It’s no secret that double standards exist for men and women. But they’re especially prominent in discussions of sex and what makes someone “masculine.”
There is an overused trope in entertainment where masculinity and sex are shown to be linked. When there is a “macho man,” he is also seen with a string of women behind him. Take a look at Schmidt from “New Girl,” or Joey from “Friends.” I admit, I enjoy shows like “New Girl” and “Friends,” and while I don’t think they are bad shows, they do spread the harmful stereotype that men are usually sexual creatures and that it is odd when they don’t express that desire. It does not make a person any more or less masculine for them to reject or engage in sex.
A large part of these characters’ personalities is their ability to have sex at their disposal. Entertainment like this might perpetuate the idea that when men reject sex, they are seen as weird or “not much of a man.” Or rather, they are met with the question of “why,” which is something we are all taught is inappropriate to ask women, but not men.
Colton Underwood, star of “The Bachelor” season 23, was heavily promoted for being the “first virgin bachelor.” This was the hook that was constantly used throughout the advertisements of his season, but it shouldn’t be that big of a deal.
There is a part of me that wonders if that would’ve been the same tagline used if a woman came out as the first virgin bachelorette. Making that big of a deal out of someone’s personal choice implies that men being virgins is taboo, or something that should be considered odd.
It should be made clear that Underwood never received criticism or backlash from the female contestants of the show for being a virgin. There was at least one mention of his sexual status every episode, with one of the women saying they would take his virginity. We usually teach men not to coerce or push women into having sex, but the opposite conversation hasn’t been opened as much.
Not only does this put virginity on a pedestal for someone to take, it also perpetuates the harmful stereotype that the only thing men care about is sex. A lot of hazing done in fraternities around the U.S. has involved a form of sexual activity. This could imply that sexual activities are indicative of more social status or power.
“The Cut” wrote an article mentioning sociologist Michael Kimmel, who wrote a book called “Guyland: The Perilous World Where Boys Become Men,” which details how male college students across the U.S. generally thought that about 80% of their peers were having sex over the weekend. The actual statistics were about 5-10%.
This tells us that what we think about the world around us isn’t always factual. It may feel like everyone is a certain way because of the bubble we live in when we attend college, but the facts show that we can’t always believe in our assumptions.
“Psychology Today” says that in a study of men in heterosexual relationships outlining their sexual desires, men sometimes feel pressure to give in to sex with their female partners for fear that their partners might take the rejection personally. This is not okay, because this isn’t full consent.
There can be long-term harm in losing your virginity before you are ready. Label it what you want, but many people can experience a lifetime of regret, PTSD and psychological distress when it comes to intimacy. This goes for both men and women. It does not help anyone to place expectations upon a certain sex just because it is what we are conditioned into believing.
It is time to break those beliefs, and doing away with harmful tropes regarding sex and masculinity in entertainment is a good start.