Unlike boys, girls lose friends for having sex, gain friends for making out

August 24, 2015, American Sociological Association
Credit: Jourden C/public domain

Early adolescent girls lose friends for having sex and gain friends for "making out," while their male peers lose friends for "making out" and gain friends for having sex, finds a new study that will be presented at the 110th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA).

"In our sample of early adolescents, ' friendship networks shrink significantly after they have sex, whereas boys' expand significantly," said Derek A. Kreager, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of sociology and criminology at Pennsylvania State University. "But what really surprised us was that 'making out' showed a pattern consistent with a strong reverse sexual double standard, such that girls who 'make out' without having sex see significant increases in friendships, and boys who engage in the same behavior see significant decreases in friendships."

The study relies on data from the PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience (PROSPER) longitudinal study, which tracked two cohorts of youth from 28 rural communities in Iowa and Pennsylvania from 2003 to 2007 when they were in sixth to ninth grade and 11 to 16-years-old. Students were surveyed in five waves: in the Fall of sixth grade and in the Spring of sixth, seventh, eighth, and ninth grades. Kreager's study focuses on 921 students in the second PROSPER cohort who completed in-home surveys that included measures of sexual behavior.

As part of the PROSPER study, students were asked to nominate their best or closest friends in the same grade. In order to identify changes in peer acceptance, Kreager and his colleagues considered how many friendship nominations participants received in each wave.

According to Kreager, in waves where they reported having sex, on average, girls experienced a 45 percent decrease in peer acceptance and boys experienced an 88 percent increase. On the other hand, in waves where they reported "making out" without having sex, on average, girls experienced a 25 percent increase in peer acceptance, while boys experienced a 29 percent decrease in peer acceptance.

"Our results are consistent with traditional gender scripts," said Kreager. "Men and boys are expected to act on innate or strong sex drives to initiate heterosexual contacts for the purpose of sex rather than romance and pursue multiple sexual partnerships. In contrast, women and girls are expected to desire romance over sex, value monogamy, and 'gatekeep' male sexual advances within committed relationships. A sexual double standard then arises because women and girls who violate traditional sexual scripts and have casual and/or multiple sexual partnerships are socially stigmatized, whereas men and boys performing similar behaviors are rewarded for achieving masculine ideals."

Kreager found that girls, who defy traditional gender scripts by having sex, lose both male and female friendships. In contrast, boys who defy gender scripts by "making out" without having sex mainly lose male friends.

"This pattern suggests that other boys are the peers that police social norms when it comes to masculinity, whereas girls receive strong messages about gender-appropriate from boys and girls," Kreager explained. "It is not surprising that girls do not punish boys for 'making out,' as this behavior is rewarding for girls both socially and physically. However, there is somewhat of a paradox for boys stigmatizing girls who have sex because these boys are punishing girls for behavior that benefits boys both socially and sexually. We believe one reason for this is that only a small minority of have such sexual access, so those who do not have sex negatively define the girls who are having sex."

While recent research that shows men and women are held to different standards of sexual conduct largely focuses on college "hook-up culture," by studying early adolescents, Kreager was able to show that sexual double standards also affect youth who have only just reached sexual maturity.

"During early adolescence, peer evaluations of initial sexual behaviors and virginity loss are likely to have large and lasting impacts on later sexual adjustment," Kreager noted.

Explore further: What effect does music TV have on the sexual behavior of teenage boys and girls?

More information: The paper, "The Double Standard at Sexual Debut: Gender, Sexual Behavior and Early Adolescent Peer Acceptance," will be presented on Tuesday, Aug. 25, at 2:30 p.m. CDT in Chicago at the American Sociological Association's 110th Annual Meeting.

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Aug 24, 2015
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1.5 / 5 (8) Aug 24, 2015
Wonder how the 'rules' worked for gays who just do not fit these molds. On the other hand, it should be feloniously illegal for infants to have sex. An infant is one as described in Leviticus, and by secular politicos as one millisecond under an arbitrary high age set to guarantee one is thru high school before they eff away their future. An adult is one picosecond after attaining the magic age that varies state by state and in interpretation in area by area, looser for upper classes and strictly applied for lower classes whose reproduction is discriminated against. This makes it fair inasmuch as we punish mormons for underage marriage at 14, but hypocritically hold muslims who rape 6 year olds as above the law inasmuch as their nation of citizenship has oil that big business that BUYS the laws need.The above is gross and sad, but another inconvenient truth that is hypocritically avoided. But we taxpayers pay this hypocrisy and classism and ethnic immunity tax every day.
5 / 5 (7) Aug 24, 2015
It is interesting that they used Rural Iowa and Rural Pennsylvania as their data set. I wonder if the results would look any different if they were to track kids in Urban areas such as Atlanta or Boston?
Aug 24, 2015
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Aug 24, 2015
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1.6 / 5 (7) Aug 24, 2015
An example of the tailoring of a "scientific" "interpretation" to fit a political agenda. In this case, making women out to be perpetually misused by society.
A girl losing female friends after having sex with a male is also consistent with her friends becoming jealous and petty and shunning her. It's also consistent with the girl deciding, if she had sex with only one male, she wanted to devote all her time to him and ignore others. And, note, if a girl has sex with only one male, she could lose other male friends because they feel themselves betrayed. If a girl has sex with males freely, though, it seems unlikely she wouldn't be "popular" in that way, gaining male friends.
1 / 5 (2) Aug 24, 2015
Making out keeps options open, but having sex closes doors. For girls. For guys they are assumed to be gay if they don't have sex too. While I don't consider being gay a bad thing, the vast majority of socially standard males harbor a healthy (unhealthy?) dose of homophobia.
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2015
Studs and sluts, need I say more.
1 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2015
I turned 16 in 1966 while in Catholic seminary school. I have a few ex-wives, including one of 27 years - the last one. I have never really understood and care less what women talk about, sex or otherwise. As for guys, very little use for male company; none at all if their conversation in any way even touched on their sex life.
Aug 24, 2015
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Aug 24, 2015
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Aug 25, 2015
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1 / 5 (1) Aug 27, 2015
Hey....hey.....Jim. I'm older than 40, but your wife says it feels like 30.
1 / 5 (2) Aug 31, 2015
Another waste of time and Taxpayers money. Psychological papers have recently been shown to be unrepeatable 50% of the time. Failing grade to my mind. The most maladjusted people I know are psychologists.
not rated yet Aug 31, 2015
girls' friendship networks shrink significantly after they have sex, whereas boys' friendship networks expand significantly
It's well known, the http://www.dailym...all.html - i.e. these ones, whose fitness has been already proven and tested. These findings also puts shadow to the traditional role of women as a "natural guards" of "family values". It seems, it does apply only to these married ones...;-)

Interesting - why does that research not surprise me.

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