Archive for Thursday, March 1, 1990

PROF FIGHTS DOUBLE STANDARD

March 1, 1990

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Charlene Muehlenhard, associate professor of women's studies and psychology, says she thinks it is time to end what she calls the "sexual double standard."

Muehlenhard spoke at Wednesday's University Forum at Kansas University. Most of her research focuses on women's studies as it relates to sexual issues. She came to KU from Texas A&M;, where she conducted many studies about societal attitudes toward women and sex.

"If you think that we don't have the sexual double standard in 1990, just think about `stud' and `slut.' When a man has a lot of sex, he is encouraged; he's a stud. When a woman has a lot of sex, she is negatively labeled," Muehlenhard said. "Women aren't supposed to express their interest in sex. We're taught to say `no.'"

Muehlenhard labels when a woman says "no" to sex even if she wants sex as "token resistance to sex." During her research at Texas A&M;, Muehlenhard found that 39.3 percent of the women in her study had engaged in token resistance to sex at least once. In a related study at KU, she found that 37.2 percent of women who had sex with a new partner had said "no" automatically.

BEATRICE WRIGHT, professor of psychology who introduced Muehlenhard, said that Muehlenhard's research had been invaluable to psychology.

"She's done research on important and popular issues that are of common interest to everyone," Wright said.

Muehlenhard said that she believed the sexual double standard affected almost everyone at some point.

"But why does this happen?" Muehlenhard asked. "Even if a woman says `no,' a lot of the time the man and woman have sex anyway. Men have been taught to push even if a woman says `no.'"

She said she believed that the double standard can lead to rape and sexually transmitted diseases. Her research indicated that in 36 percent of the situations when women said "no," the couple had sex anyway. In half of those cases, Muehlenhard said that the women report that they never ended up saying "yes" to sex.

"That's rape," Muehlenhard said.

IN A 1988 study that she conducted, she found that few women provided a condom during sexual intercourse. That can lead to sexually transmitted diseases, she said.

"If a woman is going to say `no' to sex, why would she carry a condom? There were almost no women who provided a condom," Muehlenhard said. "The women in the non-user group thought that their partners accepted the sexual double standard more than the women who provided or even suggested a condom."

Although she said that she would have to call her theory speculative, she said she believed that the standard is caused by women's reliance on men for financial security.

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