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“Straight-Acting Gays”: The Relationship Between Masculine Consciousness, Anti-Effeminacy, and Negative Gay Identity

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Some gay men are preoccupied with traditional notions of masculinity and express negative feelings towards effeminate behavior in gay men. Various scholars have speculated that such attitudes by gay men reflect internalized negative feelings about being gay. Thus, we sought to assess the importance of masculinity among gay men, to compare their ideal versus perceived masculinity–femininity, to ask how gay men assess masculinity, and to test whether masculine consciousness and anti-effeminacy could predict negative feelings about being gay. Results from an online survey of 751 gay men in the United States (M Age = 32.64 years, SD = 11.94) showed that the majority rated masculinity for themselves and in a same-sex partner as important, and they ideally wished that their behavior was more masculine (Cohen’s d = .42) and less feminine (d = .42) than they perceived it to be. Furthermore, one’s behavior was more important than how one looks when assessing masculinity. A multiple regression analysis showed that the degree to which they were preoccupied with masculinity and expressed anti-effeminacy accounted for 30% of the variance in negative feelings about being gay. These finding further support the idea that masculinity is an important construct for gay men and that masculine consciousness and anti-effeminacy are related to negative feelings about being gay.
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ORIGINAL PAPER
‘‘Straight-Acting Gays’’: The Relationship Between Masculine
Consciousness, Anti-Effeminacy, and Negative Gay Identity
Francisco J. Sa
´nchez Eric Vilain
Published online: 10 February 2012
!Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012
Abstract Some gay men are preoccupied with traditional
notions of masculinity and express negative feelings towards
effeminate behavior in gay men.Variousscholarshavespecu-
lated that such attitudes by gay men reflect internalized negative
feelings about being gay. Thus, we sought to assess the impor-
tance of masculinity among gay men, to compare their ideal
versus perceived masculinity–femininity, to ask how gay men
assess masculinity, and to test whether masculine consciousness
and anti-effeminacy could predict negative feelings about being
gay. Results from an online survey of 751 gay men in the United
States (M
Age
=32.64 years, SD =11.94) showed that the major-
ity rated masculinity for themselves and in a same-sex partner as
important, and they ideally wished that their behavior was more
masculine (Cohen’s d=.42) and less feminine (d=.42) than
they perceived it to be. Furthermore, one’s behavior was more
important than how one looks when assessing masculinity. A
multiple regression analysis showed that the degree to which
they were preoccupied with masculinity and expressed anti-
effeminacy accountedfor30%ofthevarianceinnegativefeel-
ings about being gay. These finding further support the idea that
masculinity is an important construct for gay men and that mas-
culine consciousness and anti-effeminacy are related to negative
feelings about being gay.
Keywords Sexual orientation !Femiphobia !Sissyphobia !
Internalized homophobia !Internalized heterosexism
Introduction
Iwantpeopletotakefromthis[interview]thatbeinggayis
anorm.ThatthestereotypesareoutthewindowI’vemet
so many people like me that it’s really encouraged me. I
kind of call them the SAGs—the straight-acting gays.
We’re just normal, typical guys.Ilovetowatchfootball
and drink beer.
Lance Bass, singer/producer
When Lance Bass publicly announced through a People
Magazine (Laudadio, 2006)interviewthathewasgay,thecover
story was met with mixed reactions.Whilemanyapplaudedhisdis-
closure (Orzeck, 2006), others were angered by his quote
regarding‘‘straight-acting’gay men (Buchanan, 2008). Some
believed that Bass merely perpetuated the idea that something
was wrong with effeminate gay men and played into sexist and
misogynistic values (Rice, 2006). Whether or not such criti-
cisms of Bass were warranted can be debated. Yet, this public
incident highlighted a contentious issue among gay men that
has repeatedly been discussed within the popular gay press:
Many gay menvalue traditional notions of masculinity (hence-
forth masculinity for simplicity) while marginalizing‘‘effemi-
nate’’ gay men (e.g., Bergling, 2001; Hines, 2009).
