College women: seen as a “slut” if they have sex on a hookup, “bitch” or “prude” if they don’t

How do college women decide whether to have sex on a hookup? We illuminate this question here by an analysis of transcripts of qualitative interviews that one of us (Ford) conducted in 2016 and 2017 with women students at an elite private university. As these college women talked about their experiences with hookups, three stigmatized images of women came up over and over—the “slut,” the “prude,” and the “bitch.” Behind these images, we believe, are norms or expectations that women be fun rather than “prudish,” and accommodating to men sexually rather than “bitchy,” but not “too” interested in casual sex. Sensing that they can be seen in each of these stigmatized ways, women describe walking a tightrope in casual hookup situations: either they have sex and risk being seen as a “slut,” or decline to have sex and risk being seen as a “prude” or a “bitch.” Here we share quotes from the interviews that illustrate how women saw these social pressures.

The study from which we drew these interviews was focused on unwanted sex—everything from sex that students consented to but felt ambivalent about, to sex involving physical coercion. Our interest in this blog post is what we learned from women whose experiences were not physically coercive, but were nonetheless difficult because of their awareness of their vulnerability to these three labels. Participants were recruited by a screening survey in two introductory sociology courses and by recruitment flyers placed around campus. The screening survey asked questions to ascertain if the person had experienced unwanted sex. The flyers read, “Unwanted Sex–Wanna Talk About it?” and specified that the study was looking for 18-25 year olds with an experience of unwanted sex since college began. Interviews were conducted in person with 44 women and lasted between 45 minutes and 2 hours. The quotes that follow below are verbatim from these interviews.

Not being a “slut”

The specter of being called a “slut” came up often. Other terms used to convey the same idea include “easy” and “whore.” Here’s what some women said:

Respondent 1: If you’re a girl and you tell your friends you had sex with someone you just met that night you’re supposed to feel like “oh no” but you may have wanted to but there’s this natural “oh that’s kind of slutty”. Women aren’t supposed to have one night stands. I think it’s changed a lot recently with the perspective of women but even I have that natural reaction where if I have a friend who hooks up with tons of guys or has sex with a guy too soon you’re like “he’s not gonna like you.”

Interviewer: What did you worry he would think about you?

Respondent 2: If I had sex with him maybe he would think I was a whore or easy. Or the opposite even, if I said no he would think I didn’t like him as a person or treat me differently. I think more so, if I had sex with him I thought he would think I was easier for him [to sleep with] and stuff like that.

Interviewer: You said you were concerned about how you looked?

Respondent 3: I didn’t wanna appear slutty to him or easy. I didn’t think that what happened was an accurate representation of the way I usually act with guys.

Interviewer: Howd you feel?

Respondent 3: I felt like really – a lot of shame. I think I felt like I was definitely upset and I felt like I was – what I did was really slutty. Not something I would have done normally. Just like, I felt kinda dirty. I remember showering continuously.

Interviewer When you hooked up did yall have sex?

Respondent 4: No… Um, I feel like in high school I developed that whole like whore-slut reputation which I wasn’t really into because like I just I felt like it took away a lot from me. Like, that whole label. It’s like. It’s demeaning and degrading and people see you as like nothing but that. It’s kind of… It’s really hard to kind of build respect for yourself outside the like name and I feel like in college it was just like a time where I could be like, alright, like, how are we? – are you gonna do this? Like, I’m away from the environment but I felt like the situation still followed me, like the name still followed me.

Not being a “prude”

While fear of being seen as a “slut” led women to avoid having sex too readily, fear of being seen as a “prude” was often present, leading women to have sex they didn’t really want.

Respondent 5: I guess as a female in this type of society you’re just obligated to say yes to a guy. Like you’re supposed to make him feel good or whatever.

Interviewer: What do you think that obligation is about?

Respondent 5: Like women are made to serve men or something. You’re supposed to be this submissive little creature and go along with everything. If you stop then you’re being prude, you led him on, he’ll get angry. I don’t want that to happen.

Interviewer: At the house party, were you worried about it being awkward?

Respondent 6: Yeah I was worried about him telling everyone I was a prude – leading him on and playing games. In high school I was worried what guys thought about me a lot – it’s not like that now…but I almost felt bad – because I felt like I was leading him on. But we’re like friends I was gonna see him again – in class and at parties.

