'Who's the man?'
Why the gender divide in same-sex
relationships is a farce
What do gay women do in the bedroom? It is a conundrum, I have found, that seems to weigh heavily on many an inquiring heterosexual mind. Who makes the bed, for example? Who folds the laundry? Who pulls out the drill to hang a picture?.
A new study, presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, found that when it comes to same-sex couples, most Americans believe the “more masculine” partner and the “more feminine” partner should be responsible for stereotypically male and female chores. The study also found that people were more likely to consider there to be a distinct “man” and a “woman” in lesbian relationships than they were when it came to gay male couples. Probably, you know, because the idea of there being no male presence at all in a relationship is utterly unfathomable..
I’ve spent most of my relationship years in same-sex relationships. During this time many a moron has asked me “who is the man?” Normally I have ignored these people. However, this study made me rethink my views. If there’s a way to get out of doing the cooking and cleaning, I’m interested. And if that means having to proclaim yourself “the man” in a relationship, then so be it.
But how does one even figure out who the more feminine or masculine person in a relationship is? Physical appearance is obviously a major factor in how people initially pigeonhole you. Interestingly, however, the ASA study didn’t touch on physical appearance at all. Rather it asked people to look at vignettes describing fictional couples. The study introduced stereotypically gendered traits via interests (for example, a preference for action movies versus romcoms) and then asked participants to assign household chores to each couple. (It should be noted that the survey responses came from a nationally representative. These people were 92% heterosexual, so responses don’t necessarily reflect how LGB people think.).
For example, one of the vignettes concerned a couple called Amy and Jennifer. Respondents were told that Amy (a reporter) and Jennifer (a physical therapist) worked the same hours, but Jennifer makes more than double Amy’s salary. On the weekend “Amy usually wants to play basketball if they are going out, or watch an action movie if they are staying in. Instead, Jennifer would rather go shopping or watch a romantic comedy.” Because she liked romcom and shopping, most people decided Jennifer was the woman in the relationship, which meant she did the stereotypically woman’s work.
So was I an Amy or a Jennifer? After considered analysis I decided my enthusiasm for the Fast and the Furious franchise made me more of an Amy. But what about my girlfriend? Could she be an Amy too? How would sociology deal with that? I promptly texted my girlfriend with the Amy/Jennifer preferred-activity quiz. “I just really feel like I can’t be defined in a multiple-choice format,” she replied. This is typical of the way in which women can never give you a straight answer and a very Jennifer thing to say. Ergo, according to the court of heterosexual opinion, she should be doing more grocery shopping. Phew!.
The ASA isn’t the first organisation to conduct a studly like this. Research suggests that same-sex couples have more equal relationships than their heterosexual counterparts and share more childcare responsibilities. Nevertheless one person still tends to end up doing more of the chores. Indeed, a 2015 study by the Families and Work Institute (FWI) found that there were only two household tasks in which same-sex couples were more likely to share responsibility than heterosexual couples: laundry (44% versus 31%) and household repair (33% versus 15%). However, there was no evidence to suggest gendered household responsibilities in same-sex couples had anything to do with one person choosing to roleplay “the man” and one “the woman”..
When I quizzed a number of my gay friends about their allocation of household tasks in a highly scientific WhatsApp focus group, some noted that they’ve sometimes found themselves slipping into stereotypically Amy/Jennifer situations. “When I’ve dated girly girls I find myself feeling more masculine, inclined to hold the door, pick up the check more, etc,” noted H. “I think gender roles are similar to sexuality,” said M. “It’s fluid and can change based on the person you are dating at the time.” .
Sometimes your gender role can also change based on the task at hand. My friend V notes that she often jokingly plays up being the femme one in her relationship in order to avoid taking the garbage out..
Ultimately I think Judith Butler had the last sensible word on all of this. “Gay is to straight not as copy is to original, but, rather, as copy is to copy,” she famously wrote. In other words it doesn’t matter where you are on the sexuality spectrum – all gender is performance. While some feminists have seen butch/femme dynamics as regressive – a misguided reflection of heterosexual norms – Butler views this performance as effectively unveiling just how constructed heterosexuals norms are in the first place. After all, once you start unpacking the mental process of figuring out who is best suited to take out the trash based on who’d rather watch Fast 7 or Love Actually, it’s hard not to realize that maybe the idea of “feminine” chores and “masculine” chores is really a lot of nonsense..
There is still a huge chore gap in heterosexual America; one that has barely closed in the last 10 years. If housework is finally going to become more equally allocated among straight couples then perhaps the best thing for everyone to do would be to sit down with their partners and have a long discussion about whether they’re an “Amy” or a “Jennifer”. By the end even the most hardened essentialist might be convinced that gender isn’t just a performance – sometimes it’s a farce.
