SOC367 – Week 5
(1) Gendered Sexuality in Young Adulthood – Double Binds and Flawed options
Point: using an interactionist, intersectional approach and attend how both gender and class shape
college sexuality; how women’s experiences are shaped by gender beliefs.
Goal: to illustrate how the intersection of gender and class as structures creates dilemmas for college
Gender Theory and College Sexuality
-Research on Hooking up –
• Paul, McManus, and Hayes (2000) and Gleen and Marquardt (2001) were the first to draw
attention to the hookup as a distinct social form.
• Gleen and Marquardt (2001) “a hookup is anything ranging from kissing to having sex and that it
takes place outside the context of commitment”
- “Hooking up is an activity that women sometimes find rewarding but more often find
confusing, hurtful, and awkward.”
• Hooking up: typically do not plan to do something together prior to sexual activity. Two people
hanging out at a party, bar, or place of residence will begin talking, flirting and dancing. It occurs
among those who know each other at least slightly.
• Ongoing hookups sometimes became committed relationships and vice versa; hooking up does not
imply interest in a relationship, but it does not preclude such interest.
• Hookups less enjoyable for women than for men; negative and harmful experience
• “Battle of the sexes” if women could simply extract commitment from men rather than
participating in hookups, gender inequalities in college sexuality would be alleviated
• Women, losers in both hookups and relationships
- Physical battery, emotional abuse, sexual assault and stalking occur at high rates in
youthful heterosexual relationships.
- Gender inequality in college sexuality is systemic, existing across social forms.
(Hookups can be seen as gender plus dimensions of inequality)
Gender Beliefs and Social Interaction
• Interactional level, attending to the power of public gender beliefs in organizing college sexual and
• Ridgeway and Cornell (2004), Gender beliefs “cultural rules or instructions for enacting the social
structure of difference and inequality that we understand to be gender.”
• Interaction is particularly important to the reproduction of gender inequality because of how
frequently men and women interact.
• The significance of gender beliefs in sexual interaction may be magnified earlier in the life course,
given the amount of time spent in interaction with peers and the greater malleability of selves.
• Twin beliefs: are implicated in the (re)production of gender inequality in college sexuality + are at
the heart of women’s sexual dilemmas with both hookups and relationships
(1) Sexual double standard - women should not do underlies a sexual double standard; while
men are expected to desire and pursue sexual opportunities regardless of context, women are
expected to avoid causal sex-having sex only when in relationships and in love.
(2) Relational imperative - Love, romance, relationships, and marriage; normal women should
• Beisel and Kay (2004) apply Sewell’s (1992) theory of structure to intersectionality, structures
intersect when they share resources or guidelines for action (ex. Gender beliefs)
• Gender and class intersect in the sexual arena, as these structures both rely on beliefs about
how and with whom individuals should be intimate.
• Class structures beliefs - ex) Privileged youngAmericans, both men and women, are now expected to defer
family formation until the mid-twenties or even early-thirties to focus on education and
career investment Self-development imperative
- This imperative makes committed relationships less feasible as the sole contexts for
- In contrast, hookups offer sexual pleasure without derailing investment in human capital
and are increasingly viewed as part of life-stage appropriate sexual experimentation.
Gender beliefs Young women should avoid nonromantic sex and if possible, be in a committed
Class beliefs Women should delay relationships while pursuing educational goals.
- Hookups are often less threatening to self-development projects, offering sexual activity
in a way that better meshes with the demands of college.
- Privileged women find themselves caught between contradictory expectations, while
less privileged women confront a foreign sexual culture when they enter college
Ethnography and Longitudinal Interviews
- “More privileged’, one or more often two, parents with degree; received a great deal of
parental support, keeping their loans to a minimum and allowing most to avoid working
during the year; “less privileged’, parents with no college degrees and struggled to
- “Party dorms” refers to the presumed social orientation of the model resident, not to
partying within the dorm itself. (Students only requested these dormitories if they were
interested in drinking, hooking up, and joining the Greek system).
THE POWER OF GENDER BELIEFS
1. The “Slut” Stigma
• Sexual double standard: guys can have sex with all the girls and it doesn’t make them a
‘slut’and great way to get reputation (more of a man), but for girls, she’s not as quality of a
person and become the biggest slut.
• Fear of stigma constrained women’s sexual behavior and perhaps even shape their
• Women engage in nonromantic sex get a bad reputation, social judgment and internalized
• Disrespect of women the notion of hooking up is okay for men but not for women was
embedded in the organization of the Greek system.
Ex) sorority rules prohibited hosting parties or overnight male visitors; fraternities collected
social fees to pay for alcohol and viewed hosting parties as a central activity (complete
control over the most desirable parties on campus).
• The sexual double standard also justified the negative treatment of women in the party scene
- lack of respect for their feelings or interests “sex objects”
2. The Relationship Imperative: women’s relational opportunities were scarce and should not be
• Women also encountered problematic gender beliefs about men’s and women’s different
levels of interest in relationships.
• Women’s interest in relationships varied, and almost all experienced pressure to be in
relationships all the time.
• Most women were in relationships most of the time.
• Beliefs in the myth of scarcity also led women to stay in relationships when they were no
• Women also confronted the belief that all women are relationally insatiable.
• Gender beliefs may also limit women’s control over the terms of interaction within
• Boyfriends Are placed in a position of power, as presumably women attempted to use this power to
regulate their participation in college life.
Tried to limit the time women spent with their friends and the activities in which they
Men’s control even extended to women’s attire
Men using abuse to keep women in relationships even though she wants to end
INTERSECTIONALITY: CONTRADICTIONS BETWEEN CLASSAND GENDER
More Privileged Women and the Experience of Double Binds
The self-development Imperative (individual achievement and personal growth) and the Relational
• More privileged women are meshed to the university culture, which is characterized by the self-
To become self-supporting, many privileged women indicated they needed to postpone