Not being a “bitch”

Women dreaded being seen as a “bitch,” and this sometimes leads them to have sex that they clearly didn’t want or that they were ambivalent about. Avoiding being seen as a bitch, and the imperative women felt to take care of men’s needs also led them to focus on men’s rather than their own pleasure.

Interviewer: I’m just curious how it [unwanted sex] happens, how it happens to women?

Respondent 7: Yea. My sentiment is “let’s do this because it’s great for you, get it over with.” I can imagine other women feeling that way.

Interviewer: Like you want to please the man?

Respondent 7: Maybe. So maybe if they’re [women] sober enough to want to say no, but then keep quiet anyway, it’s because they want it to go faster and get it over with. Don’t want to look like a bitch by saying no in the middle of sex.

Interviewer: Were you worried he would think you’re a prude if you didn’t have sex?

Respondent 2: Yea a little bit but I think more [I was worried] that he’d think I led him on or something like that and I was being a bitchy girl to him. I didn’t really want that.

Respondent 8: I don’t think I ever said, no I don’t wanna hookup. It would be like… like when he was trying to get me to lay down in bed. I said, no… that’s ok, I don’t wanna do that. But I don’t think I ever said openly, I do not want to hookup up with you. I felt like at that point, I didn’t think it would add to the situation in anyway. I thought it might make things more hostile.

Respondent 9: Oh another gray area. I kinda wanted to date my best friend Mike. I wanted to try dating. And he always didn’t wanna push me past my boundaries. We did a lot of communicating. He really wanted to get physical. But I didn’t feel romantic. So I personally chose to have sex with him. Even though I wasn’t attracted to him. In the moment, I thought maybe it would spark something. I was feeling like it might be a good thing to try. So I did try to do that [sex with Mike] and it was kinda terrible. I wasn’t doing it for myself but for him. It was selfless. I didn’t get any pleasure from it. I was kinda just wanting for it to end the whole time. Like an hour. And yeah… I wouldn’t say he’s bad, it’s just like, I guess it’s the mentality. It’s more like I wanna get this over with as soon as possible. I did it because I generally wanted to do it for him.

Being afraid of more than one stigma

Often, women were so aware of the kinds of pressures they were balancing that they laid out multiple fears in the same quotes. For example:

Respondent 10: I really don’t know how to say no when a guy wants to have sex, I feel terrible when I say no. I feel like most girls are the same way, want to make guys like them. I just always want people to like me, especially guys. Don’t want them to see me as someone who doesn’t want to have sex. Same time don’t want them to see me as weak.

Interviewer: Are those the things you think women are supposed to be balancing?

Respondent 10: Yea. Having a lot of confidence but also not seeming easy. Cute and sexual but not slutty.

Interviewer: What would you be afraid would be said?

Respondent 11: Will he tell his friends lies about me because he is angry? To stay in the situation, maybe some people don’t realize what is actually wrong in that situation or they think the only way to get out of it is to give in.

Interviewer: Be nice, give him a blowjob?

Respondent 11: Yea.

Interviewer: What is that pressure in social situations about?

Respondent 11: You wanna come off a certain way present yourself as easy going or someone who is cool and down, but at the same time if you are not comfortable with stuff, also balancing that.

Interviewer: Seems like women have to have a balance, being fun and experienced but not too experienced?

Respondent 5: Yea you can’t be slutty, but you can’t be a prude either. Have to be this in-between. You can’t be with all these guys, but if a guy is with all these women, he’s a player, he’s cool. But if a woman is with a lot of guys she is a slut or whore.

Interviewer: You think there’s pressure to be fun?

Respondent 2: Yea. I think a lot of times if you say no or act uninterested they’re like “why are you being mean, so rude, you don’t want to hang out? You’re a prude” and then they tell you to be fun and that is kind of their way of saying you can be a slut. That’s what a “good time” is for men.

Respondent 12: There is a very interesting line to what extent should I say no to not appear too easy and to what extent should I give in so that I don’t appear as a prude.

Conclusion

Our interviews with college women illustrate that women are quite aware of reputational consequences of having or not having sex. We found three distinct pressures that came up over and over again: don’t be a slut, don’t be prude, and don’t be a bitch. Clearly, many women are worried about what men will think of them.

