A close friend of mine is seeing a guy right now who wants to wait to have sex until they “get to know each other better.” When she told my friends and me this, we swooned and said things like, “Wow, this one’s a keeper” and “Oh my god, he really likes you!” She completely agreed with us and admired his self-restraint in the face of what she was sure was extreme horniness. But this morning, I began to think to myself about the response the guy would have gotten had he told his friends that she had said she wanted to wait for them to have sex. “Dude, she’s such a prude,” or “That sucks. Well, at least you’re not exclusive so you can still fuck that other girl, right?”
To be clear, I’m not saying that all guys are like this. Far from it, in fact; I’ve had the pleasure of knowing many men who are completely respectful and understanding of the desires, both sexual and otherwise, of their partner. And I will also acknowledge the fact that on average, men have been statistically shown to have higher sex drives than women. Despite these factors, it would be ignorant to deny that there are pervasive and systemic differences in the ways that men and women view, discuss, and treat sex. This issue links back to a conversation I was having with the same friend earlier in the week in which she was trying to decide whether or not she wanted to have sex with the guy she’s seeing. She initially didn’t, because she didn’t want her “number” to get too high (many women, myself included, keep track of how many people they’ve slept with). But then we started thinking about how guys have no problem with their number getting too high, and how in all of our relationships up until now and those of our friends, when one partner has wanted to refrain from sex, it has always been the female (assuming it is a heterosexual relationship). Why did she care so much about her number increasing? It wasn’t about her and what she wanted, but it was about the way our friends would view her if she slept with “too many people.”
We are probably all familiar with how when women sleep with multiple men, they are considered sluts, but when guys sleep with multiple women, they are considered macho and cool. For a pop culture example, just look at the Bachelor franchise. Why has The Bachelor been on the air for so much longer than The Bachelorette? Simple: because it is socially acceptable for a man to date and be intimate with multiple women, but society is much less willing to accept the idea of a woman being with multiple men. Or in Sex and the City – when Samantha sleeps with many different men in consecutive nights, she is described as “having sex like a man,” since it is okay for men to sleep with multiple women but not typical or acceptable for women to sleep with multiple men because, God forbid, they actually just want to have meaningless sex without being judged or worrying about their number.
Another friend was telling me about a study she conducted at her college in which a large number of men and women were polled as to what their definition of “hook up” was.
While the responses from both groups were similar in terms of their ambiguity and open-endedness, my friend noted to me that from the answers she got it was clear that when girls said to their friends that they hooked up with someone, they wanted it to be very ambiguous as to how far they had gone, whereas when guys told their friends they hooked up with a girl last night, they wanted their friends to think they had had sex (even if they hadn’t). So, even if guys don’t have sex, they want their friends to think that they did, while girls who are ashamed that they did have sex leave it open-ended so their friends aren’t totally sure what really happened.
There are many theories out there as to why men and women view sex so differently from each other. One theory obviously can’t explain everything, but I tend to believe the idea that from a young age, boys and girls are taught to think about sex differently. Girls are taught that their virginity is something sacred and should be saved for someone special, while boys are taught that having sex will prove their manliness. And growing up, it only gets worse. Girls call other girls whores if they sleep with multiple men, while guys call each other players and give their buddies a pat on the back if they sleep with more than one girl. And as women, we are constantly being pushed in opposite directions from the men and women in our lives; women telling us to wait and only have sex if we’re in love, men telling us to just have sex and enjoy it. Even men look down upon women who have had sex with lots of men, which could not be any more hypocritical since they expect us to have not had much sex before them but then be willing to have sex with them. I’ve had multiple friends tell me they were called prudes for not wanting to have sex with guys on the first date. And here we are, in total awe of the first man to ever tell one of us he wanted to wait.
She eventually decided to fuck double standards and have sex with him, because she was so sick of her obsession with her number, until her goals were stopped short by his decision to wait. Now she’s glad they’re waiting because he’s a really nice guy, and there is a big part of her that does feel like sex should be saved for intimate relationships. Again, there are many guys who share this point of view, and no man fits all of the stereotypes I have laid out here; however, it must be acknowledged that these double standards of promiscuity and sexual behavior do exist in our society and need to be addressed. No woman (or man) should ever have to feel like she shouldn’t have sex simply because she doesn’t want her number to get too high and she will be judged by her friends. If you want to have sex, have sex. Just make sure to use protection.