Confronting the male female sexual double standard

Pallavi Barnwal
Updated on March 26, 2022

Table of Contents

When people ask me about my relationship history, I look back in time and find my first relationship beginning at the age of 23. Quite late, considering the teenage hormonal rush, we all go through that time of puberty where our bodies are changing and sex hormone levels rising. Crushes are a normal thing at this age and I was no different!

The only difference being, I was acutely fearful and shy about talking to the opposite sex. I was an introvert and then I was playing the quintessential “good girl” role. Good girls don’t propose, they get proposed. Once out of my inflamed desire for a crush, I even went ahead and told my friend to play cupid and convey my romantic feelings to a high school senior.

Later I felt deeply ashamed.

When I grew up and being an adult woman, this gender difference played in my head when it comes to asking for pleasure. I was doing okay initiating sex but not okay when it comes to navigating sex which seemed much more complex than “let’s do it.”

Things were difficult for the opposite sex too. I was once in bed with a partner who prematurely ejaculated. He said “sorry” as if he did a mistake. By then I was quite sexually educated so I knew that it is not a man’s fault for which he has to say sorry. But men and women don’t know this and I come across many men who feel acutely uncomfortable with this. This has happened because of the male female sexual double standard which most of us have grown up with and have internalised.

The double standard holds that men and women are very different sexually. It states that:

  1. Sex is the man’s domain. A man initiates sex and leads it.
  2. Men are sexually superior and stronger
  3. Men are always in the mood for sex, and need very less from the partner to feel pleasure
  4. Men can orgasm quickly.
  5. The negative consequences of sex – failed relationship, unwanted pregnancy, and sexual pain are problems for women and not men

A positive thing about the double standard is that the rules are simple and clear, although it is totally wrong. The rigidity of double standard is particularly harmful as you advance in age, when the couple is trapped in “intercourse or nothing” power struggle. When it’s intercourse or nothing, the result is usually nothing. The male feels pressured of performance and the female feels rejected.

I got this story from a distressed wife

“So since the time I was married my sex life wit my husband was very gud…. But after our son was born slowly my hubby started losing interest in sex…. It was lik it became rare… N now since 2 to 3 yrs we don’t hav intercourse he has pre ejaculation problem n also erection which he feels shy to openly discuss wit me…. If I ask him anything he jus ignores….can u plz suggest how can I get a solution to this plz”

The key to healthy sexuality is collaboration and pleasure. The double standard does not promote either collaboration or pleasure. Here is why male-female sexual double standard model fails:

  1. The double standard keeps the woman in the passive role as a second class citizen
  2. The double standard puts the man in an independent role with an expectation of anytime erections
  3. Each sexual encounter must end in intercourse and orgasm
  4. A man needs nothing from a woman except to show up
  5. Men fear being labeled “weak” or “not man enough” when they have erectile problems
  6. The double standard treats sex as a competitive sport


This works well for men in their teens, 20s, and 30s (although not a healthy learning) but becomes more difficult with ageing especially after 40. The double standard sets the stage for the man to develop premature ejacultion, performance anxiety, and erectile dysfunction.

So what is the alternative?

Female-male sexual equity is the new, healthy model. You are intimate and erotic friends. The equity model affirms that the essence of couple sexuality is giving and receiving pleasure-oriented touching. The man gives up sexual dominance and leadership but gains much more.

An exercise for you: Think about what you learned growing up about masculinity, femininity, and double standard in sexuality. Be honest and specific and not give a “politically correct” narrative.




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