The Sexual Triple Standard

by mmann5 on October 24, 2013 - 6:38pm

When people think of sex they think of the most common form – monogamous, two different genders, consensual, sexual interaction. But throughout history there has been the idea and realization of the sexual double standard, SDS. The sexual double standard is the concept that men have greater sexual freedom than women in different situations. College is a bit of an informal social structure, as it consistently referred to as a time of freedom, crazy acts, mistakes and life changing decisions. Drinking and sex are considered nothing but a normal weekend. The study done by Jonason and Marks delves into the whether or not SDS still exists in today’s social norms and whether is it more prevalent in uncommon sexual acts, such as threesomes. There were two studies preformed, both were surveys given to undergraduate physcology students for extra credit. Study 1 evaluated student’s perspectives on threesomes and the genders involved. They were asked to list adjectives in response to two questions – “What are your perceptions of a man or woman who has had a threesome (where three people engage in simultaneous sexual acts)” I found the results given to be slightly frightening, given the little information people where given on these examples, but also unsurprising as I feel it is general knowledge that people generally look at polygamous relationships as unusual. Such adjectives like “sinful, crazy, desperate, whore, undependable, unstable and selfish” were used as derogatory evaluations of the targets. There were much fewer positive evaluations using adjectives such as “confident, outgoing, horny, happy, and wild”. In general, women (In this case, “Jane”) were favored less positively than men (In this case “John”) when engaging in unspecified threesomes. I find it very interesting that women actually provided the most derogatory evaluations than men. I see this as a sad display of internalized misogyny. Participants in the study were then given the different options of threesomes – a threesome with two of the opposite gender (one of their gender and one opposite theirs) or a threesome with two of the same gender (but different from their own). All together this part of the study showed that threesome type had a large impact on how favorably threesomes where viewed. Those who have sex two opposite genders (such as a woman with another man and woman) were viewed more positively than those who have a threesome with a member of each gender. This is where I see a pattern of possible homophobia along with the eroticism of lesbians, which is later mentioned as a possible variants in later results. Men who have threesomes with two opposite genders (such as a man with another man and woman) are viewed more derogatory than a woman involved in a same gender and opposite gender threesome. Men involved in a same gender threesome (such as man with two women) were viewed more favorably than all other threesome combinations. The summary of the first study basically concluded that while women were derogated more for engaged in the same sexual acts as men, women were viewed neutrally across threesome types as far as favorability went.

The second study was more of an independent variable. Participants (different undergraduates than before) where asked to evaluate people who engage in monogamous sexual activity. By doing this, the researchers hoped to see if SDS still existed in monogamous relationships and whether they are favored over uncommon, polygamous acts. The study found that “men were evaluated more favorable for engaging in monogamous sex than women while little evidence was found to support the derogatory evaluation of Jane when engaged in monogous sex”. Overall, this lead to the conclusion that SDS is more or less absent from monogamous sex but not from threesomes. In the past, interracial, same-sex (and currently somewhat still so), out of wedlock, and other “unapproved” relationships were looked down upon. The social norms for sex are changing with the times. Many things are more acceptable to today than they were in the past. There are many possible reasons for the results found. All of these results are based on the perspectives of college students. It is considered that female college students are more likely to negatively view sexual acts, which can also be part of a much larger picture affecting the sexualization of women and “slut-shaming”. The negativity towards men having threesomes with another male and female could relate to a possible conclusion to homophobia within the male college community, even though intercourse is not specified between the two males and female.  Threesomes are considered a deviance that is challenged socially and departs from the norms of typical known sexual behavior.


Jonason, P., & Marks, M. (2009). Common vs. Uncommon Sexual Acts: Evidence for the Sexual Double Standard. Sex Roles, 60(5/6), 357-365.



It is interesting to view the topic that you chose because it is so different from the cultural norm. In a hetero-normative and patriarchal society, the results and SDS do not surprise me. Threesomes are a form of sexual activity that is so subjective. If a heterosexual male decides to have a threesome with two other girls, they are often viewed positively by their other heterosexual male friends because the male is seen as the one holding the power in the sexual activity.

The sexualization of lesbians in the media is portrayed more than that of homosexual men. An example that comes to mind is the American version of the television show, Skins, that originated in the United Kingdom. The show is about the complex lives of several teens. The show is controversial in that the teens often engage in sexual activity. The show portrays all walks of life and one of the teens, Maxie, is a homosexual individual. Because the show became so popular on viewing sites like Netflix, an Americanized version was released. Each character was very similar but one person was changed completely. Maxie was replaced with "Tea" an over sexualized lesbian. In the UK version, a main character, named Tony, that identifies as heterosexual experiments sexually with Maxie. In the US version, Tea sleeps with Tony. I was enraged by this decision. The creators were hoping to create a show that appealed to more people by making scenes that were strictly heterosexual. This goes to show that in the media lesbian characters often appeal to men while homosexual males are ignored. This double standard is disturbing to me. This example is among many others. To see that a threesome with two women is more positive and heterosexual sex is more positive is not surprising. I am happy to say that the American version of Skins got cancelled due to poor reviews.

Here a male explains his concern with the character change on Skins. I found his interpretation as a gay male very interesting.

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