ITHACA, N.Y. College-aged women judge promiscuous female peers defined by bedding 20 sexual partners by their early 20s more negatively than more chaste women and view them as unsuitable for friendship, finds a study by Cornell University developmental psychologists.
Notably, participants' preference for less sexually active women as friends remained even when they personally reported liberal attitudes about casual sex or a high number of lifetime lovers.
Men's views, on the other hand, were less uniform favoring the sexually permissive potential friend, the non-permissive one or showing no preference for either when asked to rate them on 10 different friendship attributes. Men's perceptions were also more dependent on their own promiscuity: Promiscuous men favored less sexually experienced men in just one measure when they viewed other promiscuous men as a potential threat to steal their own girlfriend.
The findings suggest that though cultural and societal attitudes about casual sex have loosened in recent decades, women still face a double standard that shames "slutty" women and celebrates "studly" men, said lead author Zhana Vrangalova, a Cornell graduate student in the field of human development. The study, titled "Birds of a Feather? Not When it Comes to Sexual Permissiveness" and published in the early online edition of the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, reports that such social isolation may place promiscuous women at greater risk for poor psychological and physical health outcomes.
"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," Vrangalova said. "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."
She added that
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