When they have sex, girls lose friends; boys gain friends

For girls, having sex can cause their social circle to narrow. They do, however, seem to gain friends for “making out”. In contrast, boys gain friends for having sex and they tend to lose out on friendships for “making out”. This information comes from a study presented at the 110th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (ASA).

“In our sample of early adolescents, girls’ friendship networks shrink significantly after they have sex, whereas boys’ friendship networks expand significantly. But what really surprised us was that ‘making out’ showed a pattern consistent with a strong reverse sexual double standard, such that girls who ‘make out’ without having sex see significant increases in friendships, and boys who engage in the same behavior see significant decreases in friendships,” said Derek A. Kreager, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of sociology and criminology at Pennsylvania State University.

The study received information from the PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience (PROSPER) longitudinal study. This study reviewed two groups of young people from 28 rural communities in Iowa and Pennsylvania from 2003 to 2007 (sixth to ninth grade and 11 to 16-years-old).

The participants were studied in five waves: twice in the sixth grade and once each in the seventh, eighth, and ninth grades. The study by Kreager’s focused on 921 students in the second PROSPER cohort. These participants had to complete in-home surveys, including measures of sexual activity. In the PROSPER study, participants selected their best or closest friends in the same grade. To see the changes in peer acceptance, Kreager’s team looked at how many friendship selections the students got in each wave.

Kreager and his colleagues found that in the waves where participants reported having sex, the girls saw an average of a 45% decrease in peer acceptance. Boys who reported having sex saw an 88% increase in peer acceptance. When it came to “making out” without having sex, girls saw a 25% increase in peer acceptance on average. Boys, on the other hand, experienced 29% lowered peer acceptance.

“Our results are consistent with traditional gender scripts. 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 behaviours are rewarded for achieving masculine ideals,” said Kreager.

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