Punishing Girls for Pleasing Guys

Emma Stone, "Easy (scarlet letter) A"

Emma Stone, “Easy (scarlet letter) A”

Why are girls so often punished for pleasing guys?

Girls grow up to learn that both men and society like a sexy look. And then they comply and get slut-shamed.

They grow up to discover sex. They think it’s fun — or not: 43% of young American women have experienced sexual dysfunction. Yet they learn that guys want sex, and some feel pressured to be nice and give it to them. But if they do, they may be punished. And by the way, don’t expect to get pleasured, yourself.

That’s what San Jose Mercury News journalist, Sharon Noguchi, found in her investigation of Silicon Valley high school culture. All these years and the double standard remains alive and well, even in the progressive San Francisco Bay Area. As she put it:

Teenage girls who are socialized to act and appear sexually enticing find their quest for popularity and fun sometimes morphing instantly into horror.

Lisie Sabbag wrote for Palo Alto High’s Verde Magazine her senior year. Investigating campus rape culture, she observed,

Teens see this party and lifestyle where guys go out and have sex and girls sexualize themselves… Since we see it on TV, in our music and on Facebook, we think that’s the way we’re supposed to be.

The double bind. Damned if you do, don't.

The double bind. Damned if you do, don’t.

Overfelt High School administrator, Monica Schneider adds,

 We’ve really gone backward in the sexual revolution. Girls see their role as serving men and it is expected on a first date that they participate in sexual behavior.

If girls feel they are not ready and say no, word gets around campus that they are frigid or uptight. Alternatively, sometimes when girls do give in, later they feel really crappy about themselves.

Especially when people guilt them via text and social media.

Some patterns are so strong, and so taken for granted as to be invisible. And then young women follow the social imperative even when it hurts.

Of course, facing a no-win situation — damned if you do, damned if you don’t — makes it that much worse.

Guys, if you want sex stop shaming girls. Girls, if you want empowerment, sexual and otherwise, stop shaming each other.

Source: San Jose Mercury News

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
So Nice We Let Others Hurt Us
Learning to Say No in 520 Languages
Slut-Shamed? It Gets Better

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on June 20, 2014, in feminism, psychology, rape and sexual assault, sex and sexuality, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 24 Comments.

  1. It is sad that as a female we are judged whether we have sex or not. Like the blog said “damned if you do, damned if you don’t”. When boys get sex out of a girls, then they are praised and the girl is an automatic “slut”. Society does not make sense to me. Society views women as a piece of meat and constantly get disrespected on media, magazines, and advertisements by simply making the women seductive and half naked. I understand it is business to help promote ideas, but it also gives the idea of degrading women, and possibly a different outlook to other women of wanting to be sexy. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with wanting to feel sexy or to be sexy. Sexy leads to being sexual, those should be kept private. This all leads up to how everyone, including women has this certain image where sex is what’s going to define who you are, that should not be the case. I believe that we are all sexual beings and we have our needs. It should not be flaunted, but respected. Teenagers watch shows or movies that shows high school students being sexually active. They tend to think that this is how high school is or how it should be. These Television shows, show boys that having sex makes you popular, and if you don’t then you are a loser. So that is why boys tell everyone that they had sex, and to prove it they tell who. Teenagers should not make their decisions based off what others think or what they see. They should make their own decisions and what they feel is right. I believe it is the influence that society brings to these teenagers minds that sex is a bad thing for females, but a cool thing for the males. Sex is important, fun, great, it is a positive action, but teenagers are viewing it as a popularity contest and a shame for the girls that do. The big picture here is the girls that shame the girl that had sex with that boy the other night, makes punishing girls for pleasing guys a constant tradition. Tradition and culture is what we all live by, monkey see, monkey do. This is not just a one high school issue, or one time thing, it happens all over the world and all the time. I agree that if guys want sex stop shaming girls, and if girls want the empowerment, and sex as well stop shaming each other.

  2. Not only men but even women punish girls for having sex.

    Does this blog make any sense?

    • @Jean Claude

      No, it doesn’t make sense. That post you link to is one of the most disgustingly depressing and insulting pieces I’ve ever read in my life. It is atrocious to compare the very consensual, very willing, very satisfying and intensely pleasurable sex I have with my male lover to being forcibly raped or even pressured into unpleasant intercourse. The comment section is also full of incorrect “information”…for example, I did not experience *any* pain, bleeding, tearing, or discomfort when I first had piv sex. To state that every woman does is just not right, and shouldn’t be considered a “fact” at all.

    • Okay, I had some time to take a look at this link and it makes no sense at all.

