Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy

Escaping the hook-up world, one relationship at a time

Two Labels Used to Control Single Women

Don't be bound by someone else's label.

It is interesting to hear people refer to young women who are single and enjoy going out and meeting new people as “party girls.” Although this phrase is said frequently, it is seldom considered. What does this expression actually mean? After all we do not label socially extroverted men as “party boys.”

The expression can have a pejorative edge. It conveys that those women who directly decide to go out and enjoy the social scene lack self-discipline and are in need of a classification all of their own. Between the lines is a judgment that women who are socially assertive probably lack substance and may very well be prone to debauchery. The opposite of a party girl perhaps would be a “lady in waiting” or a “good girl”--a woman who is demure, blameless and not as overt about her good times as her more exuberant partying sisters.

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Of course, the reality is women enjoy socializing in a variety of ways. Some are more introverted and some more extroverted. In my work with women I find that socially reserved women and more extroverted women are often so very concerned about how their personality appears to others that they cannot accept themselves as they truly are. They put their energy into trying to appear the way they think they are expected to appear. They ask themselves “Am I too outgoing with guys” or “Am I too boring with the opposite sex.” A more productive question is, “How comfortable am I with myself.”

The idea that women who are open about enjoying men and good times are somehow not as “good” or “pure” as their quieter sisters reflects our culture’s obsession with polarizing women into “good girls” and “bad girls.” This dichotomy takes women away from what they actually desire and more toward meeting an external standard of what society or their immediate social circle deems acceptable behavior.

If you enjoy partying and being socially extroverted, simply remember to be safe and not impulsive as you enjoy these pursuits. Remind yourself that being socially aware is a strength but take note if you are not able to spend time alone or if you give in to impulses too quickly and with little reflection. Similarly if you are more on the quiet side, don’t be bound by someone else’s label. Challenge yourself to take some risks because without risk it is hard to grow. If being around a lot of people or the opposite sex is challenging for you and you tend to gravitate toward the same types of men to compensate for this, take a risk and boldly force yourself into new social milieus.

“Party girl” and “good girl” are labels used, either consciously or not, to control women to meet an external standard that seldom reflects who a woman truly is at her core. Notice when society places these judgments on you so that you do not take on this disapproval as your own. Instead, work to become comfortable being who you really are.

The more women accept who they are and directly communicate this sense of self to the men in their lives, the more they attract men who demonstrate a similar level of warmth and acceptance toward them. On the other hand, hearing judgmental labels and becoming anxious about what others are thinking, draws women away from who they are. As a consequence, they are more likely to choose men who are similarly critical and unaccepting of the whole woman.

What can you do? Label your interpersonal style at least to yourself. Are you more of a socially assertive person who acts on her sexual and romantic urges? Or are you more of a socially reserved woman who notices her attraction to men but waits for them to act? You may be something in between. Once you know your style, accept it and at the same time notice if there is anything self-destructive about how you approach romance with the opposite sex. If you are too passive, you may not partner with someone who truly reflects what you want. If you are overly assertive or impulsive, you may not give the relationship enough time to simmer and develop into something more memorable.

Jill P. Weber, Ph.D. is the author of Having Sex, Wanting Intimacy—Why Women Settle for One-Sided relationships.

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