While some women discussed just one of these pressures, many acknowledged worrying about two of them simultaneously. These women see themselves as walking a tightrope, and women often find balancing their need to avoid two images difficult. Sometimes fear of being a “bitch” or a “prude” supersedes their fear of being a “slut” and they go along with sex that they decidedly didn’t want or were ambivalent about. Other times, the dominant fear is of being seen as a “slut,” so women manage to avoid having sex, but thereby risk the “prude” or “bitch” label. Balancing on this tightrope uses emotional energy that women might otherwise use to focus on what they want or don’t want sexually. Of course, we are not suggesting that it is possible or desirable to free sexual interaction from social norms or expectations. And we recognize that in many arenas, one social norm will have to be balanced against another when, in a particular situation, they push one in opposite ways. However, we do believe that it is possible to work toward norms that honor both men’s and women’s sexual agency and pleasure, as well as their right to be respected when they decline sex that they do not want.

Comments 22

Jojo

June 20, 2018

I've been a slut my whole life ,I know I'm disgusting and that's why no one is interested me. Why am I so gross, why doesn't anyone like me?


Francis

June 29, 2018

Quality men cannot trust sluts since they are only after popular men, they cannot be trusted for long term relationships, a girl that has sex with more than 1 person has a higher chance to divorce her husband. You cannot expect to fuck popular guys and then start to care about the "nice guys" when the hot guys don't want you anymore. It's just being a bad human being and taken advantage of poor misguided guys because of your own misstakes.

It's okay to be a slut, as long as you are up front about it when a guy that is interested in you asks how many you've had sex with. Tell him the truth and if he doesn't like the answer, move on to another guy that will accept you for who you are.

Me myself will only have relationships with a virgin girl, sluts i will have casual sex with. And it isn't double standard because the genders work different, a girl can have sex whenever she wants; a guy has to work for it and become really good at hooking up with girls.

Source:
http://socialpathology.blogspot.com/2012/03/promiscuity-data-guest-post.html


A

July 17, 2018

rather go after the bitch or prude. today 50% of family are single mother household. it's because today it's okay to be a slut. also you can't trust a hoe. the more promiscuous you are the higher chance of infidelity when married proven scientific fact https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/12/18/the-unbelievable-rise-of-single-motherhood-in-america-over-the-last-50-years/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.c87e14c3dd3e


Melanie Germar

August 28, 2018

https://www.instagram.com/___emelgeee___


Alice

October 11, 2018

Almost college girls tried to have sex their bf or hookup with others. That is a common phenomenon in campus and students. If you said you had not had sex with your gf, no one will believe that and think you are ridiculous. These tips are useful guideline for casual sex you could follow:
https://www.luckyapp.co/rules-of-casual-sex/


jenny

October 18, 2018

So this is the way to get the hof free coins online and it can help to generate the coins.


ducky

December 2, 2018

@ Francis, The only reason a woman can "get sex" whenever she wants is because men will whip out the dick for anything. That makes men, not women the sluts. Men have to work at because women are much choosier about their sexual partner. This isn't women being bitches who only go for the popular guy. It is something called natural selection. To go for a less attractive mate simply because he's "nice" is going against nature. Gotta keep the gene pool clean


Rick

December 11, 2018

Your article should linclude that youre only seeing assholes that want sex... Thats why they call you a bitch when you dont put out.

And yea college and highschool boys think being a slutty guy is cool. Its not cool as an adult though. And training a generation of women to do what highschool boys think is cool is a really sad thing to see. Im in my 30s and its just a bunch of people that have no clue what love is or how to have e a genuine relationship. Just a bunch of people really good at hooking up with superficial attractive qualities like fitness or confidence. Not genuine connection or an understanding of another humans competence.

True fullfillment in life will come from finding a partner you truly love. Women used to safegaurd against this being confused by oxytocin and other bonding chemicals released when you do the physical act of love with someone.

IE when you start fucking someone youre not truly connected to you will still bond with them. Confuse the dependance for love. And spend a few years in a relationship that fizzles out when you realize who that person actually is....

