The world's oldest double standard – the one that says promiscuous women are slutty while promiscuous men are studly – is still entrenched in the minds of young people, according to a new study of the sexual attitudes of college-aged people.
The study by developmental psychologists at Cornell University in New York state found that women in university almost unanimously rated other women they believed to be sexually non-permissive as better friend-material than women they believed to be promiscuous.
The findings held true even when the women doing the judging were sexually promiscuous themselves. Men, meanwhile, generally rated permissive and non-permissive men as equally suitable for friendship.
"For sexually permissive women, they are ostracized for being 'easy,' whereas men with a high number of sexual partners are viewed with a sense of accomplishment," Zhana Vrangalova, the study's lead author, told Science Daily. "What surprised us in this study is how unaccepting promiscuous women were of other promiscuous women when it came to friendships – these are the very people one would think they could turn to for support."
The researchers asked 751 university students to rate the friendship potential of men and women who were basically identical except when it came to the number of people they'd slept with in their young lives; some were described as having had sex with two people, and others with 20. The subjects also provided information about their own sexual histories.
"Across all female participants, women – regardless of their own promiscuity – viewed sexually permissive women more negatively on nine of 10 friendship attributes, judging them more favourably only on their outgoingness," Science Daily reported.
Men, on the other hand, appeared to ignore as a factor the number of people another man had slept with – except when it came to "mate guarding."
Science Daily reports that the researchers believe women and men both worry that promiscuous peers could steal their mates, and therefore see them as an evolutionary threat. But women have the added burden of the world's oldest double standard, and may seek to "distance themselves from any stigma that is attached to being friends with [promiscuous] women."