Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D. in Psychology

First Advisor

Alan M. Gross

Second Advisor

Marc Showalter

Third Advisor

Michael T. Allen

Abstract

Men and women have historically been held to different standards regarding sexual behavior, known as the sexual double standard. Women have typically been judged more harshly than men for engaging in similar sexual behavior. Both genders report higher levels of sexual activity and more liberal attitudes since the 1940s. Males historically report engaging in more sexual activity than females. However, current studies indicate both genders are engaging in similar levels of sexual activity, although men continue to report slightly higher levels. It is unclear whether attitudes and judgments related to gender and sexuality have kept pace with reported behavior changes. The documented increase in sexual activity for men and women has coincided with a dramatic increase in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Consistent condom use during all forms of sexual activity has been recommended as the most reliable method of pregnancy and STD prevention. However, many individuals report inconsistent condom use. The purpose of the current study is to investigate the potential role the sexual double standard may play in the inconsistent use of condoms in college women. Undergraduate students were asked to read one of three vignettes (male provides condom, female provides condom, no condom was used) in which a casual sexual encounter was described. After reading the vignette, participants completed adjective ratings of the vignette actors, as well as measures of attitudes toward gender and sexuality, sexual history, and demographics. Contrary to expectations, results indicated that females were judged to be more likeable when she provided the condom compared to when no condom was used and more diplomatic when she provided the condom when compared to when no condom was used or when the male provided the condom. Males were equally liked across all condom conditions, and were rated as more diplomatic when providing the condom versus when no condom was used. Unexpectedly, neither judgments of the vignette actors nor attitudes toward gender and sexuality were predictive of personal sexual history. These findings suggest that gender differences in sexual behavior may be quite small, and that standards for sexual behavior are more equal than has been previously documented.

Included in

Psychology Commons

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