We should not be reinforcing that pattern. Love is important. Hooking up with as many hot people as you can will fuck your sensors up. Again this is someone that is in their mid 30s seeing the aftermath... Dont base your whole life one what highschool boys think is cool


Tek

January 1, 2019

I love to meet hot girls in buffalo


Zest

February 16, 2019

I was a virgin. My husband was like those guys. After marriage, he started calling the women he slept with slut and whore. That got me so pissed off because it was him who used them. His true story came out after marriage only. Before, he looked changed. Told me he was a “born” again virgin and wanted me to be his first. On our first night I came to know he was full on whore. Changed the entire dynamic of our relationship. I won’t deny that we love each other and he is like a body part of me. I don’t want to divorce. But sometimes I can’t stand him at all because of his past. It affected our sex life. Eventually, I told him that he has to leave his baggage outside. If he doesn’t do that I will not only divorce him, but also get the women the compensation they deserve. I remember he told me how his sexual life elevated his status in college. Today he is crying and begging me to not let it out. Suddenly, he has started saying that would be too much “humiliation” for him and he would rather die than face that. I refused to see meaning in that since he thought once sleeping around was status symbol. So how can this is bad now? I know he is gonna be completely ruined to the point of losing his job and never finding one again.


John

March 2, 2019

I find this hard to believe. This might be true for some weak women but I think most young women now are strong and liberated. If they have sex it is because they want to or choose to. If they choose not to they are strong enough to say no. In school and the military I saw a lot of young women being promiscuous because they wanted to be. To blame men and boys is irresponsible. Take ownership of your life and your choices. Don't play the victim card for something you have total control over. If a guy sees you as or says you are a slut, bitch or prude, who cares? Fuck them and what they have to say (figuratively). Don't be controlled or demeaned and used or use that as an excuse for your behavior. Grow up and live your life the way you want. Find guys that respect you and your choices. You probably won't ever see the guys from High School and College in a few years anyway, so who cares what they think.


Orion

March 21, 2019

This social experiment was a big flop in my opinion, you used a ruse to lure in women that wanted to make themself feel like a victim from the get-go! Oh, and the responses from these women at a quoted "elite college" are priceless!!! I've never heard more ignorant comments full of the word "LIKE" in all of my life! Oh wait, was this by chance the woman that got into college on the $6 million endowment by that Hollywood actress that purchased her entrance into a college she could not otherwise get into on her own merits? because that would explain a lot here! These women sound like morons to me, and I would NEVER sleep with a woman that cannot hold an intelligent conversation with supplementing it with the word "like" as many times as they did, they may be prudes, they may be sluts, they may just like sex like everyone else and be neither of those things but one thing is for certain, they are not very bright!


Markus

May 5, 2019

@john

Because it changes the way the chemicals in the brain work. It's been proven that the more partners you have (see above replies for sources) the higher the divorce rate is.

The comment above said it all, in my opinion: "We should not be reinforcing that pattern. Love is important. Hooking up with as many hot people as you can will fuck your sensors up. Again this is someone that is in their mid 30s seeing the aftermath... Dont base your whole life one what highschool boys think is cool."

That goes for men in their 20's, 30's, 40's and for women also. Relationships are important, far more so than a cheap shag that ultimately means nothing, leads to nothing good and only to something bad.


Paul

May 19, 2019

Low life loser women are everywhere nowadays unfortunately. Been there.


Ssohara

May 22, 2019

I got called a prude and a b*tch I am sure when I was in college. Guess what, it was worth it. I wasn't ready for sex when I was in college. I was in an elite school - MIT. Guess what, I think being in an elite school means you should be getting an education! There is no point in taking out student loans to have sex and all that drama. Focus on your schoolwork, if you can't, you might as well just go to a community college and get all that stuff out of your system...

Anyway, I am glad I did not bow to social pressure. I am sure a lot of guys called me names behind my back, I wasn't all that popular, but the guys that I DID go on dates with treated me with respect. I had a good career after I left college, made good friends, dated guys who treated me well, never had any "date rape" types of incidents or guys who were too sexually aggressive...

