There is a sexual double standard in our world. I know this comes as a surprise to no one. [Please note this article is looking at general actions. Certainly there are exceptions both individually and culturally.] Why does society see men having sex with multiple women outside of marriage as a sign of great achievement, admiration, conquest and pride while society sees the women - for the same act - as dirty, cheap, shameful, undesirable and unworthy of respect or love. In some modern cultures a woman can be severely punished or executed while the man receives little or no punishment. Today, in some cultures even a pre-teen girl who is raped is considered to have brought “shame” to the family while the man [often a relative] is not punished at all [Hiding In The Light, 10-12, Kindle Edition]. Before we in Western Culture think we are any different, the same attitudes prevail on men’s sexual “adventures” and women’s shame. The traumas, accusations and innuendos that rape victims often face in court are indefensible.
Often Women’s Movements have recognized this gender inequality and fought against it. Unfortunately, they almost always go in the wrong direction. Instead of honouring women and demanding that men be sexually faithful, they seek sexual freedom by wanting women to be as promiscuous as men without consequences. This desire to increase sexual intercourse outside of marriage without shame or consequences for anyone is a dark path of destruction for both men and women. It leads to increase in sexual diseases, the promotion of the murder of unborn children, destroys families [which leads to the destruction of society], increases abuse, promotes the degradation of children and women through rape, pornography, sex slavery and more. This type of sexual freedom is the destruction of society in general, and children, women and men individually.
But why does this sexual double standard even exist? Why is this injustice embedded deep in our cultures and nations. This sexual double standard is not limited to one culture or time in history, but has infiltrated the majority of major civilizations throughout history. Its roots must be ancient.
As we consider this perverse human sexual behavior, we will consider three things:
1. Does the Bible condone this sexual double standard?
2. How ancient is this gender inequality?
3. Why does this sexual double standard even exist?
We have addressed this subject in other articles, but we will review it again. The Bible is very plain. Both parties involved in adultery are equally guilty. God has no sexual double standard.
If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death. Lev. 20:10, NIV
Why God attached such a hard penalty to adultery is another subject, but just to give a short summary: Adultery murders the family unit which, in turn, wreaks destruction on society. Adultery is not an individual matter, but contributes to mass destruction on every level of society.
“I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery, because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes — a people without understanding will come to ruin! Hosea 4:14, NIV
In fact, God seems to go the opposite direction. Because the men - who would supposed to be the leaders in their homes - were operating in sexual freedom God was not going to punish the women for following their example. If there was any gender inequality, God placed the heavier responsibility on the men.
As mentioned above, this sexual double standard appears across major civilizations and throughout history. This is not some local or limited taboo. There seems to be an almost universal condemnation for the woman in adultery while, in most cases, the man is excused.
A famous illustration of this occurred about 2,000 years ago when the adulterous woman was brought to Jesus for judgment. Although this situation was deliberately manipulated to try and put Jesus into a no-win position, it still shows the sexual double standard that existed.
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. John 8:3-4, NIV
As far as our topic goes we see that the Pharisees caught this woman in the act of adultery which means the man must have been present there as well. Yet they let the man go [a fellow Pharisee?] and brought only the woman for judgment. [To look at this incident in more detail see our article: Did Jesus Condone Adultery?]
The earliest Scriptural reference that I can find which indicates this sexual double standard on human sexual behavior comes from about 3,700 years ago around 1728 BC. This is the story of Judah and Tamar [Gen. 38].
This is an obscure story that if you are not familiar with your Bible you may not be aware of. One thing to note is that this is a historical story. In other words, it is recording an incident not necessarily showing God’s approval of the actions. You can read the entire story if you like in Gen. 38, but here is summary.
Judah had three sons. He arranged for this first son to marry a woman called Tamar. His first son was evil and God killed him. Since the first son died without leaving a male heir to carry on his family name, according to tradition, the second son married Tamar with the understanding that the first son they had together would be considered his oldest brother’s son. However, this second son was also evil and God killed him before there were any children.
The third son was not yet old enough to be married so Judah told Tamar to return to the protection of her father’s home until the third son grew up. When the third son came of age Judah was not in a hurry to marry him off. After all, every man Tamar married seemed to die! Tamar saw that this promise was being broken so she came up with a plan to provide an heir for her first husband. She disguised herself as a prostitute and sat where she knew Judah was going to be passing by.
When Judah came by, he saw her and wanted her services. Tamar was no fool. She knew what she was risking. Knowing that Judah did not have the prices for her services, she required his seal and staff as a pledge until he paid. Judah agreed. Later when he sent the payment to get his pledge back Tamar had gone and no one knew anything about a prostitute in the area.
Three months later Judah heard that Tamar was pregnant. In “righteous indignation” he demanded she be brought out and burned to death for her adultery. She saved her life by proving, with the pledges, who the father was and that she had acted within the family line to produce an heir for her first husband. There was then no punishment for her.
Both Judah and Tamar were widowers at this time in history. Both committed the same sexual intercourse. Yet Judah wanted to execute Tamar with no apparent thought that he had done exactly the same thing! Although this is the first recorded incident I am aware of, from reading the story this sexual double standard appears to already have been firmly established. No one appears to have thought this sexual double standard unfair and Tamar only saved her life by proving she had acted in the best interests of the family, not from a desire for personal pleasure.
In a horrific story that does not relate to adultery, but does seem to illustrate an ancient [and unGodly!] difference in the value of men and women we have the case where Lot was willing to subject his daughters to gang rape in order to protect his male visitors from homosexual rape. [God delivered them all, but it was still a choice Lot made in a difficult no-win situation.] This story, which happened about 169 years before the Judah/Tamar story, can be found in Gen. 19.
