Archives for posts with tag: double standards

CS

Cross post from Everyday Feminism.

Hookup culture. Everybody’s doing it.

Most of you have already heard – or used – this term many times. But for those left in the dark, Urban Dictionary describes hookup culture as “the era that began in the early 1990s and has since prevailed on college campuses and elsewhere when hooking up has replaced traditional dating as the preferred method of heterosexual liaison.”

The American Psychological Association offers a more clinical description of “brief uncommitted sexual encounters between individuals who are not romantic partners or dating each other.”

But for the sake of brevity, hookup culture can be defined as “casual sex.”

And it’s on the rise91% of college students say that hookup culture dominates their lives.

But let’s take a step back and think about how – and who – this upward trend in casual hookups is affecting: Is it healthy? Is it fostering equality between the sexes? Is it mutually beneficial for all sexes? Or does it continue to uphold patriarchal memes?

There are two main schools of thought – one says that hookup culture supports women’s sexual empowerment by giving them the ability to have casual sex on their own terms; the other states that it helps sustain sexist double standards and disempowers women by depriving them of emotional connection.

By looking at both sides, we may be able to shed more light on the matter – or at least work towards a better understanding of each point of view.

Casual Sex in History

Historically, men who engage in casual sex or extramarital affairs have not been ostracized from society – rather, it has been almost (if not entirely) expected of them.

Women, on the other hand, have suffered punishments ranging from banishment to stoning to death for any sexual activity outside of the marriage bed.

Hell, just look at the Tudors.

King Henry VIII kept at least 12 mistresses during his married years and was decidedly sexually active before he was wed, while two of his six wives were beheaded because they wereaccused of sexual activity – including activity that took place before their betrothal to the King.

See the contrast between the sexes? One got to sleep around all he pleased while ruling a powerful world empire, while the other lost their heads for youthful sexual exploration.

Henry VIII is a common and well-known example of historical sexual discrimination, but these values used to be commonplace and routine in society.

And not much has changed.

The Dreaded Double Standard

We’ve come a long way since the 16th century in terms of gender equality and the way we view sex, particularly in the Western world. But there’s no question that most of Western society still gives men a “free pass” when it comes to sex outside of relationships, while women are much more likely to be judged, disliked, or called sluts for having noncommittal sex.

Studies show that this double standard leads to more hookup-related depression and anxiety in women than in men, and my personal experience supports this.

While there are anomalies, my female friends (and myself) invariably have a harder time dealing with the repercussions of casual sex than the dudes I know because they are more worried about what other people will think.

And why wouldn’t they be, considering how detrimental casual sex can be to a woman’s reputation? (Thanks, society!)

Hooking Up Today

While there is no question that Western society maintains an unfair double standard for men and women when it comes to casual sex, there are many individuals of all sexes who choose to engage in hookup culture on a regular basis – and enjoy it.

A lot of women say that casual hookups relieve them of the pressure that comes with trying to balance a career or educational path with a committed, time-consuming relationship.

In Kate Taylor’s New York Times article “Sex on Campus: She Can Play That Game Too,” one young woman talks plainly about the “low risk and low investment costs” of casually hooking up.

In another defense of hookup culture, author Hanna Rosin argues that casual hookups actually benefit women, giving them the opportunity to focus completely on their career goals without having to sacrifice having their sexual needs met.

And that’s just the question, isn’t it? Do casual hookups actually meet women’s needs? Let’s explore.

Are Hookups ‘Good’ for Women, Too?

That might all depend on what you think the end goal of casual sex is.

If it’s an orgasm and an orgasm only, then we have a problem. Simply put, women are just less likely than men to climax during a casual sexual encounter.

According to research conducted over a five-year period involving 24,000 students at 21 different colleges, twice as many men as women reached orgasm during their last experience with casual intercourse (80% of men versus 40% of women).

However, this same survey yielded very different results for women in committed relationships, about 75% of whom said that they had orgasmed the last time they had sex.

These numbers seem to lend credibility to the Masters and Johnson theory, which states that women need an intimate emotional connection with someone in order to reach orgasm.

However, most modern human sexuality experts believe that the real answer is more complex than this. In fact, many of the possible reasons why women don’t have as many orgasms during casual sex have little to do with emotions.

Investigating ‘Plain’ Sex and Orgasms

For starters, let’s get something out of the way. Guys, good old-fashioned penile thrusting simply doesn’t get a lot of women off.