I did screw up who I married, but that's on me. We all make mistakes, and hopefully we learn from them... :)


Cookie

June 5, 2019

College or not if the girl is american and listens to rap music like cardi b nicky minaj and if she drinks thats the sign that she is a slut whore or whatever
Alcohol makes a women more likely to fuck around 100%
I knew these chicks and they were loyal to their boyfriends but as soon as they start drinking out at a bar or party they start being slurry slutty they flirt and they start cussing and they grow nuts and talk like they don't give a fuck they are more
Promiscuous when drunk and some drink alcohol just because they feel more secure and alcohol mmakes them feel less insecure even the girls i know would never get up and dance sober they are shyband don't talk much but drunk they turn into sex demons its proven that acohol makes women more likely to cheat also and haveba divorce becausr of it women which drink don't have respect for men when drunk and
Don't care or THINK about the consequences ..you guys know what I'm talking about ba drunk bitch is the worst
I suggest that if your dating a chick that loves alcohol and loves to fuck you when shes drunk or calls you more when drunm than sober then you should leave that bitch behind because she will only make it harder for you in the future
Alcoholic women are bad for marriage and they are liars and their more likely to have a miscarriage with the baby of pregnant
One thing is for sure if you ask her to quit drinking and she says no but will slowdown or something
She is lying and she will never quit
Adderall is also a big deal most womrn that are young and take addderall are alcoholics too
They suffer from depression and from bipolar disease
Be carefull
If she calls adderall her medication then you might as well just give her a pipe anf crystal meth because adderall is the most prescribed drug to women and benzodiazepines also which is Xanax and prozac be carefull you have been warned lol they will never change
If she cannot move unless she takes her adderall pill then she is addicted and
Takingbadderall to pass a school exam is okay but on a day to day basis just so. They clean the house and stuff
Its wrong
I only see american women okay with being. Whores just because their single what happen with holding out till you find the man you want to marry
I think it all started with the parenting if the mother and father never say no and spoil their daughter then she will never have respect growing up for men no way
Sorry but noone wants a drunk spoiled brat that sucks dicks when she's drunk
Grow up ladies time to stop drinking and taking adderall ..
Men stop chasing women that talk and cuss like sailor. I hate bitches that curse yuck eww 😝

0++


Mit

June 9, 2019

The term slut was made up by women that feel that woman giving away sex without demands is destroying their ability to control men. Just as they are threatened by prostitution. The men that use the term to put a woman down, are actually insecure assholes that have to control a woman.
It is all about control and insecurity. Women still have just as much casual sex, they are just forced to be hypocritical about it.
You are not a so called "slut" and you do not have to ashamed of enjoying sex with multiple partners, just be safe and do not comit yourself to the jealous control freaks.


Marcus

June 26, 2019

To me a slut is not the girl who has sex with many guys. It is the girl using guys to her advantage, lying or cheating. As long as I have reasons to believe she wouldn't do this with everyone, it is ok to have sex on first date, if she wants it. When looking for a relationship, I don't want a girl that offers her body to everyone. If she does and is serious about it, I would not call her a slut. But I would if she was treating every guy like a boyfriend when in reality shes only using them to get fucked.


Zesty Hoe

August 28, 2019

my personal idea of being a slut is that...well its me. I remember my days as a slut, where life was fun, lived it to the fullest. But now, here I am, a bitch instead of a slut. It really downed my motivation for school and life. Be a slut kids, don't be a bitch, get life correct and learn from my mistakes.


Brian

September 18, 2019

Your NOT a slut if you just love to fuck and you are single. If you want a man to be with then let him know you love to fuck alot and he will be your ONLY fuck partner.
And many times, the people calling people sluts aren't getting laid themselves. Now if you are the type that fucks 5 different men in one week then you may have an issue. But if you just enjoy getting laid and being kinky, then enjoy your sexuality and don't worry about the prudes that get laid once a month or less. They simply aren't getting any. That is THEIR problem! And for GOD'S SAKE choose Nice looking men if your gonna get laid. Nothing worse then seeing someone that screws nasty ghetto guys. Makes you look like you have no morals, self esteem or taste. But fuck as often as you like. Your booty deserves it!


William

October 11, 2019

I'm a guy and if I score with A woman for a one night stand the first night I met her.. are you kidding? No way would I or any decent folk respect her . I would laugh about it and maybe give her a nick name but as far as starting a relationship in as unstable grounds as a one night stand. I'm glad women are held to a higher standard. Someone's got to be.


Janey

October 16, 2019

William ur a idiot. You should be respected but not her? Both of u fucked on the first date. To me your the weakest kind of man. One that believes that women are either black or white in that area. It will cause u a rough ride later in life when you arent equals in a relationship because ur a slut who went for a prude and got a prude and now your cheating on that woman with so-called "standards." Hypocrites are everywhere.


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