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‘No Girl Wants To Be Called A Slut!’: Women, Heterosexual Casual Sex And The Sexual Double Standard

P. Farvid, V. Braun, Casey Rowney
Published 2017 · Psychology

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Abstract Recent shifts in the western cultural landscape mean that practices such as casual sex are contradictory terrains for women. Although permissive and liberal discourses construct women’s casual sex as acceptable, and even desirable, traditional discourses and a sexual double standard, do not. This article examines 15 young women’s negotiation of the sexual double standard in their talk of heterosexual casual sex. Interviews were analysed using thematic analysis, with borrowed insights from discourse analysis, within a constructionist framework. All 15 women in this study gave accounts of an agentic and desiring sexuality, yet talked about casual sex and a sexual reputation in contradictory and contested ways. Three main themes were identified: the (un)acceptability of casual sex, a sexual reputation is what other girls have, and the making of a slut. Although an enduring sexual double standard was identified, all participants challenged its relevance and appropriateness. However, a sexual double standard also seeped into women’s accounts when talking about other women and the threat of garnering a negative sexual reputation was linked to women’s silencing of their own casual sex experiences. This work supports the continued need to dismantle un/changing codes of gendered heterosexuality.
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