where they went to school also influenced their attitudes on hooking up and perceptions of gender equality.
Buddhist, Jewish and non-affiliated students, the study found, were less likely to lose respect for people who hook up often than Catholic students. Women who are evangelical or fundamentalist Christians, however, were nearly 76% more likely than Catholic women to negatively judge people who engage in casual hook-ups.
Sexual orientation also played a role in the students' attitudes on casual sexual activity. Students who were not heterosexual were usually egalitarian libertarians, and were less likely than heterosexuals to lose respect for those engaging in casual hook ups.
Students attending West Coast colleges more often held liberal views on sexual activity. Midwest colleges fell on the opposite end of the spectrum. These students had the most conservative attitudes about hooking up. Meanwhile, students on the East Coast had more moderate views.
"You have to remember how far the sexual revolution has come," Risman noted. "Before, sociologists would study stigma directed toward sexually active unmarried women. Now we are looking at whether stigma still exists toward men and women who too often engage in purely recreational sexual activity outside the confines of a dating relationship. That's a sea change in attitudes toward sex."
The study was expected to be presented on Monday at the American Sociological Association annual meeting in Denver. Research presented at meetings should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
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