The Effect of Gender Role Norms on Feelings about Virginity Status in Women
Women conform to perceived gender norms by acting ‘feminine’ and men, ‘masculine’. Furthermore, women and men are influenced by sexual norms, such as the sexual double standard. This implies that men should engage in, desire, and enjoy sex whereas women should abstain from sex or feel ashamed if sexually active. Despite this standard, the prevalence of pre-marital sex has increased significantly, to a point where the age of first sexual intercourse is roughly the same for men and women (Lottes, 1993). This shows that women are conforming less to sexual norms and thus behaving more masculinely. Studies have shown that women engaging in more masculine behavior also increase their sexual activity and experience (Leary and Snell, 1988). However, despite this changing behavior, women’s emotional reactions and attitudes toward their sexuality have not improved (Sprecher, Barbee, and Schwartz, 1995; Donald, Lucke, Dunne, and Raphael, 1995). The current study examines how and why young women, whose attitudes and behaviors do not conform to sexual norms, have negative sexual experiences. One theory, posited by Crawford and Popp (2003) suggests that women are effected by the knowledge that their social networks support the double standard. Therefore, it is possible that women’s negative emotions towards their sexual activity are influenced by the degree to which their social networks support traditional gender role norms. Four sections of a longitudinal 18-page study were used including questionnaires regarding beliefs about sex and gender were given to 82 females undergraduate (18-22) students. Analyses done with traditional and non-traditional messages showed no significant results to support that the messages had an effect on women’s feelings. A significant main effect of feelings toward virginity status was found, that women felt more positively then negatively, towards their virginity status. Additionally, a main effect of the ladylike/proper message was found when analyzing the messages’ effect on negative feelings in women. This indicates that a significant number of women had higher negative feelings as a result of receiving messages to be ladylike and proper.