INTRODUCTION In society today, people have a great many views on sex and what the term “promiscuity” entails. "Promiscuity" was defined as sexual intercourse with multiple persons in a brief time span outside of an exclusive and monogamous relationship. Just recently, along with transforming sexual norms and what is often thought of as a “sexual revolution,” the field of psychology has begun to study this topic more thoroughly and, as a result, we continue to gain further understanding of sexual promiscuity and its societal impact. In a study of premarital sexual behavior and double standards, it was reported by Robinson, Ziss, and Ganza (1991), that a greater percentage of males and females considered promiscuity immoral or sinful in 1985 when compared to the 1970`s. A greater percentage of females and males also found promiscuous females to be more immoral and/ or sinful than promiscuous males. Robison et al (1991) found that there was a greater intolerance of intercourse between a female and "a great many males" than between a male and "a great many females." It was speculated that there was a social double standard of how promiscuity in males was perceived versus how promiscuity in females was perceived. Culturally induced notions of acceptable sexual behavior for both males and females constantly fluctuate. In a survey of male promiscuity, gender bias, and systems that influence adolescent sexual behavior, Dankonski, Payer, and Steinberg (1996) found that there was the cultural expectation that females were supposed to say sex occurs within close relationships, while males were "permitted" to engage in casual sexual behavior. "Society has a greater tolerance of male deviation from social norms" (Ingram, 1992), however, for "urban males," sexual activity may have been considered normative while abstinence may have been considered non-normative (Stanton, Black, Kaljee & Richardo, 1993). Sexual psychology seems to have been largely affected by social influences, thus perceived societal views on promiscuity ultimately affected individual perspectives on appropriate sexual behavior. Miller (1928) proposed that humans do not possess a type of sexual psychology that differs fundamentally from other primates and that sexual promiscuity lies in the ancestry of social systems. Under the assumption that the notion of sexual promiscuity has found its base in primitive social developments, it was the goal of the present investigation to research the permissiveness of gender divisions regarding sexual promiscuity and their relation to one of the most influential institutions of modern society to date: religion. According to Roche and Ramsbey (1993), those who attended church frequently were consistently more conservative in premarital attitudes and behavior. Both males and females engaged in more permissive behavior than they believed was proper. Perhaps, religiously active subjects expected people to be more sexually pure. In a study of college students in the Bible-belt portion of the United States, subjects expected religiously active females to adhere to higher standards of sexual purity (Bailey & Vietor, 1996). The present study had the intent of investigating gender divisions with reference to sexual promiscuity and their relation to religion. The study focused on undergraduate students as opposed to adolescents and aimed at further understanding of gender and religious views on sexual promiscuity by updating past research. It was anticipated that: a) Promiscuity in males would be more accepted and viewed less negatively than promiscuity in females; b) Religiously affiliated individuals would be less accepting than nonreligious individuals of sexual promiscuity in general, and c) Individuals with more sexual experience would be more accepting of promiscuous sexual acts than those with very little sexual experience.
Participants consisted of 116 undergraduate student volunteers from Loyola University of New Orleans (65 male, 51 female). The sampling was convenient, since only undergraduate students on Loyola University`s campus were used. Subjects were recruited through use of the Psychology department subject pool, list serv emails, and word of mouth.
A survey consisting of multiple choice and scale questions was the testing source used in order to evaluate students’ perspectives on gender stereotypes and religious perspectives regarding sexual promiscuity. This survey was an adaptation of the questionnaire designed by Robinson, Ziss, & Ganza (1965). The survey was anonymous and the only way a connection between a participant and a particular survey could be made was by gender and age. The only other distinguishable fact given was the participants’ broadly determined religious affiliation. Questions referred to sex of each participant, religious or nonreligious affiliation, sexual experience of subjects, and views on sexual promiscuity. Gender of each participant was determined in one initial question: Circle the choice that applies to you: Male or Female. This question was vital to the study`s investigation of gender differences in stereotypical views of sexual promiscuity because it allowed for differentiation between male and female responses. Religious affiliation was measured by self-report in eight randomly situated questions on the survey. These questions investigated religious activity of student participants as well as the possible influence of religious affiliation on sexual perspectives. An example question, representative of the survey`s intent to explore religious influences on sexual ideologies, asked subjects to circle the number best suited to their feelings regarding the given statement ("1" being a strong disagreement, "2" being disagreement, "3" being neutral, "4" being agreement and "5" being a strong agreement). The higher the score on each question, the greater the agreement. One example survey question read as follows: I consider myself to be religiously active.1, 2, 3, 4, or 5. Sexual experience was measured by self-report in one question that determined whether each subject had been sexually active (had sexual intercourse). If the subject had sexual intercourse, the question inquired about when the most recent sexual activity was. For the purposes of this study, sexual activity was defined as oral-genital or genital contact with another. An example survey question read as follows: Rate the extent to which you are currently sexually active. My last sexual activity was: A. I have never been sexually active, B. more than a year ago, C. more than 3 months ago, but less than a year ago, D. more than a week, but less than 3 months ago, or E. within the last week. Views on sexual promiscuity were measured by self-report. Sexual promiscuity was defined as sexual intercourse with multiple persons in a brief time span outside of an exclusive and monogamous relationship. Twenty-two questions investigated individual views of student participants as well as their impressions of societal acceptability of sexual promiscuity. An example question, representative of the survey`s investigation of perspectives on sexual promiscuity, asked subjects to circle the number best suited to their feelings regarding the given statement ("1" being a strong disagreement, "2" being disagreement, "3" being neutral, "4" being agreement and "5" being a strong agreement). The higher the score on each question, the greater the agreement. For example: I think that males who are sexually promiscuous are socially accepted. 1, 2, 3, 4 or 5.
