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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. This study examines associations between endorsement of a sexual double standard, gender role attitudes, and sexual behaviors and beliefs. Endorsement of a sexual double standard was associated with more conventionally gender-stereotyped sexual behaviors and beliefs, specifically, more sexual partners and fewer perceived barriers to condom use for young men, and more perceived barriers to condom use for young women.
For instance, men in the United States report more partners Centers for Disease Control ; Petersen and Hyde , more consistent condom use Brown et al. Women report more positive expectations for enjoying sex with a condom Sacco et al. More variation exists, however, among men and women than between men and women. Biological sex is not a perfect referent for gender because gender is a multidimensional construct. Rather, socially constructed facets of gender, such as endorsement of a sexual double standard and attitudes about how men and women should behave, are important components of gender Deaux and Major ; McHale et al.
Whereas most men and women fit neatly into of male and female, they vary in terms of their gendered attitudes. Thus, an investigation of gendered attitudes may give us a richer and more nuanced picture of the predictors of sexual behaviors and beliefs than mere biological sex alone. Past research suggests links between endorsement of a sexual double standard and sexual behaviors and beliefs Bordini and Sperb ; Crawford and Popp , but other gendered attitudes may also play a role in sexual experiences.
A better understanding of these associations with sexual behavior may be particularly important for the promotion of safer sex behaviors. Although many argue that a sexual double standard still exists in American culture Bordini and Sperb ; Crawford and Popp ; Kreager and Staff , there is individual variation in such endorsement. Some individuals may embrace the sexual double standard, some may feel ambivalent about it or make exceptions to it, whereas others may reject it Masters et al. Most theoretical conceptualizations of the sexual double standard, however, focus on the prediction that men and women will behave and be judged differently, but do not attempt to explain behavioral variation among men and among women based on their endorsement of such standards.
Given great variation among men and women in sexual behaviors, it is important to understand how gendered attitudes may contribute to such variation. Thus, if people engage in behaviors consistent with the sexual double standard, we would expect that men who endorse the sexual double standard more strongly will have more sexual partners, and that women who endorse it more will have fewer sexual partners. Empirical evidence does demonstrate that adolescent or adult women who endorse the sexual double standard more are less likely to have sex, but are also less likely to use condoms because norms present such behaviors as socially inappropriate for women Crawford and Popp ; Moore and Rosenthal ; Muehlenhard and Quackenbush These differences in condom use may result from the fact that women who more strongly endorse the sexual double standard do not feel comfortable enough to assert themselves in sexual situations.
The sexual double standard encourages more sexual freedom for men, and therefore men who hold more conventional norms about the male sexual role may have more sexual partners to align with these stereotypes. However, these same men, in embracing male stereotypes, might also be more likely to use condoms and perceive fewer barriers to condoms because buying and carrying condoms are in line with the male sexual role Shearer et al. In fact, introducing condoms to a sexual encounter is perceived as more acceptable for young men than for young women Marston and King Whereas the sexual double standard is generally measured comparatively, examining relative expectations for men and women, norms about gender in non-sexual domains are often defined specifically for men or women.
Because many cultures traditionally place more value on masculine than feminine behaviors, endorsement of a conventional male role implies an endorsement of a power differential between men and women, which could translate to sexual relationships. If one person has more power, that person is likely to dominate or control the other person in the relationship Jenkins ; Yoder and Kahn Research on intimate and sexual relationships has revealed that men tend to have more relational power than women do Yoder and Kahn , though there is between-couple variability in this power differential.
Compared to women with equal or more relational power, women with less relational power tend to use condoms less consistently, have less self-efficacy for using condoms, and have less relational influence on sexual decision making Pulerwitz et al. Less is known about how women internalize norms about male roles, and how such ideas relate to their sexual behaviors. In addition, compared to past research on male role norms, less is known about how female role norms, or beliefs about how women should behave, relate to sexual behaviors and beliefs.
We expect that conventional norms about women will relate to sexual behaviors and beliefs in similar ways as conventional norms about men do. In contrast, we expect men with more conventional gender attitudes to use condoms more and to perceive fewer barriers to condom use, again because more conventional men may see buying and carrying condoms as part of the male role.
