In any type of relationship, equality is the goal. However, that does not always occur, especially between men and women. Gender roles are often a major factor in heterosexual relationships, and should be one that we are willing to eliminate. In an age where social media is so prevalent, it is easier than ever to spread the idea of gender roles, as well as to perpetrate violence in relationships through social media and technology. According to “The Association Between Stereotypical Gender and Dating Beliefs and Digital Dating Abuse Perpetration in Adolescent Dating Relationships,” one in four high school students report being a victim of digital dating abuse, or DDA.
Controlling or overly monitoring a significant other is the most frequent kind of DDA. This boils down to the disparities in expectations of men and women in relationships. Men are told to be in charge in their relationships, that sex matters more than romance, and that women are simply objects, while women are told to prioritize relationships over everything and to be sexually appealing but not “too” sexually active.
These double standards harm relationships between friends as well as romantic partners because people think they must compete with one another. Double standards can have long term effects, including “increased drug and alcohol problems and delinquency among boys (e.g., Horwitz & White, 1987); greater acceptance of violence against women (e.g., Murnen, Wright, & Kaluzny, 2002); and heavier self-objectification among girls that results in lower self-esteem, depression, and lower sexual self-efficacy (e.g., Aubrey, 2006; Grabe, Hyde, & Lindberg, 2007; Impett, Schooler, & Tolman, 2006).” Beliefs of gender roles can lead to violence offline. There is an association between men’s approval of gender roles and their violence against women. (e.g., McCauleyet al., 2013; Murnen et al., 2002; Tharp et al., 2013) Women usually take part in DDA through monitoring behaviors, while men use violence.
Continuing to accept gender roles in relationships lead to the double standards that have negative consequences on people’s lives. These behaviors can be internalized among women and men without realizing it. The belief of gender roles not only in relationships, but in society as a whole will persist the idea that men and women are not and should not be equal. Women will not have access to the same opportunities as men, while men carry on with the thought that they are “more than” a woman and that each sex has its own place in a relationship. Women are supposed to be more caring and nurturing, while men are the leaders. Men are praised when they date around, and women are scorned for doing the same. If men and women were treated as equals, problems of double standards would not exist. Having gender roles so deeply instilled preserves double standards in relationships and the longer it goes on, the more difficult it will be to eliminate these notions. All people should be taught to simply respect others and communicate instead of mistrust and violence against romantic partners.
Respecting others in relationships of any kind is incredibly important. When people enter a relationship, they come with boundaries and expectations about what they think it will be like. If either the man, woman, or both start off with ideas of gender roles, it can turn out poorly. In order for a relationship to work, both sides must be on the same page in regards to their roles in the relationship. If both men and women were taught from the beginning that gender roles should not actually exist, many relationship problems such as domestic violence or stalking would be eliminated. It is perfectly fine if both sides stay in their stereotyped gender roles, as long as it is mutually agreed to. However, if they do not agree with these gender roles, issues arise and the double standards kick in. Double standards and gender roles are one thing if they are brought from people on the outside, but another thing entirely when people in the relationship maintain them.
It is important to know what you are getting into when entering a relationship, and open communication with your significant other can assist in dispelling these ideas of double standards and gender roles. Having these open conversations with a romantic partner will also spur these imperative conversations within the population in general and lead to the elimination of gender roles and double standards, whether it be in relationships or in mainstream society.