  3. I think girls definitely receive more punishment from the society in this sex related context. This happened, I figured because girls are taught, at least in my culture and family, not to be so aggressive in looking for the right guy to be her partner. In other words, girls are suppose to wait and keep waiting for the right guy to be interested to her. Also, girls who are more open to sex are usually receive critics from the society because of the idea that their virginity is holy and stuffs. Nevertheless, I think girls should have a strong opinion and have a stance about this issue. It is not okay if a girl, who previously does not feel ready to have sex, is forcing herself to have sex in order to satisfy her boyfriend.

  4. Howard Houston

    This article really opened my eyes as soon as I read the title. Society really beats on young women with the idea of giving sex; it is a trap. As a young man, I know exactly how men my age talk about women. If they do not get sex from the girl, they talk and if they do get sex, the young woman’s name is trashed. It is absolutely awful to hear that kind of talk. To me, women have always been something I cherish. Growing up with so many sisters, I know that I would never want my sisters to be treated the way these young men treat young women. Society needs to wake up and realize that young women are in control of their own bodies and what they do with it is all theirs. If they give sex that is their choice and if they do not that is their choice too. Young men need to learn to keep their mouths shut about the young women they talk to. Somehow, karma will come around to these young men, but for the time being they need to learn how hard it is for young women in society. Maybe then they can understand the struggle and keep their mouths shut.

  5. I’m surprised there isn’t or hasn’t been an in depth view of tribal people or people in third world countries now. Yeah there are things about the culture and beliefs, customs, etc. But the sexuality aspect, it’s really an outside view. Yes it’s obvious the people aren’t like here just from being there and studying them. But I would think americans or english, etc have been to such countries and lived briefly, you see that on tv where people go to a country and learn their culture and beliefs, etc. But what makes these people tick, what do the tribal women do that causes a spark, dating customs, etc. You don’t really know unless knowing what they think and say.

  6. There probably is, alot of things can be found on google and the internet, but other things take you in circles. I know there has to be, but it’s hard and takes so much time, as the write words and descriptions have to be typed. For example that article of the mali women, it used to be all over the, and on yahoo news. But now finding that article is a pain in the ass. Me typing mali women find breast obession funny, doesn’t bring up the article or any variation of that. Just a little excerpt of what others have read from it before. I remember years ago coming across that article a lot and the article’s title being something about american men’s breasts obession funny to mali women or something like that.

    Typing that brought up the article on google, now finding it is like finding a needle in a haystack. There has to be people who have intervied tribal people and their thoughts on sex and turn ons, etc, but it seems hard to find or maybe people haven’t so the real truth isn’t shown as previous evidence has been us, looking at tribal lifestyle from a bird’s eye view, but not really delve into it from the people’s thoughts and experiences. I’d like to see an article with people coming over and asking the tribal men if there are dances the women do that is seductive or a turn on, the culture and what happens, which we assume that though tribal men seeing naked women all the time, that these men aren’t are can’t be turned on during cetain moments from these women when they are being sexual or treating their bodies sexually because they want and are trying to seduce the men or a particular man that they like or caught their eye.

    • Well, if you ever stumble upon anything, let me know. But things that can seem logical aren’t always so. And what seems to make sense to you may or may not make sense to others. It doesn’t seem to me like it would need to be that way, for instance.

  7. Hayley Epstein

    It’s really upsetting for me to see that things are still this way in, as you said, the progressive Bay Area. I also really like how you emphasized that if men want sex, they should stop slut shaming women, and if women want to feel empowered, they should stop slut shaming each other. Slut-shaming really is a nasty cycle which comes from both men and women, although neither men or women would want to do it anymore if they realized what is happening because of it. I think that they should teach these things to middle schoolers honestly, or at least high schoolers perhaps freshman or sophomore year. Ideally, it would be a required course along with sex-ed. Perhaps they would teach them together. I think that if teenage girls and boys learned these things from a younger age (or just, at all) it could really benefit everyone. I know that I would have benefited from knowing these things in high school, I just didn’t know it! WIthout informing teens about all of these issues and what is really happening, I’m afraid I don’t see this changing.

  8. Here’s some food for thought. You talk about being desensitized and why I said seduction and body use can still turn on men even if they see breasts bare and casually or in a normal non sexual setting many times. Here’s an example. Male doctors like doctors in general see people’s privates men and women a decent amount especially depending on the doctor’s specific study (oncologist, hematologist, nephrologist, gynocologist, standard pediatrictian) etc. For example, many male drs, well the decent ones hopefully and I think will say, they don’t see breasts sexual, especailly a breast implant surgeon. Who sees probably thousands of bare breasts in a medical serious setting. Same for gynocolist seeing vaginas constantly. And they aren’t sexual and routine visaully.