DESIGN AND PROCEDURE
Nonexperimental testing was done in multiple sessions during periods of 15 minutes. Upon arrival at a designated on-campus location, subjects were given a brief description of the study, its general purpose and the possible risks involved in participation. They were then given two copies of the consent form. The consenting participants were handed the survey. Subjects were instructed not to put their names anywhere on the survey. Each consenting student was asked to fill it out, and when the survey was completed, he or she was debriefed outside of the testing room and thanked for participating.
RESULTS According to SPSS system for data analysis, in a sample group of 116 students (65 male, 51 female) the favorability of male promiscuity over female promiscuity was significant (t (115)= -12.053, p< .001). The raw mean score of attitudes toward promiscuous females was less positive than the mean score toward male promiscuity (Xfemale= 2.7874 < Xmale=3.4871). The raw means as well as the t and p values associated with those means, provided support for the hypothesis that female promiscuity would be less accepted and viewed more negatively than male promiscuity (see Table 1 for means and standard deviations). The influence of religious affiliation on attitudes towards sexual promiscuity was also significant (t (115)=-.498, p< .001), meaning that religiously active subjects recorded more negative attitudes toward sexual promiscuity. Religious affiliation`s correlation with attitudes toward specific promiscuous female friends (t(115)=.086, p>.05) and specific promiscuous male friends (t(115)=.043, p>.05) was insignificant. These findings supported the hypothesis that religiously affiliated individuals would be generally less accepting of sexual promiscuity. However, these findings were insignificant regarding the acceptability of sexual promiscuity amongst individual friends. Male attitudes toward specific promiscuous female friends were insignificant (t (115)= .093, p>.05), though male attitudes toward female promiscuity in general were significantly negative. Male attitudes toward promiscuous male friends were also insignificant (t (115)= .267, p>.05). Male attitudes toward female promiscuity may have been significantly negative, however, male attitudes toward their own sexually promiscuous female friends were relatively neutral. Subjects with casual sexual experiences had significantly positive attitudes toward promiscuous sex in general (r= -.357, p< .001). When reported sexual experience increased, so did positive attitudes toward sexually promiscuous activities. Those who had casual sex were more positive toward male promiscuity (r= -.213, p< .05). There were no significant findings for subjects who had casual sexual encounters in regard to their attitudes towards promiscuous females (r=-.033, p>.05). These findings supported the hypothesis that more sexually experienced subjects would be generally more accepting of sexual promiscuity. Subject attitudes toward female promiscuity were significantly negative (r= .438, p< .001), though attitudes toward promiscuous males in general (r= .157, p>.05) were not significantly negative. This provided support for the hypothesized notion that female promiscuity was viewed more negatively than male promiscuity. The association of years in school with views on sexually promiscuous females was significant (r= -.234, p<.05). Those who were higher in school year recorded more negative attitudes toward sexually promiscuous females, however, when asked about specific promiscuous female friends, no significant results were found. Strangely enough, no significant results for the correlation between age and attitudes of sexually promiscuous females (r= -.177, p>.05) or males (r= -.074, p>.05) were found, regardless of the difference in school year.
