The virgin-whore dichotomy

So, you can either choose to be a slut or you can choose to be the prude. But either way, in society’s eyes, you lose.

Society places strict guidelines on how women should behave. The media perpetuates the idea that a young woman should be a wholesome girl with honest, prudent values, but she should also be willing to put out when the time arises.

Girls who upset this balance often fall into the category of either slutty or prudish. Neither designation is particularly socially favorable, yet all too often, women become saddled with such labels. To walk the fine line between the two most certainly leads to failure.

In 1968, protestors of the Miss America Pageant expressed their disgust and frustrations with the unattainable ideal. They proclaimed, “To win approval, we must be sexy and wholesome, delicate but able to cope, demure, yet titillatingly bitchy. Deviation of any sort brings, we are told, disaster.”

This unrealistic yet in-demand image of the perfect woman saturates media through the form of advertising, cinema and television shows. Young women are faced with the constant pressure to adhere to near-impossible rules on how to behave.

Through the perspective of the virgin-whore dichotomy, young girls are categorized as either hedonistic witches or innocent and naïve maidens. Regardless of how women choose to act—to indulge or not to indulge—they come under fire by their peers.

Young girls, in turn, choose to forsake personal individuality and identity in favor of what appears to be the socially favorable. Nearly one in four girls feel peer pressure to engage in sexual activity, according to a study conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Despite the expectation, almost 70 percent of girls experience some form of slut bashing or other form of sexual harassment by the time they are in middle school, according to a study cited in the United Press International.

Additionally, criticism on sexual behavior also extends toward perceptions of bisexuality in women. The common misconception suggests that bisexual women are more promiscuous or sexually permissive, according to the University Health Center at the University of Georgia.

A woman’s choice to engage in sexual behavior affects how she is perceived by society. Both women and men were more likely to reject sexually permissive females as friends, according to an article published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.

The media produces a double-edge sword—one side that encourages and pushes women to embrace their sexuality and another side that punishes women who choose to do so. The contradictory message prevents young women from feeling truly content in a social environment.

By isolating or degrading women who are sexually active or are perceived to be sexually active, we build on a deep-rooted social stigma that devalues the dignity of an individual. This flawed perception encourages a hostile environment designed to repress individual expression.

On the flip side, by pressuring young women to engage in sexual activity before they are ready, we push them out of their comfort zone. About 72 percent of teenage girls reported wishing that they had waited longer before participating in the act, according to a study conducted by The Heritage Foundation.

The contradictory messages spat out by the media create internal conflict and emotional confusion. Young girls and women ought to behave in a manner best suited for their personal betterment and, moreover, individuals should be encouraged to make healthy choices.

-Michelle Chan is a sophomore animal science major from Phoenix, Ariz. She can be contacted at 335-2290 or by opinion@dailyevergreen.com. The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of Student Publications.