A compilation of studies conducted over three-quarters of a century and compiled by Dr. Elizabeth Lloyd indicate that only about 25% of all women reliably reach their climax during “plain” sex (vaginal intercourse with no “extras”), while about one-third rarely or never have orgasms from intercourse at all.

Many women are, however, more likely to climax if they engage in other sexual activity with their partner, such as oral sex or manual clitoral stimulation.

So how does this relate to hookup culture? Simple. Casual hookups usually consist of vaginal intercourse and a focus less on other activities that help women reach orgasm.

Add what we already know, that women are more likely to orgasm from oral sex or an oral/vaginal combo than vaginal sex alone, to this fun fact: women are much less likely to get oral sex during casual sex. During casual hookups, men get it about 80% of the time, while women are on the receiving end of oral less than 50% of the time.

Benefits of Casual Sex Outside of the Big O

So we’ve already established that there are some roadblocks on the road to orgasm for women who have sex casually. But does having an orgasm have to be the goal of a hookup? Absolutely not.

Indiana University scientist Dr. Debra Hebernick believes that many women get sexual satisfaction and emotional benefits from intercourse that doesn’t lead to orgasm. Sometimes, according to her research, casual sex works wonders merely by providing a sense of intimacy for both partners involved.

Self-Centered Sexual Tendencies

What else is it about casual hookups that even further lessen a woman’s chance at climaxing?

Perhaps another answer lies in the interaction between the men and women who are participating in hookup culture, and in the indoctrinated societal messages that women absorb throughout their early lives.

Casual sex is usually more spontaneous, less emotionally-charged, and often experienced by partners who don’t know each other extremely well. Because of this, there is a much lower chance that women will ask their partner for what they want.

Not only this, but studies demonstrate that most men will admit to not trying as hard to please a partner that they do not have a deep emotional connection with. Some men say that it is awkward to ask a new partner what they like, and many even admit to being focused primarily on their own satisfaction.

Just Another Reason Why the Patriarchy Sucks

The cherry on top of the proverbial bad sex sundae is that despite how far we’ve come with gender equality and sexual liberation, society still judges women more harshly for being sexually promiscuous.

It’s not uncommon for women to express feelings of guilt or shame for hooking up casually – talk about a mood killer!

When women grow up being told to keep their number of sexual partners as low as possible, to only have sex inside the context of a relationship, and to stay virgins as long as they can, we end up with a problem: the difficulty of balancing a healthy casual sex life with a lifetime’s worth of slut-shaming.

It may very well be that this fucked-up socialization prevents many women from reaching orgasm in casual sex due to an underlying fear of disgrace.

***

In conclusion, I don’t think we can’t say that hookup culture is strictly bad or good.

Hookup culture can be, in my opinion, both harmful and helpful to women’s empowerment. Casual sex is an individual decision, and has individualized results for different people. There isn’t a “one size fits all” answer for this debate.

But I’m damn well sure of one thing: Patriarchal views that look down on women who participate in casual sex are hurting us. They are just another vestige of a long-gone time, like Henry VIII-era sexual discrimination and injustice, watered down and tied up in a pretty package that pretends to be equality.

Casual sex should be only a personal choice, free from society’s judgment and condemnation– whether you are man or woman, black or white, straight or gay, young or old.

Only when this is true for everyone – and I mean everyone – will I be able to answer the question of “Was it good for you?” with a resounding yes.

steubenville

My friend’s son is a smart, handsome center forward on the basketball team – he’s got everything going for him. College scouts coming out to see him play, tons of friends and a sweet, lovely girlfriend. His mom is so proud of him; she’s looking forward to seeing what his future will bring.

Then everything changes. One night he goes to a party where he isn’t familiar with the crowd, drinks one Jägerbomb too many, and passes out. There are some guys from the rival basketball team there, and they decide it would be hilarious to mess around with him.

These boys (also intoxicated) carry him upstairs, strip him naked, film themselves making lewd comments about how he’s “a big homo and takes it up the ass,” and begin inserting inanimate objects into his anus. Numerous partygoers take photos of the crime and film themselves laughing and taunting my friend’s son (still unconscious). After assaulting him for hours, urinating on him and taking numerous photos that are shared over social media, they finally tire of him, dump him in someone’s front yard and go home.