    Yet, hopefully it wouldn’t happen. But yes a hot woman taking her top off, no their breasts aren’t treated sexually and most likely aren’t a turn on for doctor. But you have same hot woman with hot body and nice breasts and at the plastic surgeon, breast implants doctors office and getting a usual review before her operation. Say she, when taking her top off talks to him sexually, starts rubbing her hands over her tits, tweaking her nipples and being and treating her breasts sexually and trying to seduce and use her body sexually, I guarentee that dr, even though having seen breasts not sexually in the same setting, is probably going to be turned on and probably flustered from this seductive action. I can’t help thinking tribal women can do this better than tribal men and if they try to treat their bodies sexually it can make men notice them so to speak, wherese tribal men can’t do the same toward tribal women. Those men who dress girly and pretty like you said in that one culture, thats just them expressing themselves, and I don’t think to turn women on as I doubt women are turned on by men doing that.

  9. “Women in sex-positive societies love sex, and are easily and multiply orgasmic.”

    And I’m sure these sex women loving aren’t seen as sluts either, because their sexual behavior or being promiscuous is seen as normal and usual for women. It’s usual and regular for men here, which is why not seen as anything for men whereas, women in our culture aren’t as sex or just sex inclined, so the ones who are “stick out” from the rest.

    I’m thinking these societies of sex loving women are either previous tribal cultures or third world countries right now. Are you sure these women are promiscuos from pursuit of men or more liberal about sexual affair? Afterall, I don’t know what’s pushing them when they have no anticpation with sex. Tribal men don’t have mystery, but I still believe women can do things when trying to be seductive and sexy and can run these men’s motors if they want, through action, dance, seductive look, etc.

    Men can try that too, but I think women are more effect in stirring reactions with their body than men. Why are these women multiple orgasmic when they are having sex with naked dudes they see all day, everyday? So its all on the physical pleasure, which sounds bittersweet. All about the orgasm and that’s it, it seems. these women love sex and are more sexual, yet less visual, sounds like a contradiction there. I think you put the two together, women who don’t see naked dudes all the time, are sex positive and more confident but also highly visual toward men as truly sexual women.

    • I think I’ve given you info on sex positive (for women) before. Can’t do it now as I’m out of town and don’t have my books with me. But for instance, these cultures pre-European contact: Iroquois, Cherokee, Tahitians. And more.

      What evidence do you have that tribal men are attracted to women in a way that differs from the way hetero women are attracted to men in our culture?

      And, why are you so resistant to it being the same? If you’re born hetero, you’ll want sex with opposite sex, visual or not. And married men say they still want their wives, whom they no longer experience a fetish with.

      I feel like I say the same thing over and over, and it seems pointless. So I may not respond to further questions on this topic.

  10. I feel like this shaming of women for their sexuality- whether for being “too sexual” or “not sexual enough” – it’s pretty profound and yet another way to control female sexuality/power. And so many women have internalized the beliefs surrounding this, that as you mentioned, we do it to each other (and even ourselves). I feel like if we could collectively shed the shame the whole world would have to change because women would be even more comfortable in their bodies and their sexuality would be an even more integrated part of who they are.

  11. It’s unfortunate about the attitudes there are in society against girls with dress and behavior, etc. Hopefully this can improve. But is it simply sexual repression that causes girls to not want sex as much and afraid of being seen as a “slut” or, simply nature and women generally needing more from a man to want sex with him? I know you will use tribal women as examples, so then why can’t girls be sexual even with some slut shaming? It’s one of those things, even though wrong where I think promiscuous girls as seen as sluts because girls “stick” compared to most.

    What I’m getting at is, say the next generation, babies now or just being born and girls. And these girls grow up and are as sexual and promiscuous are boys and visual, then there wouldn’t be slut shaming, because all these boys would know and see is every or most girls are as horny and sex driven as them. So it would be the norm, and seen a regular, normal behaviou from girls and promiscous girls would be seen as sluts, because that wouldn’t be “standing out amongst the rest of girls” as the rest of girls are sexual too. That’s why boys aren’t seen such way, not just because of power, but because girls know and see that as normal guy behavior to want a lot of sex and be driven, even though guys aren’t exempt either. Girls can be slut shamed, but guys can be seen as perves or “dogs”. If girls grew up and saw most guys needing emotion and such to be turned on and most guys just wanting nothing but relationships or need more and their sexual behaviour like girls now, this behavior from guys would be seen as “normal”: behavior and the promiscuous, outlier, guys would be seen as “sluts”.

  12. I actually agree with everything here. Nobody should use sex as a form of validation or shaming. You are not a better person if you’re a slut or a prude, or if you’re a male or female. You’re a better person if you don’t give in to societal pressures, stay true to yourself, and don’t regard sex as a tool for manipulating others.

  13. BB,
    I think your last sentence is the underlying “elephant in the middle of the room.” Until we talk about shame, we will not change much. Shame makes people loathe themselves which then makes it easy to project that out onto others.
    Thanks for the post as usual.

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