So we see that the sexual double standard can be verified for almost 4,000 out of the about 6,000 years of human history. And in these incidents it appears to already have been firmly established so the origin is still further back.
Everything I have said up to this point I believe can be Biblically established. What I am about to say is my opinion on where and how it got started. If you disagree, that is fine.
In the Garden of Eden we see God’s perfect plan. One man and one woman united, equally valuable and loved, but with different roles and responsibilities in establishing a Godly family and learning to manage and develop the earth under God.
The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”
Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals.
But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Gen. 2:18-25, NIV
Satan hates God. He discovered the hard way that he cannot touch God directly. His strategy then is to cause God racking pain by disfiguring, warping, perverting and destroying that which God loves, namely His creation of which human beings are the crown - the only part of creation made in the image of God and able to enter into an intimate relationship with Him.
So how does Satan’s desire to hurt God relate to sexual freedom and the sexual double standard? God designed the family to be the building block of society. If Satan can murder the family unit, he can mangle and slaughter every level of society. Attack the foundation and the structure will fall. This is why we see such an attack on the family today by those who oppose God.
This, by itself, does not explain the sexual double standard because complete sexual freedom for both parties would accomplish the same end goal. This sexual freedom, of course, has happened in some societies and is often promoted by women’s liberation movements.
1. When Satan drove his first wedge between human beings and God as well as men and women, God promised that He would send a Saviour to defeat him and restore the relationship of men and women with God and with each other. He promised His Deliverer would be the “Seed of the woman” not the seed of the man - which is the normal process of things.
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.” Gen. 3:15, NASB
Satan; therefore, hates women as the instrument of bringing the One Who would defeat him into the world. Even through that event happened 2,000 years ago, the hatred lingers on as he approaches his final dark destiny. He takes out his anger on women using men as his tools [and also destroys men in the process].
2. In sexual freedom men and women, although self-focused, can still fulfilled their God-given roles of Protecter and Helper to a certain degree. By introducing violence into the situation Satan uses sex - which was to unite a husband and wife - to separate men and women. They no longer have any possibility of working together and finding fulfillment in their God-given roles.
3. God did not have to make sex pleasurable in order to build families, but He did. God loves to throw in “bonuses” and bring pleasure. Sex, in its legitimate place, is one of the highest forms of pleasure and is intended to be a unifying force between a husband and a wife. Satan loves to distort what God has made for pleasure into a source of destruction and pain. This is accomplished in sexual freedom as well, but it is total when violence and distrust are introduced through the sexual double standard.
4. Perhaps the most important reason is that it mutilates the image of God. Men and women were created in the image of God. Satan hates God. Satan hates His image. Sex between a husband and wife is intended to send the message that God is loving, caring and faithful. Sexual freedom sends the message that God is unfaithful, caring only for His own pleasure. The sexual double standard sends the message that not only is God unfaithful and uncaring, but also He is brutal, unjust and delights in pain. [Isn’t that the false image that even a lot of Christians struggle with because of the human relations they have experienced?] In destroying the image of God in mankind, Satan seeks to destroy mankind’s trust in God. There are many ways he does this, but the sexual double standard appears to be a main one.
5. God is righteous. He loves justice.
Depart from evil and do good, So you will abide forever. For the Lord loves justice And does not forsake His godly ones; They are preserved forever,
But the descendants of the wicked will be cut off. Ps. 37:27-28, NASB
“Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.
“He will not cry out or raise His voice, Nor make His voice heard in the street.
“A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish; He will faithfully bring forth justice.
“He will not be disheartened or crushed until He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law.” Is. 42:1-4, NASB
Satan, naturally then, loves injustice. He loves to see the weak and defenceless taken advantage of. At heart he is a bully, taking advantage and abusing those he has control over. The injustice of the sexual double standard brings him delight.
6. There is the strong desire in the human heart for an heir to carry on the family name. Although now perverted, this comes from God’s original command “to be fruitful and increase in number.” Gen. 1:28.
Since babies come out of the woman, for a woman to have sexual encounters with multiple men means the family line is in question. This can cause questions, accusations and emotions that are focused on the woman rather than the man. This certainly does not excuse the man before God for his sin, but may help to explain why the unjust sexual double standard exists.
I am sure you can probably think of other reasons that could be added here. Share them below, if you like. It would appear that Satan introduced this major instrument of oppression and injustice soon after the Fall. Certainly before the Tower of Babel since it is almost a universal injustice and the nations were separated at the Tower.
The sexual double standard is not God’s plan. The injustice of it deeply wounds Him. His plan is sexual faithfulness between one man and one woman in a marriage relationship that reflects His love as the Divine Bridegroom for His bride [those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour].
As Christians we should be opposed to all forms of injustice, including the sexual double standard. We need to replace injustice with justice not with more injustice [i.e. sexual freedom].
In conclusion I want to point out the sometimes neglected words of Jesus:
He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters. Matt. 12:30, NASB
“This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse. Matt. 12:30, The Message
We are in a war and there is no neutrality. You are either on Jesus’ side or Satan’s side. That is the cold brutal fact. We are all born by default on Satan’s side and it takes the conscious act of confessing and repenting of our sins and accepting Jesus as Lord and Saviour to change sides. If you have not accepted Jesus as Lord and Saviour you are on Satan’s side, although your involvement may have been mild or unconscious. Now you definitely have a conscious decision to make - to stay where you are or come to Jesus. I ask you to, at least, investigate Jesus, Who loves you and loves justice. I suggest you follow our New Christian Stream and take our free email course: How To Know For Sure God Loves You.