The Slut/Stud Double Standard

Everyone—even backlash-prone, conservative anti-feminists—agrees that there is a slut-stud double standard. Do I even need to tell you what that double standard is? I don’t think I need to explain it. You’ve heard it a thousand times, probably. People do tend to disagree about whether that double standard is justified in any way. Some people say it somehow stems from evolution, as if all the heterosexual men who are sleeping around really want to get all their “conquests” pregnant (and what about gay men, then?). Those who oppose the double standard make it all sound so simple, though: let’s just not call promiscuous women “sluts” and not call promiscuous men “studs.”

Obviously that approach hasn’t worked. I’ve known many who have tried it. Yet, many of my most ardent feminist friends, in a moment of low self-monitoring have uttered—maybe even unconsciously—the word slut in reference to a woman who “sleeps around” or who even dresses in a less-than-dignified fashion. We need to go beyond the name, beyond the word, to the root of the problem. As all critics of “political correctness” know, changing people’s language is only a start—you must also change how people think.

Now, you have to understand, first of all, one essential way in which the slut-stud double standard gets perpetuated, and it is not through mere name-calling alone. Right now, if you take any randomly selected heterosexual man and ask him, “How easy would it be for you to sleep with ten different women in the next week?” he will most likely, in all truthfulness, say, “It’s impossible,” or “It’s possible, but it would be very difficult.” (This is all, of course, hypothetically assuming that he would want to sleep with ten different women in a week.) If you posed a similar question to a randomly selected heterosexual woman about sleeping with ten different men in a week, though, the odds go up that she would respond, “Easy, very easy.”

Right or wrong, we admire “studs” not only because we live in a patriarchal culture, but because there is a certain admiration for someone who, however disgustingly to us, can accomplish what is not easy to accomplish. We also look down on people who give away what is much sought-after.

Naturally, you would say this is a “vicious cycle,” right? You would say, “Well, it’s because of the double standard itself that women are told not to ‘give away’ their sexuality, and men are told to ‘conquer’ women’s sexuality.” Of course it is—I’m not denying that. I am saying, though, that even if we disagree with the system of sexual judgment or its origins, we still have to recognize that it is easier for a woman to have sex with many men than it is for a man to have sex with many women.

So, the solution is not just to resist uttering the s-word whenever you see a woman you deem as less-than-virtuous. A revolution has to happen. Men have to stop giving it up so easily—men have to be desired, to be “conquered,” too. Women, in turn, need to take a risk and be more “slutty.” We need to achieve a balance through behavior and desire. We have to stop subscribing to the myth that a man must take every opportunity he can to have sex with a woman. We have to stop believing that woman have to “save” themselves any more than men do for some “special person.”

I’m not saying all women should sleep around. In fact, I’m personally (though, not politically) against pre-marital or promiscuous sex for both sexes, but seeing as how most Americans do not subscribe to the “abstinence-only” approach, we must recognize that as long as any promiscuous or pre-marital sex exists, it should be viewed as equally respectable or disrespectable for both sexes, and that can happen only if people start shifting their own personal attitudes and desires. We can’t just withhold the uttering of the name slut or stud.

Further reading:

“Blame One of the Sexes”
“Shades of Desire”
“Worse Than Sticks or Stones, the ‘Slut’ Label Cuts Deep”
“The Double Standard Thrives”
“Slut vs. Stud, the sexual double standard”
“Hot for Teacher – Debra LaFave”
“Sex Sobers in Controversial Sundance Documentary”
“Sleeping around? Do it with class!”

1 comment

  1. I wouldn’t say that it is a double standard. For a man to be a stud it takes effort and costs money. He first has to make the woman he desire’s desire him back (lets be honest women set the rules in the dating game), then he has to convince her to let him take her out which brings the inevitable costs that come with that. Only then does he have a chance of sleeping with her. Effort required = bloody loads!
    However even the most plain looking woman can go to a club on a Saturday night and providing she makes it clear she’s after uncomplicated sex and isn’t fussy men will flock to her. Effort required = almost zero.

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