Beyond the popular press, scholars have noted that there has
been an enduring struggle over the meaning of masculinity
among gay men in the United States (Chauncey, 1994;Levine,
1992). Psychological practitioners have also written about work-
ing with such men in therapy and postulated that anti-effeminacy
attitudes towards other gay men seemed to reflect negative feel-
ings about being gay (Haldeman, 2006;Schwartzberg&Rosen-
berg, 1998). It is only until recently, however, that studies pub-
lished in peer-reviewed journals have quantitatively linked the
degree to which gay men are preoccupied with masculinity with
internalized homophobia or negative feelings about being gay
F. J. Sa
´nchez (&)!E. Vilain
Department of Human Genetics, Center for Society & Genetics,
UCLA School of Medicine, 695 Charles Young Drive S,
#5524, Los Angeles, CA 90097-7088, USA
e-mail: fjsanchez@mednet.ucla.edu
123
Arch Sex Behav (2012) 41:111–119
DOI 10.1007/s10508-012-9912-z
(Estrada, Rigali-Oiler, Arciniega, & Tracey, 2011;Sa
´nchez,
Westefeld, Liu, & Vilain, 2010;Szymanski&Carr,2008). This
report will discuss this line of research and will build upon a
recent study by our group (Sa
´nchez et al., 2010). Specifically, we
will respond to criticism of our previous report while exploring
further the connection among masculine consciousness, anti-
effeminacy, and negative feelings about being gay.
Masculinity and Anti-Effeminacy Among Gay Men
Gay men’s focus on masculinity is most evident in the realm of
dating and sex (Jeffries, 2009;Malebranche,Fields,Brayant,&
Harper, 2009). In fact, numerous studies focused on gay men’s
personal advertisements have found that a large proportion of
gay advertisers overtly claim to possess masculine traits (e.g.,
being interested in sports, preferring beers over colorful cock-
tails, and purporting to be‘straight acting’) and that they desire
masculine mates (Bailey, Kim, Hills, & Linsenmeier, 1997;Bar-
tholome, Tewksbury, & Bruzzone, 2000;Phua,2007). This
desire is also reflected in the postings of online sites geared
towards facilitating sexual encounters (Logan, 2010; Ward,
2008) and in gay erotica (Joshi, 2003; Morrison, 2004). In all
these situations, the characteristics that are most undesirable
are those that are stereotypically feminine (for examples of
such postings, see Clarkson, 2006;Taywaditep,2001b).
Likewise, survey studies with gay men have yielded results
that support the idea that gay men scrutinize gender roles in them-
selves and in other gay men. For instance, gay men report neg-
ative attitudes towards gender atypical gay men (Skidmore, Lins-
enmeier, & Bailey, 2006)andengageinbehaviorsthatwillbol-
ster their sense of masculinity (Duncan, 2007;Halkitis,Moeller,
&DeRaleau,2008;Mealey,1997). Finally, qualitative studies
have illustrated how traditional gender norms influence gay
men’s attitudes and behaviors, including whom they will asso-
ciate with (Manley, Levitt, & Mosher, 2007;Mosher,Levitt,&
Manley, 2006;Sa
´nchez, Greenberg, Liu, & Vilain, 2009).
Therefore, we were unsurprised by the responses we received
when we administered a survey that included two questions,
‘How important is it to you that you appear masculine in pub-
lic?’’ and‘‘How important is it to you that your partner (or any-
one you may be dating) appear masculine in public?’’ In gen-
eral, the univariate distributions forthese questions were heav-
ily skewed towards the‘‘extremely important’’ end of a 7-point
scale (Sa
´nchez et al., 2010). Furthermore, when we asked the
622 gay men in that survey to use a masculine–feminine con-
tinuum (1 =extremely feminine;7=extremely masculine) to
gauge how masculine–feminine they believed they were and
how masculine–feminine they would ideally like to be, we
found thatmost wanted to be slightly more masculine than they
believed they were (Cohen’s d=.42).
Some uncertainties were left from our previous methodology,
which were articulated by the anonymous peer-reviewers of that
report. First, when we asked the participants the aforementioned
questions on the importance of masculinity, it was unclear if they
were referring to looks or behaviors. Second, the same concern
was raised about the real versus ideal question: did they want to
look more masculine or did they want to act more masculine?
Third, we were criticized for using a dichotomous scale versus an
orthogonal scale for the real versus ideal question. That is, was it
possible that the gay men ideally wanted to be both more mas-
culine and more feminine? If so, by consolidating masculinity
and femininity in one scale, we may have missed important
information.
We wanted to respond to these criticisms by administering a
new survey. Specifically, we would specify‘‘looks’’and‘‘behav–
iors’whenaskingtheparticipantsabouttheimportanceofmascu
linity. We would also break down the real versus ideal question
so that participants responded in relation to their looks and
behavior on both a masculinity and femininity scale. Finally, we
wanted to address the question of what gay men typically rely
on to make assessments of masculinity–femininity: looks or
behavior.
Negative Feelings About Being Gay
Scholars have theorized why many gay men focus on mascu-
linity and express anti-effeminacy. For instance, Harry (1983)
believed that because gay men were gender nonconforming as
boys and thus subjected to ridicule, they learned to‘‘defeminize’
in order to protect themselves from further alienation. Bailey
(1996)positedthatgaymensfemiphobia’’was partly rooted in
adesiretoavoidbeingstereotypedandtodistancethemselves
from the reality that they used to be feminine boys. Probably the
most contentious hypothesis is that gay men who are extremely
conscious about masculinity and express anti-effeminacy feel
negatively about their sexual orientation (Haldeman, 2006;
Schwartzberg & Rosenberg, 1998;Rice,2006).
Although numerous studies have linked masculine norms
with potentially problematic behaviors and psychological dis-
tress (e.g., McCusker & Galup, 2011;Rivera-Ramos&Buki,2011;
Sa
´nchez, Bocklandt, & Vilain, 2009), we only know of four
published studies that have directly examined the connection
between masculinity and negative feelings about being gay.
First, Szymanski and Carr (2008) found that scores for a group
of 210 gay and bisexual men on a scale measuring their con-
cerns with fulfilling traditional masculine roles (e.g., being suc-
cessful and restricting emotions) was positively related with a
measures of internalized homonegativity (b=.66, p\.05).
Using a sample of315 gay men, Hamilton and Mahalik (2009)
reported thata measure of conformity to masculine norms was
correlated with a measure of internalized homophobia (r=
.31, p\.01;in Appendix A). Sa
´nchez et al. (2010) showed that
both the importance of masculinity and concerns with fulfill-
ing traditional masculine roles could account for a significant
amount of negative feelings about being gay (R=.63, p\
.001). Finally, Estrada et al. (2011) found that for a sample of
112 Arch Sex Behav (2012) 41:111–119
123
152 Mexican American gay men, scores on a measure of hy-
permasculinity were positively related to internalized homo-
phobia (r=.30, p\.01).
One shortcoming to these studies is that the scales used to
measure the predictor variables were originally created for use
with heterosexual men. Consequently, we wanted to extend this
line of research by using measures that were designed to be rele-
vant to gay male life and the gay community. Specifically, could
scores on a measure of gay men’s masculine consciousness and
anti-effeminacy predict negative feelings about being gay?
Method
Participants
We used the suggestions offered by Gosling, Vazire, Srivastava,
and John (2004)inconstructingandmonitoring the online sur-
vey (e.g., monitoring IP addresses to guard against repeat
responders). With the assistance of electronic mailinglist man-
agers, an e-mail solicitation notice was sent out to a variety of
organizations, university centers, and community agencies asso-
ciated with the gay community. Notices were also posted in
online communities (e.g., Craig’s List and Facebook). The solic-
itation specified that the study was for self-identified gay men
over the age of 18 years and who lived in the United States. Psych-
Data.com housed the consent form and survey, which randomly
ordered the instruments below. After completing the survey, par-
ticipants were offered an opportunity to enter a drawing for one of
eight $35.00 Amazon.com gift certificates.
Atotalof751men(Kinseyscore=5–6) were included in this
analysis. The mean age was 32.64 years (SD =11.94; range =
18–79) and the mean number of years openly identifying as gay
was 16.82 (SD =11.97). The median individual annual income
was $30,000 (interquartile range =$38,000). Almost half of the
men (46.5%) reported being in a significant same-sex romantic
relationship; of this subset, 63.4% reported cohabiting with their
same-sex partner, and 71.9% characterized their relationship as
monogamous. Eight percent of the sample reported a history of
having been married to a woman. Further demographic char-
acteristics can be found in Table 1.
Measures
Importance of Masculinity
To assess how important masculinity was to the men, they were
first prompted with the following instructions on the computer
screen:‘For the following questions, ‘masculine’ refers to what
you believe people in the UnitedStatesstereotypicallymeanby
‘masculine.’’They were then asked two questions, and the par-
ticipants responded by using a 7-point scale (1 =not at all impor-
tant;7=extremely important):‘‘How important is it to you that
you look (your clothes, hair, etc.) masculine in public?’ and
‘How important is it to you that you behave (your speech,
mannerisms,etc.)masculineinpublic?’’Thequestionswerethen
asked again, but the second‘‘you’’ineachquestionwasreplaced
withthephrase‘‘yourpartneror anyoneyou are dating.’’Thisfor-
mat was modeled after the format in the previous survey (Sa
´n-
chez et al., 2010).
Real and Ideal Masculinity–Femininity
To assess the degree to which the participants wanted to be more
or less masculine–feminine, we first asked four questions regard-
ing their appearance and behavior:‘‘How masculine would you
rate your typical appearance (your clothes, hair, etc.) in public?’’
‘‘H ow m a sc u li n e wo u ld y o u id e al l y like to appear (your clothes,
hair, etc.) in public?’‘How masculine would you rate your typi-
cal behavior (your speech, body movement, mannerism, etc.) in
public?’and ‘‘How masculine would you ideally like to behave
(your speech, body movement, mannerism, etc.) in public?’’ The
participants used a 7-point scale (1 =not at all masculine;7=
extremely masculine)torespondtoeachofthesequestions.The
questions were then asked again with the word‘‘feminine’’in
place of ‘masculine.’’ These questions were modeled after the
previous format used by our team (Sa
´nchez et al., 2010).
Assessing Masculinity
To address the question regarding how gay men assessed mas-
culinity, we posed the same question twice:
Table 1 Demographic characteristics of participants (N=751)
n%
Race/ethnicity
White (non-Latino) 641 85.4
Hispanic/Latino 52 6.9
Asian/Pacific Islander 21 2.8
African American/Black 20 2.6
Native American 7 .9
Other 10 1.3
Education
\12th grade 9 1.2
High school/equivalent 296 39.4
Associate’s degree 95 12.6
Bachelor’s degree 206 27.4
Master’s degree 99 13.1
Advanced graduate 46 6.1
U.S. Census Region
West 286 38.1
Midwest 138 18.4
Northeast 109 14.5
South 218 29.0
Arch Sex Behav (2012) 41:111–119 113
123
Some gay men believe that masculinity has more to do
with how people look. For example, what kindof clothes
do they wear; what kind of hairstyle do they have; do
they have facial/body hair; and do they have a muscular
build. Other gay men believe that masculinity has more
to do with how people behave. For example, how do they
walk; how do they talk (such as with or without a‘‘lisp’);
what are their hobbies (such as playing sports); and what
sexual activity do they prefer (such as being a‘top’or a
‘bottom’). Using the following scale, what do you think
masculinity has more to do with?
During the first presentation, the participants used a 9-point
scale (1 =it has to do with looks;9=it has to do with behav-
ior), which allowed for a neutral rating (i.e., 5). On a separate
screen, theywere again given the above statement but asked to
use a 6-point scale (1 =it has to do with looks;6=it has to do
with behavior), which forced them to choose one side of the
continuum.
Masculine Consciousness
We used the Masculine Consciousness Scale (Taywaditep,
2001a,b), which was designedto specifically assessthe degree
to which gay men are preoccupied with how masculine and
‘straight-acting’’their public appearance is. The items for this
scale were partially adapted from the Public Self-Consciousness
Scale (Fenigstein, Scheier, and Buss, 1975), and Taywaditep
(2001a)reportedaCronbachsalphaof.94.Participantsuseda
10-point scale (1 =not at all true for me;10=definitely true for
me)torespondto18statements.Someexamplesinclude,‘I
often wonder whether people think I am masculine’; ‘‘I would
feel good if someone presumed I was heterosexual’’; and‘‘When
Ihearmyownrecordedvoice,Ilistentoseehowmasculineit
sounds.’’ Cronbach’s alpha for our sample was .96.
Anti-Effeminacy
We used the Negative Attitude Towards Effeminacy Scale
(Taywaditep, 2001a,b), which was designed to specifically
assess the degree to which gay men feel negatively towards
overtly effeminate behavior in other gay men. The items for this
scale were generated based on qualitative reports regarding atti-
tudes towards effeminate gay men and as adapted items from
measures of homophobia. Taywaditep (2001a)reportedaCron-
bach’s alpha of .94. Participants used a 7-point scale (1 =
strongly disagree;7=strongly agree) to respond to 17 state-
ments. Someexamples include,‘‘It bothers me tosee a gay man
acting like a woman’’;‘When I meet a gay man for the first
time, I would be turned off immediately if he acted effemi-
nate’; and‘‘The effeminacy ofsome gay men is detrimental to
the public image of gay people in general.’Cronbach’s alpha
for our sample was also .94.
Negative Gay-Identity
To assess the degree to which the men felt negatively about their
own sexual orientation, we included items fromf oursubscales of
the Lesbian and Gay Identity Scale (Mohr & Fassinger, 2000).
Participants responded to the items using a 7-point scale
(1 =strongly disagree;7=strongly agree). The six-item Need
for Privacy Subscale assessed the degree to which the men felt
that their sexual orientation was aprivateandhighlypersonal
characteristic (e.g., ‘I prefer tokeepmyrelationshipsratherpri-
vate’). The five-item Need for Acceptance Subscale assessed the
degree to which the men worried or were preoccupied with how
others viewed their sexual orientation (e.g., ‘I often wonder
whether others judge me for being gay’’). The five-item Homo-
negativity Subscale assessed thedegreetothemeninternalized
negative perceptions about gay people (e.g.,‘Homosexual life-
styles are not as fulfilling as heterosexual lifestyles’). The five-
item Difficult Process Subscale assessed the degree to which the
men perceived their sexual orientation identity development and
‘‘c o mi n g o u t’’ a s h a vi n g be e n sl o w an d d if cu l t (e . g. , ‘‘C om i ng
out to my friends and family has been a very lengthy process’).
Mohr and Fassinger (2000)reportedthatthesefoursubscales
could be averaged and combined to derive a global index referred
to as the Negative Gay-Identity Index (NGI). The NGI was con-
ceptualized as reflecting how negatively someone feels about
being gay with a higher NGI score suggesting one feels more
negatively than someone with a lower NGI score. Cronbach’s
alpha for the NGI was .89.
Results
Preliminary Analysis
Continuous variables were screened to ensure that they con-
formed to the assumptions of multivariate procedures (Tabach-
nick & Fidell, 2007). In general, all distributions showed some
departure from normality. In order to subject the variables to
parametric tests, the following transformations were employed:
Areectandsquareroottransformationwasusedbeforecorre-
lating the questions on the importance of masculinity and before
comparing real and ideal masculine look and masculine behav-
ior. A base-10 logarithm transformation was used before com-
paring real and ideal feminine look and feminine behavior. The
transformation used for the continuous variables in the correla-
tion and regression analyses can be found in the caption for
Table 2.Itshouldbenotedthatalthoughthetransformations
helped reduce the skewness of most of the univariate distribu-
tions to non-significant levels, the positively-skewed distr ibution
for the Homonegativity (z
skewness
after transformation =4.64)
Subscale of the Lesbian and GayIdentityScalecouldnotbe
completely corrected.
114 Arch Sex Behav (2012) 41:111–119
123
Importance of Masculinity
Our first goal was to assess the degree to which masculine
looks and behavior were important to the men. Figure 1shows
the distributions for the four questions that asked how impor-
tant it was to the participants that they and their partners look
and behave in masculine ways. As a whole, the majority rated
all four items as being important (or between 5 and 7 on the
7-point scale): self appearance =64.3%, self behavior =
58.1%, partner’s appearance =58.7%, and partner’s behav-
ior =57.4%. Furthermore, the two items for self look and self
behavior were highly correlated (r(749) =.73, p\.001, 95% CI
[.70, .76]) as were the two items on partner’s look and part-
ner’s behavior (r(749) =.86, p\.001, 95% CI [.84, .88]). The
negative skew of the distributions closely mirrored the former
distributions based on the questions that did not separate how one
looked versus how one behaved (Sa
´nchez et al., 2010). However,
slightly more men in this sample rated masculinity as i mportant
compared to the former sample (self appearance=55.1%,
partner’s appearance =54.0%) (Sa
´nchez et al., 2010). Overall,
masculinity was an important characteristic for this sample of
men.
Real and Ideal Masculinity–Femininity
The second goal was to assess how masculine–feminine the
participants perceived themselves to be and how masculine–
feminine they ideally wanted to be. Figures2and 3show the
distributions for these concepts. The distribution of the four
questions regarding masculinity showeda moderate negative-
skew (i.e., towards the‘‘extremely masculine’’ end of the scale)
whereas the distribution on the four questions regarding femi-
Table 2 Intercorrelations, means, standard deviations, and coefficient
alphas for measured variables
Variable 1 2 3 a b c d
1. Masculine
Consciousness
a
2. Anti-effeminacy
a
.59 –
3. Negative Gay-Identity
Index
a
.52 .44 –
a. Need for Privacy .39 .38 .78
b. Need for Acceptance
a
.55 .40 .79 .54
c. Homonegativity
b
.39 .44 .68 .36 .44
d. Difficult Coming-Out
a
.29 .18 .78 .45 .44 .40
Mean 4.66 3.25 3.13 4.00 3.03 2.15 3.36
SD 2.12 1.37 1.03 1.32 1.35 1.19 1.52
Cronbach’s a.96 .94 .89 .80 .79 .81 .81
Note. All correlations were significant at p\.001
a
Square root transformation used for correlation and regression
b
Base-10 logarithm transformation used for correlation
Fig. 1 Ratings on the importance to the participants that their appearance
and behavior be masculine and that their partner’s appearance and behavior
be masculine. 1 =not at all important; 7 =extremely important
Fig. 2 Distribution of ratings on self-perceived masculinity and ideal
degree of masculinity. Masc masculine; 1 =not at all masculine; 7 =
extremely masculine
Fig. 3 Distribution of ratings on self-perceived femininity and ideal degree
of femininity. Fem feminine; 1 =not at all feminine; 7 =extremely fem-
inine
Arch Sex Behav (2012) 41:111–119 115
123
ninity showed a substantial positive-skew (i.e., towards the
‘not at all feminine’’ end of the scale).
To determine if the men ideally wished to be more or less
masculine-feminine, we conducted paired sample ttests com-
paring the real and ideal distributions for looks and behavior. We
used a conservative formula to estimate the effect size while con-
trolling for the correlation between the paired items (Dunlap,
Cortina, Vaslow, & Burke, 1996). On average, the men wanted
to be more masculine in both their looks and behavior than they
perceived themselves to be: t(750) =-4.47, p\.001, d=.14;
and t(750) =-12.86, p\.001,d=.4 2, respectively. Conversely,
the men wanted be less feminine in both their looks and behavior
than they perceived themselves to be: t(750) =6.86, p\.001,
d=.20; and t(750) =14.09, p\.001, d=.42, respectively. The
effect sizes for both masculine and feminine behaviors was equal
to the initial effect size (d=.42) from Sa
´nchez et al. (2010)in
which participants used a bipolar masculinity–femininity scale to
provide their general real and ideal rating. Overall, the men reported
greater discrepancy between their real and ideal gender-typedbeh-
avior compared to their real and ideal gender-typed appearance.
Assessing Masculinity
The third goal was to address the question of what do gay men
attend to when they are assessing masculinity: is it about how one
looks or how one behaves? When the participants were offered a
9-point scale that included a neutral anchor, 6.1% indicated that it
had to do with looks, 69.6% indicated it had to do with behavior,
and 24.2% indicated that it was equally about looks and behavior
(see Fig. 4). However, when the participants were forced to
choose a side of the continuum, 10.5% indicated it had to do with
looks and 89.5% indicated that it had to do with behavior (see
Fig. 5). Of the 182 men who initially indicated that it was equally
about looks and behavior, 22.5% indicated that it had more to do
with looks, and 77.5% indicated that is had more to do with
behavior. Overall, when assessing masculinity, these gay men
put more emphasis on one’s behaviors versus their looks.
Negative Feelings About Being Gay
To test the hypothesis that masculine consciousness and anti-
effeminacy predict negative feelings about being gay, we con-
ducted a multiple regression analysis. Table 2shows the zero-
order correlation between the variables of interest and the four
subscales that comprise the Negative Gay-Identity Index. Both
masculine consciousness and anti-effeminacy were moderately
correlated with negative feelings about being gay, r(749) =.52,
p\.001, 95% CI [.47, .57]; and r(749) =.44, p\.001, [.38, .50],
respectively. Table 3shows the results of the regression analysis
in which Negative-Gay Identity served as the criterion variable
and masculine consciousness and anti-effeminacy served as the
predictors. The linear combination of the two predictors accoun-
ted for 30% of the variance in Negative Gay-Identity scores, F(2,
748) =161.761, p\.001. Of the two predictors, the degree to
which gay menwere conscious about their masculine behavior
was the strongest predictors of negative feelings about being
gay (b=.40, p\.001). Altogether, it appears that the more pre-
occupied with their masculinity and the more negative they felt
towards effeminate gay, the more our men experienced some
degree of negative feelings about being gay.
Discussion
People have long suspected that the preoccupation with mas-
culinity and negative feelings about effeminate gay men were
a reflection of how a gay man felt about himself.Yet, it is only
until recently that this relationship has been put to the test. We
sought to extendthis limited line of research by first addressing
concerns thatwere raised for our prior study on the importance
that gay men place on masculinity (Sa
´nchez et al., 2010).
Fig. 4 Ratings on whether masculinity has more to do with how one
looks (1) or how one behaves (9); this continuum contains a neutral
rating-anchor (5). M=6.52, SD =1.59; Q1=5, Mdn =7, Q3=8
Fig. 5 Forced-choice ratings on whether masculinity has more to do
with how one looks (1) or how one behaves (6). M=4.56, SD =.94;
Q1=4, Mdn =5, Q3=5
116 Arch Sex Behav (2012) 41:111–119
123
Second we wanted to test whether preoccupation with mas-
culinity and anti-effeminacy could predict negative feelings
about being gay.
For our first goal, three main findings were important. First,
masculine looks and behavior appeared important to gay men.
The findings in this report mirror those from the earlier report
even when we separated the ratings based on looks and behavior.
Furthermore, the importance that our participants placed on mas-
culinity in their partners supported the conclusions made from
studies on gay men’s personal advertisements (e.g., Bailey et al.,
1997)andgaymensreactionstogenderatypicalgaymen(Skid-
more et al., 2006). Although critics may think of further ways to
divide such questions, the use of simple questions (e.g., ‘‘How
important is masculinity to you?’) may be sufficient to gauge
how important masculinity is to gay men.
Second, most of the gay men wished to be more masculine
and less feminine than they perceived themselves to be. This was
especially true regarding their behavior, which may be becaus e it
is much easier to manipulate how masculine one looks versus
how masculine one acts (Kwantes, Lin, Gidak, & Schmidt,
2011). Contrary to some of the suggestions that we received for
our previous study, gay men did not wish to be both more mas-
culine and more feminine. Although there may be some value for
using these types of orthogonal scales, it seems that enough
information can be gathered from a bipolar masculinity–femi-
ninity scale for thesetypesofquestions.
The third main finding of our first goal was that our gay men
seemed to rely more on a man’s behavior versus his appearance
when assessing masculinity, which is similar to findings among
heterosexual men (Allen & Smith, 2011;Moss-Racusin,Phelan,
&Rudman,2010). Although there is likely to be some interaction
with how one looks, if forced to choose, behavior seems to take
precedence in judging gay men (Keiller, 2010). This would seem
to support the idea that no matter how much of a fac¸adeagayman
tries to create (through muscularity, body art, facial hair, clothing,
etc.), the assessment of his masculinity ultimately hinges on how
people assess his behavior (Lippa, 1998; Rieger, Linsenmeier,
Gygax, Garcia, & Bailey, 2010;Vincent,Parrott,&Peterson,2011).
The second main goal of this report was to examine the degree
to which preoccupation with masculinity and anti-effeminacy
were related to negative feelingsaboutbeinggay.Theresultsof
our regression model give further support to this idea. Our find-
ings may generalize better to gay men compared to the previous
studies linking these constructs given that we used scales worded
specifically for gay men wher eas the previous studies used scales
originally derived for usewithheterosexualmen.
Limitations
These results should be interpreted with some limitations in
mind. Although using an online survey allowed us to access
men in various geographic locations and allowed them to par-
ticipate in private, ascertainment bias likely affects our results.
Furthermore, using the Internet allowed us to recruit a large
sample, but the group lacked racial and ethnic diversity. In
addition, a self-selection bias likely exists given that gay-spe-
cific organizations and Web resources were used to recruit gay
men. Granted, these are similar tothelimitationsofmanyonline
studies targeted at gay men (e.g., Blashill & Vander Wal, 2009;
Wiseman & Moradi, 2010); yet, they limit generalizability of our
results to the general populationofself-identiedgaymen.
Implications for Research
Notwithstanding these limitations,someimportantimplications
arise from the data for future research. First, research should be
conducted that assesses to what degree anti- effeminacy impedes
gay men’s ability to connect with other gay men and to find sup-
port. That is, how might such concerns undermine his relation-
ships (especially with potentialpartners)andultimatelyhispsy-
chological well-being? Second, research should be done to
examine what,if any, biological traits may differ between ste-
reotypically masculine and stereotypically feminine gay men
(O’Neil, 2010). For instance, are there particular brain regions
that may influence gender typicality in gay men (Ngun, Ghahra-
mani, Sa
´nchez, Bocklandt, & Vilain, 2011)? Third, stereotyp-
ically effeminate gay men tend to be overlooked when critics
castigate‘‘straight-acting’’gay men. To what degree, however, do
stereotypically effeminate gay men also experience feelings of
anti-effeminacy especially when it comes to partner preference?
Finally, some attention should be given to aspects of traditional
masculinity that may be beneficial to gay men and their rela-
tionships (e.g., bravery, camaraderie, and expressing love through
action versus words) given that most of the research has focused
on the negative aspects of masculinity (Addis, Mansfield, &
Syzdek, 2010; Hammer & Good, 2010).
Table 3 Regression coefficients on Negative Gay-Identity Index
Unstandardized bt95% Confidence interval Correlation
B SE B Lower Upper Zero-order Partial Semi-partial
(Constant) .99 .05 22.08 .90 1.07
Masculine consciousness .06 .01 .40 10.67 .05 .07 .52 .36 .33
Anti-effeminacy .04 .01 .20 5.38 .02 .05 .44 .19 .16
R=.55, R
2
=.30. All coefficients at p\.001 level
Arch Sex Behav (2012) 41:111–119 117
123
Ultimately, the use of labels synonymous with ‘‘straight-
acting’’will likely persist within the gay community. Part of this
may be because many gay men want to be seen as‘‘normal’’and/
or because they find stereotypically masculine traits as sexually
desirable (Bailey, 1996). Of course, just how masculine
‘‘s t ra i gh t -a c ti n g’’ ga y me n r ea l ly a r e is a t o pi c f or a n ot h er r ep o rt .
Certainly there were many who disagreed with Lance Bass when
he claimed to be an indistinguishable ‘‘straight-acting gay’’
(Buchanan, 2008). Yet if such statements are truly a reflection of
negative feelings about being gay, the greater challenge may be
to help such men understand the root of those feelings—espe-
cially if they are early in their‘coming-out’’—as opposed to crit-
icizing them even more for who they are.
Acknowledgments We thank Jim Buzinski, Benjamin Locke (Psyc-
Data.com), Kristine Palma, and Jonathan Suhre for their assistance on this
project. Portions of this data were presented in a poster at the University of
Lethbridge Workshop,‘The Puzzle of Sexual Orientation: What Is It and
How Does It Work?’’Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, June 2010.
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... Here, femmephobia operates beyond homophobia to police the behaviour of sexual minority men. Fear of discrimination due to violating norms of masculinity may explain why many gay men believe it is important for both themselves and their partners to look and behave in a masculine fashion ( Sánchez & Vilain, 2012 ). Overall, emerging research suggests that for men in same-sex relationships, PDAs with a partner must be carefully regulated, in most cases being minimized, due to concerns about being outed and therefore becoming a target of harassment or violence. ...
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