Boys and Girls: The Double Standard

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Morgan Terry

What confuses many people about the term ‘double standard’ is that it sometimes sounds like a campaign to get women to be able to sleep with multiple partners like men do without any of the backlash and name calling. And while that is part of it, the larger focus is more so rooted in all-encompassing equality and feminism. Now that society has progressed to a point that a woman could quite possibly become the next president of the United States, it’s about time that we clearly define, confront and get rid of double standards altogether.

Without even realizing it, our society primes girls at a very young age to be more conservative than boys. When boys begin to explore their sexual identities, it is expected and considered the norm. When girls become sexually conscious, they are encouraged to keep it clandestine because girls are not supposed to be sexual beings. From the time girls hit puberty, they are encouraged to cover up and be modest, not to act out sexually because that would be immoral. But when young men do it, it is accredited to “boys will be boys”.

So why are the expectations not the same? I got a number of different responses when I asked some of my male peers why women can’t be as sexually expressive as men:

“Girls are better than boys in most ways. They’re smarter and sweeter and so people think they should also be more, like, they should have more morals than men because everybody expects men to be dogs so it’s kind of a compliment that society thinks more highly of women.”

“That’s the way it’s always been for a long time, like, since the beginning of time. Like, that’s just how society started out with women being the conservative ones so that’s just how it’s been. I don’t necessarily think it should stay like that but, like, it’s just takes time to change things.”

“Men are more sexual than women it’s in their DNA.”

Perhaps there’s some truth to some of these responses, perhaps not. Either way, the reason why is slowly becoming less and less important as the feminist movement grows. This inequality between men and women is becoming more than just a problem of name-calling. Double standards are beginning to move in the direction of promoting rape-culture. Because there is an expectation of sexual behavior from boys, when they act out sexually it is accredited simply to the sexual nature of their beings. For example, cat-calling may seem like a harmless gesture, but for a little girl, being hooted at by a man old enough to be her father is a sexual experience, and a frightening one at that.

Many girls have their first sexual experiences as young as five years old, whether it’s being sexually harassed by being cat-called, stalked or touched. But before at least hitting puberty, young girls are not prepared to handle these type of interactions and are frequently left with scars. However, because instances of sexual harassment like these are considered remedial or “not a big deal”, girls are taught to accept this type of treatment because they are told it is the norm, and go on to accept other forms of larger scale sexual mistreatment later in life. Conversely, female sexual expression is condemned.

The female body has become so objectified that lingerie commercials with half-naked women are played on regular day-time television, but at this point in time there are laws in place that prohibit mothers from breastfeeding their children in public areas. Girls are primed to be embarrassed of the bodily functions they cannot control like developing breasts and their menstrual cycles. They are taught that the honesty of their bodies should remain a secret unless it is for the purpose of marketing or pleasing men.

It’s quite time that we begin raising our boys and girls the same way. Girls are told to cover up and be modest and refrain from being sexual in order to prevent being sexually harassed, would it not be easier to simply tell boys to be respectful? Rape apologism is a direct result of the double standards in our culture. In order to produce mentally healthy, respectful, law-abiding young men and women, we must abolish the differences in how they are raised. It is time we hold our boys accountable of their wrongdoings and teach them with the same urgency with which we teach young girls to cover up that the sexual mistreatment of others cannot be tolerated.

And it is time we raise our girls to understand that sexuality is indeed human nature and from the time they are young they must assume control of their sexual identities. Rape and sexual assault are the least reported crime in the United States. And of the rapes that are reported, only a mere fraction of actually go to trial. If your car was stolen, you wouldn’t think twice about reporting it to the police and the police would not blame you for getting your car stolen if you just so happened to be intoxicated or wearing a short skirt. It is time we treat sexual mistreatment the same way.