And, to be fair, the Escola-penned episode is full of quotable one-liners that paint these beautiful guys with six-packs as existing in an entirely different world than Cary or you and me, for that matter. The self-esteem issues that cripple Cary and lead him to getting blonde streaks and a tan are equally present in the albeit filtered world of the Instagays. Hot Coffee miniseries. Less interested in coming down against these well-intentioned ally anthems or Instagays, or cockteasing straight bros than in unpacking them, the Comedy Central show captures a decidedly novel gay sensibility.
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For example, psychologists have analyzed personal ads to show that straight men are much more concerned than straight women about a potential mate's looks; straight women are more concerned about resources and the ability to acquire them: You can also tell a lot about the mating market by they way advertisers describe themselves.
Advertisers want to entice readers to answer their ads, and are sometimes quite creative in their self-description. So the self-descriptive adjectives also tend to be those that are highly valued. When my lab first started looking at gay personal advertisements, we were struck by a couple of differences from straight ones. First, gay men's ads were much more explicitly sexual than straight men's were-I will explain why I think this is so in the next chapter.
The other difference was that gay men's ads used many more words related to gender conformity and nonconformity, such as masculine, feminine, butch, femme, straight-acting, straight appearing, and flaming. This suggested that these traits were important to many gay men, but how so? We would expect to see similar numbers of both types. In order to check our expectation, we looked at more than 2, personal ads placed by gay men.
For each ad, we looked for gender-related words and we kept count of how often the advertiser: Forty one percent of all the ads had some gender-related word. What we learned suggested that The Birdcage is indeed fiction. When advertisers requested either masculine or feminine characteristics in a partner, they requested masculine traits 96 percent of the time.
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Furthermore, when they described themselves as masculine or feminine, it was masculine 98 percent of the time. Both what gay men seek and how they represent themselves suggest that they are massively biased in favor of masculinity. Or is it a bias against femininity? In all 72 ads in which an advertiser was explicit about what kind of gender-related trait he did not want, it was a feminine trait; "no femmes" was the most common request. These results raise at least a couple of questions. First, if gay men are almost all so masculine as their self descriptions imply , why do they bother requesting masculinity in partners?
After all, most personal advertisers don't waste money asking for someone with four limbs, because even if they have this preference, they can reasonably assume that it applies to almost everyone. The answer is-and this will not surprise most people who have answered a personal ad-that people sometimes misrepresent themselves in a favorable way.
How often do advertisers describe themselves as having "below average looks," even though half the world should? This consideration, as well as everything I've discussed in this chapter, should make one skeptical about accepting the masculine self-descriptions of gay male personal advertisers.
A second question is less easily dismissed. Perhaps gay men who place personal ads are not representative. Perhaps their unusual characteristics or preferences are what necessitate placing such ads in the first place. Maybe most gay men love feminine men, and because feminine gay men are plentiful, they don't need to advertise for them. To answer this question this we did a second study. We made up mock "gay dating brochures," each of which profiled two competitors. Each profile had both a picture and a self-description of an ostensibly gay man. Some of the pictures were of very attractive men, others of average-looking men, and the rest were of men we considered very unattractive.
One of the descriptions was: I am in shape and enjoy rollerblading, jogging, and tennis. I live in the city and would like someone with whom I can share everything from an exciting evening in town at the clubs to a relaxing day at the museum. My hobbies include traveling, being outdoors, and listening to music. The other descriptions were similar. The key word in the description above is "masculine. Each brochure contained one description with either "masculine" or "feminine" and one description with neither term. We went to a gay-oriented bookstore, a gay gym, and a gay pride rally, and we asked gay men to look at the brochures and choose which person they would prefer to date.
Most of those polled chose the physically attractive men in the brochures-no surprise, gay men like good-looking guys.
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But the raters also strongly preferred the brochures with the "masculine" self-description. Substituting "feminine" for "masculine" had about the same effect as substituting an average-looking man's picture for a very attractive one. The idea that gay men want masculine partners may be surprising to straight people, but it is less so to gay men.
Jaye Davidson, the actor who played the homosexual transsexual in the movie The Crying Game explained: Homosexual men love very masculine men. And I'm not a very masculine person. Hence their predilection is for huge, violent, coarse brutes. Whether or not Crisp's explanation-gay men want masculine men to feel more feminine- is correct, he recognized the preference. When gay men say "No femmes," what is it, exactly, that they are eschewing?
Gay men tend to be feminine in several ways, including their interests, their voices, and their movements. Although it is unclear that the gay accent is a feminine accent, even gay men discuss it as if it is. Do gay men dislike hairdressers, men who speak with a gay accent, men with limp wrists, or all three?
One relevant but surprising finding from our study of gay interests, speech, and movement patterns is that a gay man who acts feminine in one respect doesn't necessarily display other feminine traits. For example, gay men who sound the gayest do not tend to be the ones with the most feminine movements or the most feminine occupations.
If our results are correct, then knowing that a gay man is a hairdresser tells you nothing about how he sounds or moves. When I ask my gay friends about what feminine traits they dislike, they usually begin by talking about the voice. An older acquaintance related how once in a gay bathhouse, he was on the verge of having sex with a very attractive and muscular stranger, when the stranger spoke.
I got limp. We don't yet really know what gay men mean when they say they dislike femmes. This leaves the question of why.
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When I talk about this with other psychologists, the most common suggestion is internalized femiphobia-femininity has been punished so often by the straight world that gay men, too, come to hate it. This makes sense to me, but it is not the only plausible hypothesis.
Another is that behavioral masculinity characterizes the prototypic man.