When men get praised and called a "dog" for the number of women they sleep with, women are left in the dust wounded by the double standard that labels them a "slut” for the number of people they choose to become sexually active with. This hypocrisy undermines women's perception of themselves, leaving them feeling degraded and self-conscious. How a woman chooses to use her body should be judged by the same standards governing men's choices, leveling the playing field for women and men to approach their decision-making process autonomously and freely.
The double standard that exists between men and women is not something that is new. From a young age, women learn that they should hide their sexuality, making decisions about what they can and can't wear based on the "sex appeal" an outfit might suggest. In public schools, the dress code for girls has grown to an eerily specific list of things girls cannot wear, and only a shortlist for boys saying that they "can't wear a hat." Getting ready in the morning, girls have to constantly worry about if their shoulders are exposed or not, if they are showing too much cleavage or if their skirt is too short, while boys only have a little more to worry about than whether they brushed their hair or not.
Multiple studies have explored the consequences of this inequity. Derek A. Kreager from the Department of Sociology of Pennsylvania State University reveals that "Results suggest that the association between lifetime sexual partnerships and peer status varies significantly by gender, such that greater numbers of sexual partners are positively correlated with boys' peer acceptance, but negatively correlated with girls' peer acceptance." Men feel empowered by their so-called body count list, while women feel shame, even though the lists both tally the same thing. So why do so many men feel entitled to reap the benefits of this double standard and so freely call women names like sluts and whores for their sexual choices?
The reason this double standard still has not ended might lie within the insecurity that has become inextricable from the modern conceptions of masculinity. Many men subconsciously and even consciously embrace the "dominance" of their masculine energy in a partnership and may feel threatened by a woman who is confident in their active and experienced sexual life. According to the Nadia Bokody of Queensland Time, "After all, a woman who knows what she wants and boldly demands it is a woman who is unlikely to be easily controlled, nor to feed an endlessly unsteady ego. Sexually liberated women violate the status quo of gender norms because, in essence, they're women who can't be tamed." Women who refuse to let society shame them for their sexual life are the ones who help change this dynamic, shedding the stigma of the "body count."
This is the way it should be; women should be able to feel empowered and confident in the choices they make, not ashamed and embarrassed. This is a societal stigma that needs to change, and it all starts with awareness. I am sorry if there are guilty men out there reading this and finding themselves offended. If what I'm saying resonates with you, though, please take this as a sign to change both your judgments and your vocabulary towards sexually active women. We respect you, but also feel hurt by how easily you cast blame and shame while walking away from your own escapades with a little more than a pat on the back. This gender-driven double standard can so easily evolve if only every one of all genders prioritizes empathy for others. Because in the end, whatever gender a person may be and however long their body count may be, we are all humans, and our purpose on Earth is to spread love, not judgment.