Traditional Sex and Gender Stereotypes in the Relationships of Non-Disclosing Behaviorally Bisexual Men
Traditional stereotypes about sex and gender present men as assertive, aggressive, sexually adventurous, and emotionally restrained, and women as docile, passive, sexually modest, and emotionally sensitive. Past research has shown that such stereotypes impose constraints on heterosexual relationships that decrease sexual satisfaction for men and women. This study examined the impact of traditional sex and gender stereotypes on a sample of 203 behaviorally bisexual men who were in a heterosexual relationship with a woman to whom they did not disclose their same-sex behaviors. Participants’ descriptions of their partners reified several traditional stereotypes regarding men’s and women’s sexual dispositions (e.g., men are more sexually adventurous than women), role during sex (e.g., men should be dominant and women submissive), relationship desires (i.e., women prefer long-term intimate relationships and men prefer unattached sexual gratification), and emotional involvement (e.g., women are emotionally sensitive and men emotionally detached). These stereotypes shaped participants’ sexual relations with women and men, which were widely conceived as acts of domination–submission. Perceiving women as more skilled for emotional intimacy and affection, most participants would only develop intimate relationships with them; however, some participants also perceived women as too emotionally sensitive and described men as better companions. Many participants were dissatisfied with these gender norms although they conformed to them, further supporting that traditional sex and gender stereotypes impose constraints on relationships that can limit authentic sexual expression and intimate satisfaction.
KeywordsMen who have sex with men and women (MSMW) Sexual stereotypes Gender norms Sex partners Intimate relationships Sexual orientation
This work was supported in part by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health from the National Institutes of Health (MH076680).
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.
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