Double Standard

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A term used to describe society’s different societal expectations of appropriateness and acceptability of sexual behaviors for males and females. This standard for sexual conduct does not only apply to possible dating and casual relationships but extends through courtship and marriage, where cultural norms still appear to be more tolerant of male than female adultery. While most often the double standard suggests that males will be far less condemned than females for engaging in extramarital sex, an increasingly more subtle form allows women to engage in sex without disapproval if they are in a stable love relationship, while the male is still permitted casual sex.

Historians have suggested that the roots of the double standard go back to biblical times, when women were considered the property of men—first their fathers and then their husbands. According to Deuteronomy (22:14–21), if a man found that his wife was not a virgin at the time of marriage and the parents could not prove otherwise, the woman could be stoned. In the case of adultery, a married man who had intercourse with an unmarried woman would be fined, while a married woman who had intercourse with an unmarried man could be stoned to death.

Many social critics believe that the double standard lingers on and reflects female as well as male thinking. Parents often show little or no concern about their teenaged sons having sex but preach abstinence to their daughters. Some rationalize this by thinking that it is their daughter who could become pregnant, not their son, and selectively overlook the fact that their son could make someone else’s daughter pregnant.

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