For a woman, having close guy friends can be a very good or very bad thing depending on the circumstance. When it comes to discussing sexual affairs, in my experience anyway, the conversations have always flowed into hypocritical territory.
A common disagreement among my friends is the appropriate ‘magic number’ for women versus men. One of the guys sharing his number with us had slept with his fair share of women, but when it came to one of my female friends spilling the beans and revealing she had had sex with seven men, the guy was appalled. However, his number of sex partners was more than two times her number.
His take on the situation, rationalizing that women should not be so promiscuous, and that women are supposed to focus more on relationships, forced the realization that society proposes some very gender-oriented misconceptions. “There is a stigma against women being sexualized because there’s a pressure to be modest and just devoted to one but at the same time the media teaches women to be available, so it’s kind of a double-edged sword,” Lauren Allswede, advocacy coordinator for the Sexual Assault Program at MSU, said. Social pressures like these are deeply ingrained in our society, creating gender-specific sexual ideas.
[sex]Pre-med junior Jordan Wroblewski agreed that there is a stereotype about women involving sexual affairs. “It might be because of the social upbringing throughout American history,” Wroblewski said. The roles women are supposed to play are a part of a patriarchal system: one in which men have the power, and the woman is considered the preserver of culture.
Although there have been many strides for women since the early 19th century, the perception of how women should engage themselves sexually is still upheld in many ways. “I personally don’t care if women have more partners. I don’t judge harshly like that,” Wroblewski said.
Although some men may not be swayed by a women’s sexual history, they may be just as quick to put down women in other ways. “Women get judged for wearing provocative clothing or short skirts, accused of inviting sexual activity,” Allswede said. “I think it’s part of the rape culture we live in where women get blamed for not only what they’re wearing, but drinking, walking alone, or being irresponsible.” Skank, whore and a number of other words all have negative connotations with definitions having to do with the promiscuity of a woman. Whether it has been because her skirt was not touching her knees or as a friendly “hey skank” from her BFF, it has been embraced as common everyday language utilized by our generation.
However, the acceptance of it in passing doesn’t always make it OK, especially if someone is insinuating that a woman is a slut because she gets around the block, or rather, around the bedroom. “To society, women are supposed to be more classy, laid back and feminine,” Ellen Odoi, a Lyman Briggs pre-med human biology sophomore, said. Women’s sexual roles are more polarized and their actions more harshly criticized.
Men aren’t the only ones following the social norms that society has implanted. Women seem to be just as judgmental, sometimes even more so of other women. “Sometimes women can be more critical of other women, and one reason is because they want to separate themselves,” Allswede said. This form of “othering” the promiscuous offers women a way to make themselves seem more respectable.
Words typically associated with men’s sexualities are colored with positive connotations. In fact “male whore” is the only negative name Allswede could think of that men are referred to as, and it isn’t used that often. Pimp, player and even male whore will more often gain men respect from their peers rather than discredit them. “Most of the male terms for sexual activities are ones that are proud, like stud,” Allswede said.
In regards to women being referred to as “sluts” by men, Allswede said that although men make these references, they still want to be with women who are experienced. “The girls who are more sexually active might be seen as somebody fun to go out with and be promiscuous with, but not somebody to take home to Mom,” Allswede said.
The girls who have more experience have done so for a variety of reasons. Whether it’s because they were under the influence of a substance such as alcohol, went to bed unwillingly, trying to gain popularity or get noticed or just doing it because they felt confident in their decisions. Wroblewski said he thinks a woman’s reasoning behind her sexual affairs is important. “If she’s just doing it to be noticed, then names apply; guys don’t do it to be noticed, they do it for bragging rights,” Wroblewski said.
However, is there a difference between being sexually active for bragging rights or to get noticed? “I think everybody lies about how many people they’ve slept with because they may feel pressure to have more or less and need to live up to societal expectations for how they should be acting,” Allswede said.
[cock1]Social norms dictate that women should be looking for “the one,” and men are supposed to go out and use their testosterone, not fight it. Even if a woman was waiting for “the one,” there are so many exterior pressures today that she may start to become a bit more sexualized in the way she dresses or carries herself. This invites still more names, now including “cock tease.”
Ryan Webster, community educator for Planned Parenthood of East Lansing, sees the pressures and thinks society has been focusing on the wrong issues. “It doesn’t matter whether a woman has 2,700 and a man has 13 partners – the only difference is socially based,” Webster said. “The level of promiscuity is irrelevant; it’s about how safe you are.”
Webster did note that the “conquest” for men is more positive and they’re more likely to be viewed as a “pimp” or a “player.” Risks are involved, but women seem to be more cautious about these risks. “It’s more internalized for women; the changes would be happening to her body,” Webster said referring to a woman’s risk of pregnancy.
Both men and women should be equally knowledgeable of the risk of STDs, however the seriousness to which they take it may differ. Webster said that the number of people who get checked annually is pretty even between men and women. Yet he did mention that women tend to take more precautions, utilizing more forms of protection against both pregnancy and STDs. “Women take more precautions because there is a greater availability of them for women,” Webster said. “Men have two options and one is surgery, so it’s either wearing a condom or getting a vasectomy, and what option does a man have if he can’t find a condom that fits?”
[girl]Precautions and problems aside, having an open forum to converse about sex is important – even if it’s just with a group of friends. But many people’s preconceived notions of sex talks may be wrong. “I think men would be surprised to know that women talk about sex even more [than men],” Odoi said. While any Sex and the City fan would not be surprised by this, the difference is really in the discussion.
“Guys are more braggadocios; they brag, they exaggerate and make derogatory comments,” Wroblewski said. “Women are more honest and don’t use slang.” There are certainly many cases in which the woman could, for example, be exaggerating about their sexual encounters more and a man could be being more honest, however those ideas are not parallel to society’s expectations.
[wroblewski]There are certainly many cases in which the woman could, for example, be exaggerating about her sexual encounters more and a man could be being more honest, however the content of conversations about sex are parallel to society’s expectations. “It just comes down to the fact that men are rooted in entitlement and their male privilege,” Allswede concluded.
Both Webster and Allswede pointed to the media for bringing about a more sexualized generation. Nowadays women are becoming sexually active at younger and younger ages, and many sexual ideals are warranted by TV, movies and the Internet. “I think women are more likely to grow up feeling insecure because all those pressures become internalized and become a part of their daily lives – how to act, talk, dress, even how to value themselves,” Allswede said. However, along with these pressures also come more equalized gender roles. Women have strong sexual women to view as role models in the media, whether it comes from HBO or feminist blogs like Jezebel.
The media isn’t the only outlet promoting societal expectations. Many women and men are still responsible to holding on to these social stigmas. A power drive still appears in which women must still be aware that men have different opportunities sexually than women do. “I would like to think that people think having 2,700 partners is bad whether you’re a man or a woman even if society says otherwise,” Webster said.
Whether your number can be counted on one hand or all your fingers and toes, what’s most important is sexual safety and honesty with your partner. Talking about sex is healthy and can be fun – and maybe in doing so you can realize what your magic number is.

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