When looking at gender roles in literature compared to popular media one that came straight to mind was that of Moll Flanders from Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders and Barney Stinson from How I Met Your Mother. Both characters have been involved in numerous sexual relationships and present a good juxtaposition with the stereotypical gender roles involving premarital sex.
Barney’s different conquests are too numerous to count, however there was an episode entitled “Right Place, Right Time” in which Barney achieves his 200th conquest. Barney does however have a book entitled the The Playbook which details each plan he has concocted to seduce a girl. Some of these tricks can be seen in the following video clip.
From How I Met YourMother, The Playbook was created to describe the various tricks and costumes Barney would used when trying to seduce a gril. The Playbook, therefore, is similar to the different identities which Moll adapts in order to pursue her multiple husbands. Barney is constantly changing his identity (future Barney, CIA agent, rock star etc.) to try to attract more women just as Moll is constantly changing her identity to attract a new husband. For Barney, the seduction of each new woman is a game, or a challenge, while for Moll, each new husband is assurance of a new future.
Barney, as a man is seen as a stud or hero for being able to seduce so many women. Moll however, as a woman, is seen as a slut or liar for tricking so many men into marriage. In How I Met Your Mother lingo, Barney is therefore known as a “bro” while Moll would be known as a “ho” in which the term “ho” is slang for the word “whore.” Women who are loose sexually are judged by both men and women and seen as unclean, or dirty, for having been “used” multiple times by multiple men. The men doing the “using” however are considered to be “bros” and are praised for their success in seducing multiple women. Moll therefore has to constantly change her identity so as not to be judged for her multiple marriages (and sex partners). A great post to check out which explains this further is Gender and Sex: Double Standards?
Moll is seen as “going after men” which is not the appropriate way for a woman to act. The reason women go after men is not based on their desire for the man but for their desire to marry. Due to a woman’s desire for marriage and the support which comes with it, they do not always examine the man thoroughly enough before marrying them. This happens to Moll multiple times, most notably with her Lancanshire husband and her Virginia husband. The Lancanshire husband tricked Moll into believing that he was wealthy (the same trick Moll was using to trick him into marrying her) and her Virginia husband was actually her brother. If Moll had been less selective and more thorough when picking a husband, these multiple marriages might have been avoided.
The main point I am trying to make with this post is that based on traditional gender stereotypes, Barney’s actions are considered acceptable in society because he is a man, while Moll’s actions are uncharacteristic and “slutty” because she is a woman. By Moll performing traditional male stereotypes she is no longer viewed as a lady and is therefore less accepted by society.
Buchbinder, David. Studying Men and Masculinities. United States of America and Canada: Routledge. 2013.
Defoe, Daniel. Moll Flanders. United States of America: Signet Classics. 2005.
“Is It Ok For A Woman to Go After A Man?” Jet. Ed. Robert E. Johnson. Johnson Publishing Company, Inc. 2003. 25 August 2003 vol. 104. no. 9.