DISCUSSION The results of this study indicated that promiscuity in males was viewed less negatively than promiscuity in females, supporting the hypothesized double standard regarding sexual actions of both genders. Religiously affiliated individuals appeared to be less accepting than nonreligious individuals of sexual promiscuity in general, however, religiously affiliated subjects did not have significantly negative views towards promiscuous individuals specifically. These findings imply that, though religiously affiliated subjects may have been opposed to female promiscuity in general, their attitudes toward specific promiscuous friends were not negative. It was also hypothesized that subjects with more sexual experience would be more accepting of promiscuity than those with very little sexual experience. More sexually experienced subjects viewed promiscuous males more positively. Nothing significant was found for the attitudes of sexually experienced subjects towards promiscuous females. Male subjects’ approval of female promiscuity more than female subjects was evident. Female subjects had significantly negative attitudes toward promiscuous females, when compared to male sexual attitudes, though there was no statistical evidence of a difference in female attitudes toward male promiscuity. These findings indicated the possibility of a distinct, societal double-standard with regards to perceived appropriateness of sexual activities between genders. Higher years in schooling were statistically associated with more negative views towards promiscuous females, however, oddly enough, the age variable did not demonstrate a significant difference in male or female perspectives on sexual promiscuity of males or females. Findings also suggested that though higher years in schooling were associated with more negative views of promiscuous females, there were fewer negative views toward individual promiscuous female friends than there were toward promiscuous females in general. This finding, though unanticipated, seemed sensible. Perhaps, it was less complicated to disapprove of sexual promiscuity as a separate concept, than it was to disapprove of a specific friend`s sexual promiscuity. It was perhaps, simpler to disapprove of sexual promiscuity as a broaden concept, than it was to consider a friend to be promiscuous in a negative manner.Those who had engaged in casual sex in the past were more positive in their attitudes toward male promiscuity in general while there were no significant positive or negative results with regards to sexually experienced subjects` perspectives on promiscuous females. Male promiscuity was generally viewed more positively by subjects, thus further reiterating the initial hypothesis that male promiscuity would be more accepted than female promiscuity, however, those with more casual sexual experience, were slightly more accepting of female promiscuity than those with little or no sexual experience. Robinson et al. (1991) found that a greater percentage of males and females considered promiscuity immoral or sinful in 1985 when compared to the 1970`s. A greater percentage of females and males also found promiscuous females to be more immoral and/or sinful than promiscuous males. The notion that promiscuous females have been traditionally viewed more negatively than promiscuous males has been supported, however, the present study did not necessarily emphasize immoral or sinfulness of promiscuous individuals. Robinson et al (1991) found that there was a greater intolerance of intercourse between a female and "a great many males" than between a male and "a great many females." According to the research at hand, in a college aged sample group, there was a double standard of how promiscuity in males was perceived versus how promiscuity in females was perceived. Dankonski et al. (1996) found that there was the cultural expectation that females were supposed to claim that sex occurs within close relationships, while males were "permitted" to engage in casual sexual behavior. Though this study did not specifically provide support for the previous findings of Dankonski et al., evidence of gender bias with regards to sexually promiscuous actions of college students did appear to be significant. The notion that, "society has a greater tolerance of male deviation from social norms" (Ingram, 1992) seems to be supported by significantly negative attitudes toward promiscuity of females in general. Direct support of the finding that "urban males`" sexual activity may have been considered normative while abstinence may have been considered non-normative (Stanton, Black, Kaljee & Richardo, 1993), could not be assumed, however, promiscuity in males was generally more accepted (by both genders) than female promiscuity, implying the possibility of positive views toward normative male sexual activity. According to Roche and Ramsbey (1993), those who attended church frequently were consistently more conservative in premarital attitudes and behavior that males and females engaged in more permissive behavior than they believed was proper. The current study did not aim to find support for the latter of Roche and Ramsbey`s findings however, it did determine that religiously affiliated individuals were less accepting of promiscuous sexual behaviors in general. There were no significant findings with regards to a correlation between religious affiliation and attitudes toward individual promiscuous female and male friends. The current study updated past research while simultaneously attempting to draw conclusions on a college-aged subject pool (as opposed to adolescent and