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Gender Differences in the Double Standard

04 Aug 2016Psychology Essays

Evaluations of Sexually Active Men and Women Under Divided Attention: A Social Cognitive Approach to the Sexual Double Standard

In the modern society, there is a preponderance of opinion towards the sexual double standard. Michael J. Marks, however, considers that until now empirical evidence has failed to establish proof that sexual double standard exists. The purpose of this research is to prove that degree of attention, or the lack of it, of the participants, have an effect on their perceptions of sexual behavior. Specifically, the more divided the attention of a person is the more likely the participant will evaluate sexually active men more positively than sexually active women. On the other hand, under conditions of full attention, sexually active men or women will be rated equally.

In the procedure for full attention condition, participants were asked to read a description of a target man or woman who had 1, 17, 19 sexual partners. After reading the description, the participants were asked to evaluate the man or women whether they agree with the 15 sentences about the target. In the procedure for divided attention condition, essentially the same method was used. The only difference is that before the experiment was conducted the participants were shown an eight-digit number and were asked to memorize these numbers. The participants for this research are 34 men and 38 women (72 students in total) who were recruited from a midwestern university. Their average is 19 years old and approximately 72% were white.

Based on the research conducted, in the divided attention condition, male targets with 19 partners were rated more positively than male targets with 1 or 7 partners while female targets with 19 partners were rated negatively. On the other hand, under full attention condition, sexually active men and women were rated equally. The results support the theory that when a person’s attention or cognitive is limited participants are more likely to use stereotypes of highly sexually active men and negative stereotypes of sexually active women in their evaluations.

It can be concluded from this research sexual double standard may be more prevalent in the past research as divided attention condition is common in researchers. Thus, the researchers in verifying whether sexual double standard exists should take into account other factors such as the degree of attention, culture and other factors that may have an effect on the participants’ perception of male or female sexual behaviors. I think this research corroborates the findings in the earlier work of Michael Marks’ and R Chris Farley’s “Confirmation bias and the sexual double standard” which states that because the preconceived notion that double standard exists may lead people to remember information which tends to confirm its existence and to disregard information that goes against the notion (Marks and Farley, 2006, p.2). Thus, when people’s attention are undivided, they are most likely to act based on their preconceived notions of the double standard.

Sexual and Double Standards in Finland, Estonia and St. Petersburg

Surveys were conducted in the 1990s to study gender and sex issues. These surveys were used in this research to indicate whether single or double sexual standard exists between northern Europe and former territories of the Soviet Union. Specifically, the purposes of this research are to find out whether sexual or double sexual standard exists in marital fidelity and initiating sexual activity in Finland, Estonia, and St. Petersburg and to confirm whether the hypothesis that there is less double standard in Finland than in Estonia and St. Petersburg is true.

Six populations were studies: surveys in Finland in 1971, 1992 and 1999, surveys in Estonia in 2000 and surveys in St. Petersburg in 1996. The study sought to measure gender equality using three dimensions: marital fidelity, initiation of sexual contact and sexual satisfaction.

The survey results show that in 1990s Finland had an equal sexual culture than in St. Petersburg, Estonia, and Finland in 1971. Around 20% of the participants responded that one should be able to accept either a husband’s or a wife’s temporary infidelity. The only exceptions are the male respondents in Estonia and St. Petersburg who had the sexual double standard. More than 50% of these male respondents thought that one should be able to accept temporary infidelity of a husband but only 20% agreed that one should be able to accept temporary infidelity of a wife. The survey also showed that more women in Finland supported women who take the initiative sexually and that more women reported that their latest sexual intercourse had been pleasurable.

The conclusion that can be gleaned from this research is that there is a demographic crisis in different areas in the Soviet Union. Because Finland was much closer to the Western culture, it was greatly influenced by the sexual revolution that happened in the Western societies early in the 1970s. As a result, there was a great disparity in attitudes toward gender equality in sexual matters in Finland, Estonia and St. Petersburg. Attitude towards gender equality in Estonia and St. Petersburg during the 1990s is similar to the sexual attitude in Finland during the 1970s.

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