Garcia (1982) studied stereotypes about males and female sexuality. He exposed male and female participants to erotic slides of either a male or a female target, and gave them bogus information about how much sexual experience the target had. Participants were asked to rate the sexual arousal of the target. Females with high sexual experience were rated as being more aroused than females with low sexual experience, but sexual experience did not differentiate levels of arousal attributed to male targets. Females with high sexual experience were attributed as much arousal as male targets. These results emphasize the dichotomous conception of female sexuality: There exist sensuous and erotic females on the one hand, and virginal and sexless females, on the other. Men are not placed into such categories according to their sexuality, as male sexual experience is always attributed to arousal. Interestingly, participants who were more sex-stereotyped, were more likely to attribute arousal to targets in the pattern reflecting social norms. The fact that there was no actual difference in levels of arousal among targets—information was bogus—yet participants rated male and female targets differently, is evidence of the sexual double-standard. Furthermore, it is evidence of the fact that females may be judged based on gross social expectations, rather than on gauges that accurately reflect the factors that go into their sexual decisions (Garcia, 1982).
This is an excerpt from my thesis analyzing Luis T. Garcia’s 1982 study Sex-Role Orientation and Stereotypes about Male and Female Sexuality (1982). It relates to my previous post insofar as it delineates the differential stereotypes bestowed on male and female sexuality. More specifically, it proves that males are always attributed arousal in sexual experiences, while only certain females are attributed arousal in sexual experiences. We could only assume that those women who were not attributed arousal, would probably be attributed other things, had the subjects of the study been asked to evaluate them according to other characteristics. In other words, for men it is taken for granted that there is a direct relationship between biological needs and sexual fulfillment. On the other hand, the evaluation of the same relationship is not so straightforward for women; it involves categorizing them into sexual “types,” based on their purported motivations, rather than seeing them collectively as women who are part of the same species and, therefore, have the same physical needs, regardless of how often or with whom they express them. Men are simple and biologically predictable creatures. Women are complicated, have divergent motivations, and potentially ulterior motives. The link between male sex drive and activity is direct. The pathway from female arousal to sex has been set off track by stereotypes and now there is no insight as to why women act as they do. This study was done in controlled, laboratory condition with bogus information presented. The real world is much more complex. If people presented such unfounded attributions under these rather simplistic conditions, imagine the cognitive disconnect they must have in analyzing female sexuality in situations which are complicated by social factors and relationships. The genesis is misattribution and wild assumptions are put at the service of filling in the relevant cognitive gaps, those that need to be filled for people to make sense of their social surroundings. This is the geneology of the misinformation regarding female sexuality.