My friend’s son wakes up the next morning not knowing what happened but possessing a deep sense of foreboding – until later that day, when someone forwards him a picture of what was done to him the evening before. He is shocked, disgusted, angered and hurt. But he cannot yet imagine how bad things are going to get.

And my dear friend, his mother? She is utterly distraught and outraged. Her son was innocent – he didn’t deserve this treatment, this brutality, this cruel “joke” that she knows will haunt him for the rest of his life. She gets a community group together and they take a stand to get justice for what has been done to her poor son. Everyone is sympathetic – even the parents of the perpetrators and the rival team’s coaches have to admit that this was a vile, inexcusable act, from which my friend’s son may never fully recover. The community truly unites around the victim, lifting him and his family up in a time of need.

Except that I made this whole story up.

When something equally terrible actually happened to a 16-year old girl in Steubenville, Ohio last August – when she was raped by multiple star members of the “Big Red” football team while so intoxicated that she was unconscious – this is a little how the reactions went:

“The rape was just an excuse, I think …What else are you going to tell your parents when you come home drunk like that and after a night like that? She had to make up something. Now people are trying to blow up our football program because of it.” – Nate Hubbard, Big Red volunteer coach

“Everybody on those Web sites kept saying stuff that wasn’t true and saying, ‘Why wasn’t this person arrested? Why aren’t the police doing anything about it? Everybody wanted to incriminate more of the football players, some because some of the other schools in the area are simply jealous of Big Red.”
– Steubenville Police Chief William McCafferty

“He didn’t do anything” – Nate Richmond, defendant Ma’Lik Richmond’s father

[To the victim] “You ripped my family apart. You made my cousin cry. So when I see you it’s going to be homicide.” – Unnamed 16-year old relative of Richmond via twitter

Only some stopped to think – Does it make sense to blame and attack the victim and not the perpetrators of the crime, football stars Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond?

Other school officials protected the boys. Steubenville Big Red football coach Reno Saccoccia told the principal and school superintendent that he had no reason to suspend the players who posted online photographs and comments about the girl the night of the parties from play – because they didn’t think they had done anything wrong.

When approached in November, Coach Saccoccia claimed that he did not “do the internet” and therefore he hadn’t seen the photos and other evidence from the night of the rape. One reporter questioned him again on why he didn’t discipline the players, and his response was “You made me mad now. You’re going to get yours. And if you don’t get yours, somebody close to you will.” It appears that Saccoccia took further action to shield the players from prosecution, despite being aware that they had raped the young woman. Evidence introduced by the prosecution includes a text message that Trent Mays sent in reference to the attacks, in which he claimed that Saccoccia “took care of it.”

Fast forward: the two accused boys, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, are handed a guilty verdict on Sunday, March 17. They will both face time in juvenile detention centers for their crimes. At the scene of the trial, the boys cry; they apologize to the victim. And then, most shockingly, CNN cries with them. In news coverage immediately after the judgment is read, award-winning news anchor Candy Crawley and CNN reporter Poppy Harlow talk at length about how the verdict will negatively affect the boys’ lives.

The victim is a passing thought as Candy asks a legal expert what this charge’s lasting effect will really be on Mays and Richmond – and how being registered as sex offenders will make things difficult for them. Poppy also mentions that this was an “alcohol-fused party” and “alcohol [was] a huge part in this” – almost seeming to excuse the boys’ actions because of their level of intoxication. Harlow, appearing incredulous, adds that just because Mays took a nude photo of the girl and disseminated it publicly, he will serve an extra year in prison.

Sexist double standards like these are often published as legitimate news. In 2011, 18 men ranging from middle school age to 27 years old were charged with gang-raping an 11 year-old girl. This article from the New York Times focuses primarily the devastation of the town and the ruined lives of the boys, barely mentioning the young victim. In passing mention of the assaulted child, the article criticizes her style of dress and tendency to wear makeup, and places blame on her mother for not knowing where she was. Instead of asking what demented sense of morality these boys might possess in order to commit such a heinous crime, the article asks “how could these young men have been drawn into such an act?” Sheila Harrison, a 48-year old woman who was familiar with some of the offenders adds “It’s just destroyed our community.  These boys have to live with this the rest of their lives.” It’s as if the important question is, how much future trauma and bother will they be subjected to because they gang-raped an 11 year old girl?

The question I want to ask: what can be done to help the victims of rape and to prevent these horrendous crimes against women from being so commonplace, and so accepted, in our society?