mid-twenties adult samples which were used in previous studies). The sample consisted of 116 subjects, thus making it an adequate, though not huge, sample size for analysis. Several findings supported the theory of gender bias, with reference to sexual promiscuity of males and females. Implications of societal acceptance and positivism surrounding male promiscuity (i.e. general acceptance of male promiscuity by both males and females) and negative attitudes toward female promiscuity have also been supported. Future researchers may wish to further investigate the possibility of correlations between religious affiliation and sexual attitudes. Researchers may also wish to study the effects of gender and religious affiliations on sexual attitudes of different age groups (not an age group limited to merely undergraduate college students). Further research is needed to determine the extent and nature of religious affiliation`s affect on sexual attitudes. Diversification and individual specification of religious affiliations/backgrounds may aid in future research regarding religious influence on sexual attitudes and perspectives. This would determine whether specific religious affiliations affect sexual attitudes regarding male and female promiscuity. Investigation of students at several universities would, perhaps, determine whether findings from this particular study would be supported when applied to other, national and international university settings. A larger subject pool would increase the probability of determining more accurate results. Random sampling may also increase the likelihood of gaining more accurate results, whereas, convenience sampling methods were used in the present study. Several variables such as socioeconomic background, parental education, nationality, etc were not investigated and may have had some undetermined impact on survey responses, as well. This study contributed to the continued attempt to further understand sexual promiscuity and double standards. In understanding these concepts, we gain new and improved perspectives on life, and in doing so, societal attitudes on the appropriateness of sexual activities in reference to gender and religious affiliation may continue to transform. There was a greater intolerance of intercourse between a female and "a great many males" than between a male and "a great many females" (Robison et al 1991). Double standards toward perception of promiscuity in males and females were investigated among college-aged subjects, consequently questioning the appropriateness of culturally induced notions of acceptable male and female sexual behaviors. Researchers continue to study attitudes towards promiscuity, resulting in transforming individual perspectives on appropriate sexual behavior, thus questioning double standards and negative attitudes toward promiscuous females. Negative attitudes toward sexually promiscuous females in a college aged testing group as opposed to general neutrality or even positive attitudes toward male promiscuity were overwhelmingly evident. The nature of these attitudes should be further investigated. Findings ultimately supported the views that: a) religious affiliation and involvement were associated with more conservative sexual attitudes toward promiscuity in general and b) female promiscuity was socially less acceptable, while male promiscuity was relatively accepted as normative behavior.
REFERENCES Bailey, R. C., & Vietor, N. A. (1996). A religious female who engages in casual sex: Evidence of a boomerang effect. Social Behavior and Personality, 24, 215-220. Dankoski, M. E., Payer, R. & Steinberg, M. (1996). Broadening the concept of adolescent promiscuity: Male accountability made visible and the implications for a family therapist. American Journal of Family Therapy, 24, 367-381. Ingram, R. (1992). Seeing the real through the eyes of the ideal: Some comments on Traceen, Lewin, and Sundet`s (1992) account of gender differences in Norwegian young people`s sexual behavior. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 2, 239-245. Miller, G. S. Jr. (1928). Some elements of sexual behavior in primates and their possible influence on the beginnings of human social development. Journal of Mammalogy, 9, 273-293. Robinson, I., Ziss, K., Ganza, B. (1991). Twenty year of the sexual revolution, 1965-1985: An update. Journal of Marriage & Family, 53, 216-220. Roche, J. P., & Ramsbey, T. W. (1993). Premarital sexuality: A five-year follow-up study of attitudes and behavior by dating stage. Adolescents, 28 (109), 67-80. Stanton, B. F., Black, M., Kaljee, L., & Richardo, I. (1993). Perceptions of sexual behavior among urban early adolescents: Translating theory through focus groups. Journal of Early Adolescence, 13, 44-66.
TABLE 1Descriptive StatisticsMeans and Standard Deviations of Religious and Gender Attitudes on Sexual Promiscuity
Mean N Std. DeviationAGE 19.32 114 1.06YEAR 1.12 115 1.09ITEM4 1.51 116 1ITEM5 2.34 116 1.45ITEM6 2.99 116 1.25ITEM7 3.70 116 1.18ITEM8 2.51 116 1.31ITEM9 4.04 116 .87ITEM10 2.68 115 1.18ITEM11 2.30 116 1.17ITEM12 2.36 116 1.07ITEM13 2.61 115 1.11ITEM14 2.37 115 1.19ITEM15 3.94 116 .93ITEM16 2.52 116 1.32ITEM17 3.59 116 .91ITEM18 3.52 116 .93ITEM19 3.70 115 1.02ITEM20 2.98 116 1.13ITEM21 2.13 116 1.06ITEM22 2.57 116 1.25ITEM23 2.86 116 1.27ITEM24 2.59 116 1.02ITEM25 2.60 116 1.26ITEM26 3.58 116 1.05ITEM27 -1.05 116 .76ITEM28 .53 116 .94ITEM29 1.53 116 .50ITEM30 1.12 116 .33ITEM31 2.05 97 .80ITEM32 2.39 92 .77ITEM33 2.01 100 .86ITEM34 .27 80 1.08ITEM35 .11 95 1.19ATT_FEML 2.7874 116 .6141ATT_MALE 3.4871 116 .5672ATT_SEX 3.3851 116 .8654REL_INFL 2.5241 116 1.0934