Sexual double standards in the media help shape teens' expectations about mens and women's sexual behavior

Sexual double standards in the media help shape teens' expectations about mens and women's sexual be ...

A Dutch study investigated how teens acceptance of sexual double standards is influenced by their peers, parents, and the media. The findings, published in the journalArchives of Sexual Behavior, confirmed that teens who perceived more traditional sexual double standards in the media and among their peers endorsed more traditional sexual double standards.

Different sexual behaviors are deemed appropriate for men and women, according to a sexual double standard (SDS). For example, while men are usually expected to be sexually dominant and active, women are also expected to be sexually submissive and reactive. These stereotypes can lead to harmful situations, such as women being misled for sexual behaviors that are applauded in men.

Researchers studied how the portrayal of sexual double standards by each of these sources might influence adolescents'' expectations of male and female sexual behavior.

During the #MeToo movement in 2017, my fascination with gender equality sparked by this movement, which said, for men and women to be sexually active, dominant, and initiateive.

A sample of 566 young people between the ages of 16 and 20 attended a conference in 24 Dutch schools. According to the questionnaire, they asked them about their views of the social norms concerning mens and women sexual behavior described by the media, their peers, and their parents. An example of the item structure was: [Importing to the media/My friends think/My parents think] a boy should be more knowledgeable about sex than a girl.

Through these surveys, students were challenged about their peers'' sexual behavior and assessed their exposure to sexualization on social media, reality television, music videos, and online porn. Finally, the students were challenged about their assumptions about the sexual behavior of men and women.

Peer and the media influence adolescents'' expectations of male and female sexual behavior, according to the findings. Interestingly, teens who perceived more traditional sexual double standards received by the media and conveyed by peers endorsed more traditional SDS norms themselves. Notably, students felt that parental standards influenced mens and womens sexual behavior.

Female adults with higher exposure to sexualized music videos endorsed more traditional SDS guidelines. Being exposed to sexualization through social media, reality television, online porn, or music videos by male artists was not associated with teens'' acceptance of SDS guidelines.

According to Endendijk, parents are perceived to be less important socializers of the SDS in adolescents. Specifically, when adolescents perceived their female peers to be highly sexually active, this was associated with less adherence to SDS norms in adolescents, probably because this peer context was inconsistent with the social norm. Lastly, when boys and the media communicated messages that high sexual activity and sexual dominance is approved more for boys than for girls, this was associated with more adherence to SDS norms in adolescents. Finally, exposure to

Interestingly, having fewer sexually active girls in one peer group was linked to the adoption of more traditional SDS norms, whereas the sexual activity of boys in one peer group was unrelated to the endorsement of SDS norms. These findings suggest that female peers'' sexual behavior might be more important than male peers.

According to Endendijk, the authors suggest that educating young people about the importance of mens and women sexual orientation may help dispel unrealistic expectations described by the media. Moreover, they suggest that introducing topics such as slut-shaming, sexual coercion, and sexual pressure should be addressed. These programs should also include how peers and the media communicate SDS norms, according to Endendijk.

Although the study, like all research, includes several flaws.

Because this study was conducted at one point in time, we cannot draw further conclusions about cause and effect, i.e. whether adolescents with traditional SDS-norms choose to hang out with peers with similar normative beliefs or to watch media with sexual content, or if adolescents internalize similar SDS-norms as their peers, or engage in similar sexual behaviors as models in the media, according to Endendijk. Longitudinal research in larger groups of non-heterosexual adolescents is necessary as well

Joyce J. Endendijk, Maja Dekovic, Helen Vossen, Anneloes L. van Baar, and Ellen Reitz, are author of the study, Sexual Double Standards: Contributions of Sexual Socialization by Parents, Peers, and the Media.

You may also like: