A November article in Scientific American reiterates evidence that in countries where higher gender inequality exists, so too exists more established “traditional” gender roles (Melanie Tannenbaum’s “We Can’t Blame Everything on Powerful Men”). The greater the gender inequality, as defined by the 2006 Gender Gap Index study, the higher the propensity to perceive gender roles stereotypically. So, Women: get your cleaning supplies together, cook some damn chicken, and bear our children; Men: get your penis hard and have at it!
In countries where gender inequality pervades, men and women are (surprise, surprise) more apt to find attractive the traditional attributes of masculinity and femininity while choosing their mates–more so than their brothers and sisters who live in states of smaller gender equality gaps. In high gender-gap countries, for example, a man puts less (or maybe no) emphasis on wanting a woman of high intelligence, but puts a great emphasis on her physical attractiveness.
But what would the results of this study show if it were conducted with us gays? Does there exist such a standard gender role to which, say, one might always abide? And would the attractiveness of such a role also determine acceptance, even the expectation, of the attributes of the effeminate and masculine?
Before you gets your panties in a knot for my ask-stating the obvious, allow me to clarify that I am not talking purely about sexual roles. Top or bottom? Boring discussion. I instead wonder about how we fundamentally perceive ourselves in our sexual relationships.
This begs the always well-received, always intelligently articulated, always wonderfully astute question: “So who’s the guy and who’s the girl?”
The balance of dominance in a relationship is never in equipoise. Someone always has more power than the other (however teensy-weensy). But does this make the less dominant partner the “girl?” And, if it does, is it then permissible, or more attractive, that the “girl” is more effeminate than the “guy?”
There are men and women, gay and straight, who identify with stereotypical gender roles; even in Amurca, this great country of ours. Beyond the limits of these stereotypes extends a vast, uncomfortable wilderness (imagine in good humor–while I have a moment to slip this in–Chuck Norris bottoming).
I am one of these people…ish.
In my childhood–in my preteens, before I grasped “gender roles”–I fantasized about being a helpless damsel, running from goblins and warlocks, and into the arms of–forgive the second cliche–my knight in shining armor! I likewise dreamed, even then, of sleeping in his arms and playing a whole-hearted Stepford wife.
These fantasies followed me into high school, when I’d pretend football players were doing things to me–not with me–and, in these fantastic scenarios, I wasn’t to be pleased. I was the submissive, sometimes masochistic, housewife.
Later on, while living in Arkansas, I very briefly swapped roles for a 3-month relationship in which I attempted the role of the dominant–maybe to try things for out a bit–but quickly I reverted to what undoubtedly I considered to be my lot in life: an aspirational submissive.
Things changed, and continue to, as I age. I’m no longer content with being merely the submissive. But neither am I savvy on shifting dominance. My role, at least as I know it for myself, is what one of those aforementioned adroit questioners would call the “girl” in the relationship.
But, anecdotally, the influence of such gender “roles,” and maybe even the expectation of such roles in gay relationships, do not translate always into the acceptance of “femininity” as stereotypes define them. I’m no expert on lesbian or transgender perception of this point, but I know too well that, more times than not, an effeminate male partner is less attractive than one who is more traditionally masculine. Hop onto any gay male, dalliance-seeking website and you’ll find very quickly those who request “no femmes.”
Which might read rather, well, versatilely, after noting Melanie Tannenbaum’s observation, “When we do observe gender differences in mate preferences, it’s not a function of biology–it’s a function of culture.”