THE CONVERSATION – F. Scott Fitzgerald famously called the Roaring Twenties – which happened on the heels of the 1918 flu pandemic – “the most expensive orgy in history.”
Now, as more and more Americans are vaccinated, some are saying all the sexual energy pent up over the past year will be unleashed, with Yale sociologist Nicholas Christakis predicting a summer of 2021 marked by a surge in “sexual licentiousness.”
Women, however, might face backlash for exploring their post-vaccination sexuality. In a new study, we found that women – but not men – continue to be perceived negatively for having casual sex.
This stereotype persists even as casual sex has become increasingly normalized and gender equality has risen in the U.S. and much of the Western world.
Specifically, both men and women assume that a woman who has casual sex must have low self-esteem.
But that perception isn’t based in reality. So what might be driving this unfounded stereotype?
A belief held across religious and political divides
Although the idea that women’s sexual behavior is linked to their self-esteem is a common trope in film, television and even some relationship advice sites, we documented just how entrenched this stereotype is across six experiments published in Psychological Science.
In one experiment, we asked Americans to estimate the correlation between people’s sexual behavior and their self-esteem.
We described those people as being a man, woman or simply as “a person,” without providing any information about their gender.
We then described that man, woman or person as having a lot of casual sex, portrayed them as being a serial monogamist or provided no information about their sexual behavior.
We found that Americans tended to associate monogamy with high self-esteem, especially for women. More striking, they associated casual sex with low self-esteem – but only for women … Click here to read more.