These same women, though, if sexually active may be less likely to use condoms and perceive more barriers to condom use because of their lower power in relationships. Less is known about the association between gender role attitudes and sexual behaviors and beliefs than about endorsement of a sexual double standard and sexual behaviors and beliefs.
In summary, the current study examines how endorsement of a sexual double standard, as well as more general gender role attitudes, are associated with sexual behaviors and beliefs. Specifically, we assess of partners because individuals who have more partners potentially expose themselves to more opportunities for unwanted pregnancy and STIs. We measure condom use because it protects against unwanted pregnancy and STIs, and therefore carries long term implications for physical health and well-being. Finally, we measure perceived barriers to condom use because these beliefs are known to relate to consistent condom use and because behavior change is easier when perceived barriers are lower Basen-Engquist et al.
For each sexual behavior and belief, we examine the contribution of gender role attitudes above and beyond endorsement of a sexual double standard. Each student completed a survey in a group session. At the time of this visit they had been at university an average of We focus on penetrative sex because these behaviors are the highest risk behaviors for the transmission of HIV and other STIs. Higher scores indicate negative beliefs or attitudes about condom use e.
Past research has reported adequate reliability for this scale Basen-Engquist et al. We used a item shortened version of the Sexual Double Standard Scale Muehlenhard and Quackenbush to assess the belief that men should be allowed more sexual freedom than women. Respondents rated their agreement with each item e. We used the antifemininity norms subscale 7 items , which measures the degree to which individuals disapprove of feminine characteristics in men e. We created the Female Role Norms Scale to measure disapproval of masculine characteristics in women.
All descriptive statistics are presented in Table 1. To examine associations between gendered attitudes and sexual behaviors and beliefs, we first performed correlations, separately by biological sex, to demonstrate bivariate associations see Table 2. Next, we performed three hierarchical linear regressions to examine the contribution of endorsement of a sexual double standard and gender role attitudes for each outcome see Table 3.
Due to missing data and the fact that only sexually active participants were asked the question about condom use frequency, sample size ranges from to for women, and from to for men. Standardized betas from regressions predicting sexual behaviors and beliefs from gendered attitudes. To test Hypothesis 1, in step 2 we entered endorsement of a sexual double standard and its interaction with biological sex.
To test Hypothesis 2, in step 3 we entered the two gender role attitudes and their interactions with biological sex. Because our hypotheses are specific to predictor rather than outcome, we describe the ificant betas by predictor, rather than by model. In all 3 regressions, step 2 addresses Hypothesis 1, and step 3 addresses Hypothesis 2. For of partners, the change in R 2 for step 2 was ificant see Table 3 , Model 1. Endorsement of a sexual double standard and its interaction with biological sex were both ificant, indicating that endorsement of a sexual double standard was associated with of partners for men but not women.
For condom use, endorsement of a sexual double standard and its interaction with biological sex were not ificant Table 3 , Model 1, step 2. For barriers to condom use, the change in R 2 for step 2 was ificant see Table 3 , Model 3. The interaction between sexual double standard endorsement and biological sex was ificant, indicating that endorsement of a sexual double standard was associated with perceived barriers to condom use for both men and women, but in opposite directions. Thus, findings partially supported H1. Men who endorsed the sexual double standard more tended to have more sexual partners and perceive fewer barriers to condom use, whereas women who endorsed the sexual double standard more tended to perceive more barriers to condom use than women who endorsed it less.
For of partners, the change in R 2 for step 3 was ificant see Table 3 , Model 1. The interaction between male role norms and biological sex was ificant, indicating that male role norms were associated with of partners for men but not women. For condom use, the change in R 2 for step 3 was ificant see Table 3 , Model 2.
The main effect of male role norms and its interaction with biological sex were ificant, indicating that male role norms were associated with condom use for women but not for men. The main effect of female role norms and its interaction with biological sex on condom use were also ificant, indicating that female role norms were associated with condom use for women but not men.
