sexual double standards

The Question Of Double Standards For Sex

The discussion from which this is a spin-off was to answer the question whether or not there are double standards that praise men for keeping condoms on their person just in case they found themselves in a sexual position and condemned women for the same practice. This is really a question about the attitude of society to promiscuity. The condom is in the equation because of possible and unplanned sexual activity that does not occur in marriage and is likely with different sexual partners with whom the condom-carrier is not necessarily emotionally involved.

In informal discussions and debates (yes, debates can be informal. All you need is just opposing views), there isn’t the same degree of discipline and structure required as with formal debates. Emotion is a major feature in such debates. In fact, what often wins in a debate is the best or most resonant emotional appeal. For this reason, not much knowledge or insight is found or expected in such debates. But the truth of the matter is that this is the most popular kind of debates. The more disciplined the debate is, the less appealing it is to ordinary people who typically prefer a punchline or quick summary of a position. Typically, people join a discussion because of the passion expressed or because the subject is one they’re emotionally invested in one way or another. That is not necessarily a bad thing but it often means that participants in such debates will use wrong debating tactics to defend a position that may be correct or wrong. To such debaters, wittingly or unwittingly, it isn’t about what makes sense and what doesn’t but what agrees with them and what doesn’t.

The trouble with such debates is often that it is very difficult to systematically present an argument. Also, a perceived lack of emotional investment in the matter is apt to have a debater tagged as arrogant or insensitive or both. But proper debate actually requires the avoidance of emotional appeal as much as possible and a rigorous, unrelenting examination of every argument made. It is counter-intuitive in debate to demand that anyone yield. The point of debate is to make sure that all arguments are clearly presented and defended and the most convincing arguments accepted as the best.

In my personal attitude, debate is important for one thing only: for all views to be heard and rigorously interrogated. Winning or not is not important because winning is actually a matter of popularity. And many times, the most people prefer the wrong things. If this was not the case, the Holocaust would not have happened, the Russian pogroms against the Jews would not have happened, many bad leaders would not be elected etc etc. So, I prefer to focus on method rather than outcome.

In the discussion from which this is a spin-off, I attempted to develop an argument for an unpopular view, one that at least one participant described as backward. Considering the popularity of feminism today, it is hardly surprising that anything that even looks like it might not align with it is immediately responded to with aggression or dismissal.

So, here, I am going to lay out with more clarity than I could afford within the limits of the previous discussion exactly what the argument against the concept of double standards is.

It is important to keep in mind that there are many false conceptions that are popular just because they sound like they make sense. We simply carry them along with us because they sound good and we’re often too busy to examine them and determine whether they’re really as good as they sound. Example? In Europe, they once thought the earth was flat (and I believe that there was a time before that when they thought it was round but knowledge got lost as it often does). Typical example we all know about. It’s good to consider that even if you’re not altogether wrong, you might learn something useful from listening to your opposite.

To start with, what does anyone need to know about standards?

1. They are made by some recognized authority.

2. They are enforceable.

3. There are attached benefits for conformity and dreaded penalties for non-conformity.

All of these three conditions must be fulfilled to have standards. Or else, there is really nothing but a false idea of them.

Who or what is the authority in this case?

From the story that began the discussion, Eric appeared to be representative of that authority. From the discussion that followed, it ranged from peer groups to male members of the society.

But what makes anyone or anything an authority? Either law by common agreement or popular reception among qualified representatives of the society or law by force of arms or law by some other force including economic subjugation. Whatever installs the authority as authority, however, the proof of authority is in the power to reward and to punish.

The question then arises: who has the power to reward or punish the behavior in question?

If it is Eric or any other male who sleeps with a female, in what way do they reward or punish?

If it is peer groups, in what way do they reward or punish?

If it is male members of the society, in what way do they reward or punish?

Next, we must ask what they actually do to promiscuous males and promiscuous females. That is – Do they reward promiscuous behavior in males and punish it in females or vice versa?

Because we know what the rewards and punishments are from the answers to the previous questions, it is now easy to tell whether or not there is a double standard indeed.


There is evidence, both anecdotal and scientific that a double standard exists for promiscuity in the West. The peer groups there appear to have all the social power. When a man there is promiscuous, the reward he gets is usually female attention and desire. In other words, the more promiscuous a man is in the West, the more popular he is with women which makes him even more envied by other men.

Families and elders in the society there don’t appear to have significant input into young people’s choices for marriage.

The result is that male promiscuity is rewarded with sometimes the best marriage choices.

For females, on the other hand, their peers do not appear to respect them for being promiscuous. Fellow women tend to deride their behavior and do their best to sabotage their marriage choices and interests. Men, on the other hand, don’t appear to find female promiscuity very attractive for long-term commitment so while they may hook up with promiscuous girls, they tend to avoid them for marriage.

There is abundant anecdotal evidence on the Web for this. The scientific evidence that I found is more suggestive than actually descriptive. The findings reported on Wikipedia’s articles on Promiscuity and Female Promiscuity indicate that men in the West, at least, tend to inflate the number of sexual partners they have had while women tend to reduce them. This suggests that it is more beneficial for men to appear promiscuous in their society than it is for women to do so.

Interestingly, however, Wikipedia’s article on Promiscuity mentions a 2005 scientific study that showed that this issue of double standards did not always exist. And an online poll on which I could not access to confirm how recent it was also showed that both genders preferred sexually conservative mates. But in the currency of the moment, there seems to be strong evidence that these realities have shifted.

Now, while it is true that Africa and Nigeria has been Westernizing for a whole century at least, we aren’t totally absorbed into Western ways yet. We have something that is to some extent a culturally amorphous society that retains to some significant degree echoes of its past. In other words, we still behave quite a bit like we did just before the Europeans found us. We haven’t fully installed the Western cultural package.

For this reason, we do behave both a little like the West and a little like the old Africans used to.

The fact that our community elders, families and friends all have a significant say in our marriages is proof that we are still quite different from the West. Whereas the power lies almost exclusively with peer groups in the West, here it is still distributed – and quite considerably unequally – among the three groups I named. These three groups together form the authority in this issue.
They reward and punish sexual behavior by permitting or restricting access to good potential marriage mates.

In my community, at least, and a few others I know by anecdote, and perhaps many more, if you’re promiscuous, whether as a man or as a woman, you acquire a reputation that your friends and acquaintances will share given the right incentives and that will factor in any time you decide that you want to settle down.

While it may be a Western thing now that promiscuous men are considered attractive and a catch for marriage, Nigerian women in general still consider that a promiscuous man before marriage is very likely to cheat on them when married so they may not be particularly enthusiastic about marrying them. When they are at all, especially because of love, it is not very uncommon or strange to find their own family (and even friends) going to lengths today to sabotage the whole affair “for their own good”.

This is Nigerian reality. It applies both to men and to women.

I think I should reiterate that there is very truly evidence of Western culture and philosophy in our own indigenous behaviors so I am really not arguing that we will never find the same double standard evident in the West in our society. I am arguing that it is not the prevailing sentiment here.

This is why I hold that there is no double standard.

Do you know of any communities in Nigeria where this is not the case? Feel free to share, if you do.

Image via ReviseSociology

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A Christian.
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    Hey Od,
    I like your method of interrogation and how you presented your case.
    I’d hopefully come back for another read and comment adequately.

    June 24, 2016
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        I didn’t get back. But I’ll have some peace, if you please 😉

        June 27, 2016
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            Bring it biko, it’s all I need right now.

            June 28, 2016
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    While i’m usually not a fan of your trolling, I absolutely love the way you laid your facts out. I believe that the absence of scientific evidence is room for such evidence to be sought out. Might I suggest the ever faithful questionnaire, probably in the form of a poll on various social media?
    Another thing I’d like to point out. When it comes to the issue of marriage in our immediate setting (Nigeria) remember that most 9.9 out of 10 times, it is the man who is expected to initiate a relationship, and to take that relationship to the next level (usually in the form of a proposal). As such, male members of society are the enforcers of the standard in question, and they reward or punish by deciding which females are ‘eligible’ to date and marry. Situations where men tell their friends ‘ guy that babe na wife material’ or ‘guy you wan date that babe? Which day you begin carry okrika?’ are not far fetched. These are things I have heard men say to each other on a regular basis. They are in fact the modern Nigerian reality. The heirachy when it comes to marriage is: Friends support choice of wife usually through the course of the dating phase, then Family/Elders accept(s). This is not to say that females are powerless and voiceless in the matter, but you can’t reject someone who didn’t ask you out in the first place.
    Conduct a survey of Nigerian males across various demographics. I hope you’ll put your findings in another post.
    *phew* my longest TNC comment ever. I deserve a drink!

    June 24, 2016
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    Hi Od,

    I was busy at work when I noticed my phone was flashing and there were messages from some of my friends and they all read, I kid you not – “Your TNC husband has written a post o”; I just had to come and have a look.

    So you actually wrote a whole post reiterating what you said earlier on someone else’s post because……you…had…to?

    That aside, well done on going further to clarify your position; as always, well written and articulate. The only things I would point out are:

    1. The first 430 words about debates and types and rules didn’t need to happen. You’ve said the same things many times across different posts, we know how you feel about debates. We understand.

    2. I thought it was interesting how in the first paragraph the condom was in the equation because of multiple sexual partners that the person is not necessarily emotionally attached to; I would think that even people in committed monogamous relationships would still use condoms, at least that’s what I hear

    3. I was surprised at the point that Nigerian women would hesitate at marrying men that are regarded as promiscuous when on this site, and quite a few others, women have continuously stated that all men cheat and it is expected; to me it kind of read like they know men are promiscuous but they are still willing to accept them…I’m not sure how many men think all women cheat and it is expected.

    4. I like how on this post (and in your previous comment on the original post) you made it clear that you were drawing from your community and anecdotes from people…it suggests to me that you are on some level aware that there are several communities out there with different ideas of what is the norm

    5. I smiled when I saw the Wikipedia reference, I like to use Wikipedia when I’m researching light stuff (like when the next season of a show is coming out) but for things like this, I don’t know, the fact that anyone can just sign in and change data makes me kind of hesitant….and the askmen poll could have just been 100 guys in the same local government area…we can’t really be sure of the validity of such data, but it’s a good starting point and I’m glad you took the time to try and do some research

    6. The article was about 1700 words long and only about 750 words went straight to what your position was…I know when writing that words and ideas sometimes just flow and it may be hard to stop; but restraint and editing go a long way in concisely articulating an idea

    7. Finally, I absolutely loved how around the seventh paragraph or so you said “It’s good to consider that even if you’re not altogether wrong, you might learn something useful from listening to your opposite”…it let’s me know that you understand that and can apply it to yourself as well

    Ok, that’s all I have. It was good reading from you Od, till next time! 😉

    June 24, 2016
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      How come I wasn’t invited to this wedding?

      June 24, 2016
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      Hey Miz – did you actually just break this article down in this way and manner – I’m tripped-
      Od really has found a wife cos’ -clears throat- I had to re-read the article cos’ of ur comment…to cross-check every line.

      June 24, 2016
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      I almost wrote a comment which would would have reiterated points 1,2,3,6. Thanks for taking the time @miz to pen this down.

      Good luck on your marriage. On a positive note, at least your TNC hubby womt cheat on you loolz.

      @od- every Nigerian lady (representing all major tribes / regions) I have met have been given the advice men will always be men by friend, parents, aunties or just busy bodies when it comes to cheating.

      June 24, 2016
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    Optimus Prime

    Haaaaaa….This topic again!

    While I also agree the sexual double standard is a myth, my own reasons are quite different from what you have brilliantly articulated here.

    First off, the people who see double standards assume that men and women are equally sexual beings, and as such, the sexual choices of both genders should be weighed equally by the society. That assumption is highly flawed.

    Men tend to get lauded for their “promiscuity” because the “promiscuous” man has somehow figured out to overcome the obstacles most men have not been able to accomplish.

    On the other hand, a woman who boasts about the number of men she sleeps with is akin to the Queen of England bragging that she can speak English perfectly. It’s a non-accomplishment or I should say it’s the expected outcome.

    A woman bragging about her astronomical body count is deluded because she’s bragging about giving herself to what the man wanted in the first place. How often do men turn down sex when asked by a woman they are attracted to?

    A woman can get sex easily if she wants to. Only a tiny percentage of men will turn down a sex offer if a woman is asking for it. It’s not the same if the roles are reversed.

    In other words, it’s harder for guys to succeed with ladies than it is for ladies to succeed with guys thus the celebrity status of a “promiscuous” man by his peers.

    So how can there be double standards when both genders don’t even operate in the same realm? I often hear women complain of not having success with men but in reality, the definition of “success” is different for both genders.

    Posted from TNC Mobile

    June 24, 2016
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    So because OD is the OP, everybody is now posting long long comments, ba?
    This is brilliant piece by the way.

    June 24, 2016
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    Don Flowers

    Okay those of you who were able to read this and follow his stream of thoughts deserve a medal. Nice topic but It had too many words unrelated to the topic.

    June 24, 2016
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    metaplasia M.D

    O.D. my man! I almost go lost there. Was reading it in a moving vehicle had to keep going back to reread some paragraphs. Brilliant piece.

    June 24, 2016
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    I have to admit this was a very interesting read but You completely lost me when you went on and on about debates.
    I honestly think it was irrelevant in this piece.
    I’m glad I finished it though cos you did an excellent job stating your case. Now I can see through your eyes. Whether or not I agree, still remains another kettle of fish????

    June 24, 2016
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    Hi guys, interesting debate. Frankly though, I find it laughable that anyone existing in our society, would even believe for a second that there are no double standards for the genders when it comes to sex. How else would we explain that it is a common trend among many guys to tick girls they date who happen to be skilled in the bedroom as strictly “girlfriend-material” and not “wife-material”, simply because any girl who is sexually proficient must be corrupt? (side-note to some girls who can never get their man of — years to commit, this might just be your problem) . Have you ever heard that men suffer any such classification? Or, how else can we explain that in the dynamics of an exclusive boy-girl pre-marital and sexually active relationship in even today’s (2016!) society, the guy faces nearly no pressure of any kind, and is usually even applauded for being a committed boyfriend, (as in a whole man fa!, lol), whereas the girl nearly always faces all the societal pressure of condemnation, ridicule, etc? Please..

    June 24, 2016
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    G B

    I remember talking to a girl after church some weeks back. Shortly after condemning some girl as being ‘loose’ for sleeping with her boyfriend, she went on to state that she couldn’t marry a man who was a virgin. Her own hypocrisy seemed lost on her.
    That’s as double as standards go.

    June 24, 2016
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    Hello Od,

    Your post, I like. You obviously have an amazingly logical and analytic brain. You state issues impressively and then go on to attempt to convince on your points. Impressive.

    However, the presence of references and the attempt to prove your points using statistical data points to the absence of a very important factor in pieces like this – Experience. What is your own experience with sexual double standards?
    I once dated a Virgin. A cousin of mine didn’t like her initially, but changed fully when I told her she was a virgin. I am the apple of that cousin’s eye, but to her, I would probably define the words, sexually experienced. And she knew this, but only a Virgin was good enough for her fav. cousin who gets a pass because he’s male.

    Another example. Very good friend of mine, had a serious girlfriend, but was the king of side pieces. His girlfriend was seen with another guy by one of our guys, and shit hit the fan. She wasn’t even sleeping with the guy, but the relationship was over. His friends and sister were in full support.
    Wikipedia data is probably the reason coaches scout and watch players before signing, irrespective of stats.
    If you like statistics a lot, run a poll here and ask TNCers to vote. Experience would always tell.

    Again, good post. Your lexicon is really impressive. Why wasn’t I beat man at that wedding? Thought I was your guy?

    June 25, 2016
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    Title of this post should have been, ‘I was right and this is why!’

    @Miz said everything I would want to say and more. You are just one man who thinks he is right and has refused to see any other way, after all, Wikipedia has even proved it to you. I imagine you did a fist pump after you searched there?

    On that condom post and ur conclusion that pple that carry condoms are hoping for random sex….well, Pple in committed rship carry condoms for that spontaneous sex they are likely to have anywhere but at home where they keep their stack!

    Be blind to reality if you like but double standards exist! My friend went clubbing the other day and didn’t take his wife cos he said something as silly as ”its not a place to see a married woman’. Guess its okay for a married man. That is someone’s view in this 2016!

    I laughed reading ur post, u really must be very stubborn and pls don’t say u always believe you are right until someone shows u why u shld change ur stand when you are likely even going to argue with every sensible point/view given to you.

    Speaking of debates, you tried to confuse me but did not convince me that there is no double standards when a man is seen with a condom vs when a woman is!

    June 25, 2016
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    Looool Od!!!

    ‘Your trolling’? I didn’t know people own that stuff like that.

    Well, u said it yourself, I agree with u on other stuff but disagree on this so that must make me a troll i guess. Whatever!

    You remind me of all the PDP vs APC debates before the election, everyone had an opinion and it went on and on with no parties agreeing to see each others point on why it shld be Buhari or Jona that shld win….

    This whole thing must make you think u are the Jesus in this case and is bn persecuted for not conforming to what the rest of the world thinks. Enjoy making ur long debates but we can’t agree on this, sorry!

    Eku trolling!

    June 26, 2016
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    Dear Od, remember my “how open-minded are you” post? You just gave me an insight into why it’s difficult to withdraw emotions from opinions and arguments.
    “In informal discussions and debates (yes, debates can be informal. All you need is just opposing views), there isn’t the same degree of discipline and structure required as with formal debates. Emotion is a major feature in such debates. *In fact, what often wins in a debate is the best or most resonant emotional appeal.*”
    thanks for this, it so makes sense now…. Back to reading, it holds great promises, I guess.

    June 26, 2016
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    Shebi I should have cooled down and read the post to the end before jumping.
    Bros, you totally nailed it, this is the answer I’ve been looking for, this post just opened my brain. Thanks.
    About the double standards, let’s just hope we will stop raising standards for/against situations based on convenience, the other day, a cab man refused to drop my colleague where he preferred but was quick to pick up new passengers where he clearly said he couldn’t stop. You should have been there to here the gibberish he was mouthing after I challenged him for being a “hypocritical pretentious condescending and deceitful individual who hides behind moral codes and law only when it’s in his favour”.
    B the the truth is we are all the same, the hope is that we will learn to uphold these standards whether they are convenient or not.
    Thanks again for the epiphany.

    June 26, 2016
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