Study Says Girls Lose Friends for Having Sex, Guys Gain

Double standard, anyone? 


Adolescence is no easy stroll. Teens trek through a bombardment of academic, social, and parental demands on the regular, only to wake up (under-rested) and do it all over again the next day. And as if that’s not hard enough on their brains, they also have to deal with intemperate hormones and a slew of confusing new feelings. But at least they can rely on their friends to help them through the chaos…or can they?

A new study from Penn State University suggests that teens’ friend groups may actually be adding fuel to the fire. Using survey data from over 900 Iowa and Pennsylvania teens, researchers found some inconsistencies in the ways sexually active guys and girls are perceived by their peers.

According to the study, girls who reported “making out” (sans sex) enjoyed a 25 percent boost in peer acceptance and friendship, while boys reporting the same behavior suffered a nearly 20 percent decrease in support from their buds.

But when things really get hot and heavy, boys are the ones making major gains. Their peer acceptance rate increases by 88 percent when they report having sex. When girls do the same, their rate drops by 45 percent.

So girls lose friends when they have sex, and guys gain. Anyone sensing some gender inequality here?

The “reverse sexual double standard,” as it is called by lead study author Derek Kreager, actually falls right into place with traditional gender scripts. He breaks down his findings:

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.

Friendship alteration as a result of sexual activity is just one of many concerns on the overloaded plates of today’s teens, but it may not be as challenging to cope with as some of the other potential results of having sex. Check out the stories of these brave kids with kids, and browse through our collection of sexual education resources for more information.