How Sexual Double Standards in Pop Culture Shape Teens’ Ideas of Gender and Sexuality

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The portrayal of sexuality and sexual relationships in pop culture has always been problematic, if not downright flawed. Among its many problems is that of sexual double standards – basically, men and women are not only expected to play different sexual roles, but are also chastised for deviating from these dictates. According to a new study, such depiction is not harmless simply because it is fiction; its very real impact on reality comes in the form of shaping adolescent views on gender and sexuality.

“Given that peers, parents, and the media are the primary sources of adolescent socialization, researchers investigated how the portrayal of sexual double standards by each of these sources might influence adolescents’ expectations of male sexual behavior and feminine”, Remarks a media report on paper.

Posted in Sexual Behavior Archives, the study based its findings on the responses of 566 students aged 16 to 20 in the Netherlands. Participants were asked about their exposure to sexualization in pop culture – whether through social media, music videos, reality TV shows or even online pornography. They also answered questions about the sexual opinions of their parents and family and about the sexual behaviors of their peers.

Researchers found that when teens were exposed to more sexual double standards in the media, they were more likely to support traditional gender roles in sexual behavior – such as expecting men to be sexually dominant. and women to be sexually submissive; usually, apart from their meaning in the BDSM context.


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Explaining the type of sexual double standards prevalent in the media, study material for a course exploring the influence of media on sexuality Remarks“Often, sexuality in pop culture portrays women[e]en as subject to men or inferior to men. This is where the idea of ​​a sex object comes in. Women are portrayed simply as objects of consumption as opposed to individuals with agency… [They] are valued for their sexuality, which refers to a woman’s attractiveness, her desire to be in the eyes of a man, and her relationship with men.

In other words, pop culture often endorses the norm that men are the sexual pursuers while expecting women to merely react to such pursuit – women taking the initiative by making advances. sexual relations oppose this traditional view. This begs the question, however: what about non-heterosexual relationships or people on the asexuality spectrum? Obviously, not only do sexual double standards lead to shaming women for the same things that men are praised and praised for, but they also fail to describe non-heterosexual relationships.

On the one hand, the latter is, perhaps, for the best since the “manuals of sexual behavior”, so to speak, are obviously harmful. But on the other hand, research has shown that non-LGBTQ+ people who were exposed to LGBTQ+ representation in the media were almost 50% more accepting of the community than respondents who had not seen them represented in the media. Given the number of hate crimes that lack of acceptance can perpetuate, more and better representation seems like a powerful tool. Unfortunately, this is still largely lacking.


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Fortunately, however, the media were not the only instruments in shaping adolescents’ views on sexuality; the behavior of their peers also had a relevant role to play. If adolescents were in a group with many sexually active peers, they were less likely to endorse traditional sexual norms. The sexual activity of male peers does not appear to have an impact.

“[W]When adolescent girls perceived their female peers to be highly sexually active, this was associated with lower adherence to [sexual double standards’] norms in adolescents, probably because this peer context was incongruous with the social norm,” Noted Joyce J. Endendijk, lead author of the article, specializing in child and adolescent studies at the University of Utrecht. She added that when “peers and the media convey messages that high sexual activity and sexual dominance are more endorsed for boys than girls, this has been associated with greater adherence to [sexual double standards’] norms in adolescents.

Interestingly, however, parents’ and families’ opinions on sexuality do not seem to have as much influence on adolescents’ opinions on the subject. “Parents seem to be less important socializers of SDS in adolescents,” Endendijk said.

Since we can’t – and shouldn’t – control how sexually active a peer group is, perhaps it’s time the popular media took responsibility for peddling toxic ideas that do nothing other than to maintain the status quo of toxic masculinity.

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