July 24, 2014

What's Love Got To Do With It?
Study links perceived financial dependence of women on men with social stigma against promiscuity



We live in a world that actively believes it has the right to control women's sexuality.

From Iraq, where a 15 year old Kurdish girl was killed by her 45 year old husband because he thought she was in love with a boy her own age to the recent Hobby Lobby ruling here at home, female sexuality is a commodity, one to be bought, sold, used, and above all else, controlled.

Why? Why do we live in such a society?

A new study shows the the link between promiscuity and perceived financial dependence may be a strong indicator of the evolution of this cultural norm.

Essentially, the thought of women being promiscuous skeeves people out because they are secretly wondering how she and her offspring will be provided for if she becomes pregnant.

Once again, it's all about the uterus.


Jesse Singal of New York Magazine puts it this way:
The idea of women having sex outside of marriage drives some people crazy, to the point that in certain parts of the world women are regularly murdered as a result of accusations of promiscuity. What accounts for this profound discomfort, and the (usually) more restrained version we see in the United States? It’s obviously complicated, but a new paper suggests it can be traced back in part to the outdated idea that since women have to rely on men, they can’t afford to be sleeping around.
What did the study say? He explains that too:
In the paper, which consisted of two studies and was published in Archives of Sexual Behavior, researchers from Brunel University asked a large group of Americans to rate their level of agreement with statements like “It is wrong for women to engage in promiscuous sex” and “It is fine for a woman to have sex with a man she has just met, if they both want to.” They also had them respond to statements gauging to what extent they viewed women as economically reliant on men — "Of the women I know who are in long-term heterosexual relationships, most do not depend very heavily on money contributed by their male partner," and so on. 
Overall, the more likely a given respondent believed women were economically dependent on men, the more likely they were to view female promiscuity as immoral. These were modest to medium effects, but they were statistically significant, even controlling for factors like religiosity and political conservatism.
Or, to quote the study itself:
Results of both studies were consistent with the theory that opposition to promiscuity arises in circumstances where paternity certainty is particularly important and suggest that such opposition will more likely emerge in environments in which women are more dependent economically on a male mate. Attempts to replicate these results in other cultures will be necessary in order to determine the robustness of this model under diverse social conditions. Further research will also be necessary to illuminate the psychological mechanisms that underlie the observed association between female economic dependence and opposition to promiscuity (e.g., the cues which shape individual perceptions of the local environment). One plausible mechanism is that people living in environments characterized by higher female dependence are more likely to learn about negative consequences associated with promiscuity (e.g., dif´Čüculties faced by parents and offspring in situations of high paternity uncertainty), a process which could generate a cultural opposition to promiscuity that is founded on biological concerns. 
So what does all of that mean? Well, essentially, our society has not caught up with our technology--our social norms are still reflective of the idea that women will need a man to support them and their children. With the advent of contraception, though, we are able to separate sex and reproduction in  a way that we were not able to before.

But why the pushback against contraception and sexuality then? Most likely, and this  is my speculation, what are we are seeing is pushback that isn't grounded--people are reacting from a gut social contract that they aren't even fully aware of themselves. They are reacting in a way that is consistent with social norms without stopping to consider why. And then there are those that are religious and believe that it's wrong, of course--but even those attitudes very likely have their roots in the same idea, from a primitive time when "paternal certainty" was incredibly important.

It also points to why they are against abortion and contraception--these are ideas that they believe cause promiscuity, which is against these core values.

This study only focused on Americans. I would love to see the results in a culture with a stronger social safety net, that offers other ways for women to support families. It's an area that definitely I can't wait to see further research into.

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