Gays in The City And Gay Relationships
SDo we Have to Play The Woman -Man Role?
Gay men’s fears of long-term romance
The night in June 1969 that gay men fought police raiding the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village marked the beginning of wider acceptance of male homosexuals. Homosexuality has not been considered pathological by mainstream psychiatry since the 1970s, and in the years that followed, gay couples have begun to acknowledge their partnerships publicly. “There’s much more social acceptance than there was 20 or 30 years ago,” said psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Richard A. Isay, M.D., HS ’65..
Many gay men are still suffering, however, said Isay. The main, though not the only, source of their distress, he thinks, lies in the ways their parents treated them as children. He believes that the social acceptance of homosexuality “has not filtered down to the way homosexual boys are raised.” Fathers tend to criticize or shun sons who dislike rough sports, play with dolls or otherwise prefer stereotypically feminine pursuits. Mothers who enjoy the sensitivity and shared interests of gay sons may lean too much on them, using them to fulfill their unmet emotional needs.
Isay believes that these dynamics can prevent adult gay men from forming long-term romantic bonds. “Boys may grow up mistrusting the love of another person and will find many other ways of finding the self-esteem enhancement that they missed in childhood,” said Isay. Many gay men seek affirmation not through an enduring, loving relationship, he said, but in cultivating large networks of friends, pursuing transient sexual liaisons, focusing on professional success and creating flawlessly appointed environments for themselves.
Gay men’s fears of long-term romance
In his new book, Commitment and Healing: Gay Men and the Need for Romantic Love, Isay describes how therapy can help provide gay men with insight into the effects of childhood influences on the capacity to commit to a partner. In a book accessible to nontherapists and illustrated with case studies, Isay shows how gay men can recover from childhood wounds and learn to sustain committed monogamous partnerships. A clinical professor at Weill Medical College of Cornell University and a faculty member at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research, Isay draws upon his experience as a Manhattan psychotherapist with mostly gay clients..
Isay published his first book, Being Homosexual: Gay Men and Their Development, in 1989, at a time when he was coming out. He was the first openly gay member of the American Psychoanalytic Association. His 1996 book, Becoming Gay, outlines the ways in which gay teenagers and adults develop self-acceptance..
Isay said that his new book has stirred up some controversy because he argues that gay couples who tolerate sexual adventures outside the partnership may do so out of an unconscious fear of closeness rather than a sense of liberation from traditional heterosexual strictures. “It runs counter to the prevailing doctrines of the gay community that maintain that our relationships are fine, more democratic and better than heterosexual relationships,” said Isay..
He hopes that his new book will help gay men to examine the patterns of their romantic relationships and perhaps seek the guidance of a therapist attuned to gay issues. He’d like parents to pay attention to the way they treat their sons. Ideally, he said, even when a son doesn’t act like a typical boy, “if both father and mother love him as they do their other children, if they value what he has to say about his attractions to others, then they can inculcate the value of love and can greatly influence how he forms loving relationships as an adult.”.
What Makes Same-Sex Relationships Succeed or Fail?
Dr. Gottman and his colleagues conducted a twelve-year study of same-sex couples to learn what makes same-sex relationships succeed or fail. The research demonstrates that all couple types—straight or gay—have many of the same problems and the same paths to staying happy together. But research has shown that there are also some qualities of strength (like humor and the ability to calm down during a fight) that are especially key to same-sex couples.
One key result: Overall, relationship satisfaction and quality are about the same across all couple types (straight, gay, lesbian) that Dr. Gottman has studied. This result supports prior research by Lawrence Kurdek and Pepper Schwartz: They find that gay and lesbian relationships are comparable to straight relationships in many ways..
“Gay and lesbian couples, like straight couples, deal with everyday ups-and-downs of close relationships,” Dr. Gottman observes. “We know that these ups-and-downs may occur in a social context of isolation from family, workplace prejudice, and other social barriers that are unique to gay and lesbian couples.” The research uncovered differences, however, that suggest that workshops tailored to gay and lesbian couples can have a strong impact on relationships..
Gay/lesbian couples are more upbeat in the face of conflict. Compared to straight couples, gay and lesbian couples use more affection and humor when they bring up a disagreement, and partners are more positive in how they receive it. Gay and lesbian couples are also more likely to remain positive after a disagreement. “When it comes to emotions, we think these couples may operate with very different principles than straight couples. Straight couples may have a lot to learn from gay and lesbian relationships,” explains Gottman.
Gay/lesbian couples use fewer controlling, hostile emotional tactics. Gottman and Levenson also discovered that gay and lesbian partners display less belligerence, domineering, and fear with each other than straight couples do. “The difference on these ‘control’ related emotions suggests that fairness and power-sharing between the partners is more important and more common in gay and lesbian relationships than in straight ones,” Gottman explained.