For barriers to condom use, gender role attitudes and their interactions with biological sex were not ificant Table 3 , Model 3, step 3. Thus, findings partially supported H2. In this study, we went beyond standard examinations of sex differences in sexual behaviors and beliefs, and instead examined more socially constructed facets of gender. Our findings suggested associations between endorsement of a sexual double standard and sexual behaviors and beliefs in traditionally sex-typed ways. Women may have more power over their beliefs than their behaviors, and these beliefs may not always translate into the corresponding behaviors.
In addition, condom use, more than condom beliefs, may be context-specific, varying depending on the partner and situation. Thus, women who more strongly endorse the sexual double standard may choose a type of partner who takes more responsibility for condom use within the partnership. For men, sexual double standard beliefs were associated with sexual behaviors in terms of of partners. Thus, within sex, male and female students who endorsed the sexual double standard more tended to behave or think in ways that were consistent with it.
In addition to endorsement of the sexual double standard, a sex-specific gendered attitude, non-sexual gendered attitudes also were important for sexual behaviors and beliefs. However, against predictions, these conventional beliefs were more likely to be associated with lower risk than with higher risk, particularly for young men. For instance, men who had more conventional attitudes about male role norms tended to have fewer partners.
One possible explanation that we did not examine in these analyses is the role of religion. In addition, more religious individuals are less likely to have ever had intercourse and tend to have fewer sexual partners Earle et al.
Thus, more religious young men may have more conventional attitudes about male role norms, and also limit their of sexual partners. Because this finding was opposite to our prediction, and because it was a newly developed measure, caution is necessary in interpreting this finding. One goal of the current study was to determine whether gender role attitudes about non-sexual domains were associated with sexual behaviors and beliefs above and beyond endorsement of a sexual double standard. Thus, more conventional beliefs about the male role may indicate acceptance of a power differential between men and women.
To fully understand how individuals will behave in sexual situations, it is important to understand not only their gendered beliefs in sexual domains, but also to understand their gender role attitudes, including how men and women should behave in society more generally. This study had some limitations that indicate caution when interpreting the findings.
First, the findings were cross-sectional, and therefore, we cannot know whether gendered attitudes preceded sexual behaviors or beliefs, or the reverse. In the future, it will be important to examine gendered attitudes and sexual behaviors and beliefs longitudinally. In particular, studies that examine adolescents and young adults as they transition to first sexual experiences may help to explain how gendered attitudes predict these first sexual behaviors. Second, our participants were chosen because they were in their first year at a residential university.
However, findings from this study cannot be generalized to similarly aged individuals who do not attend college, or students at non-residential campuses. Third, we purposefully created our own measure of female role norms in order to employ a measure that mirrored our measure of male role norms.
However, perceptions of female roles in our society tend to be more flexible than perceptions of male role norms Diekman and Eagly , and thus it is possible that our female role norms measure was not as sensitive to conventional gender attitudes as the male role norms measure. Future work should consider including both implicit and explicit measures of male and female role norms.
It is clear that a of other factors unassessed in this study relate to sexual behaviors and condom use. Future studies should examine gendered attitudes within a larger constellation of structural and interpersonal predictors, such as religiosity, socioeconomic status, family characteristics, romantic relationship commitment, and sexual relationship power.
Future studies should examine how gendered attitudes differentially relate to vaginal and anal sexual behaviors, as well as how they relate to oral sex. In summary, women and men who endorsed a sexual double standard more tended to behave in ways or endorse beliefs that were more conventionally gender-typed. Even after ing for these sexual behavior-specific gendered attitudes, more general gender role attitudes played an important role in sexual behaviors. Taken together, these findings suggest the importance of multiple aspects of gendered attitudes in understanding sexuality during the transition to university, and the importance of understanding variation among men and among women in their gendered attitudes, rather than simply examining group differences.
National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Sex Cult. Author manuscript; available in PMC Mar 1. Eva S. Lefkowitz , Cindy L. Shearer , Meghan M. Gillen , and Graciela Espinosa-Hernandez. Author information Copyright and information Disclaimer. Corresponding author. Lefkowitz: ude.Female adult personals in Qoow
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