Sex Roles

, Volume 55, Issue 3–4, pp 273–278 | Cite as

The Impact of Social Roles on Stereotypes of Gay Men

  • Adam W. FingerhutEmail author
  • Letitia Anne Peplau
Brief Report


Past research demonstrates that heterosexuals perceive gay men to have traditionally feminine characteristics. Guided by Social Role Theory (Eagly, 1987), we predicted that this stereotype would differ depending on a gay man’s specific social role. To test this idea, participants rated five gay targets (father, single man, hairdresser, truck driver, typical gay man) on stereotypically masculine (e.g., ambitious, leader) and feminine (e.g., affectionate, sensitive) personality attributes. Gay men in traditionally masculine roles (truck driver, single man) were rated as less feminine than gay men in traditionally feminine roles (hairdresser, parent). In addition, gay men in feminine roles were perceived as more similar to the typical gay man than were those in masculine roles. Suggestions for future research are discussed.


Stereotypes Social roles Gay 



The authors thank David Frederick, Negin Ghavami, Natalya Maisel, Danny Osborne, Cisco Sanchez, Kelly Turner, and Curtis Yee for their helpful comments on a draft of this paper.


  1. Bakan, D. (1966). The duality of human existence: An essay on psychology and religion. Chicago: Rand McNally.Google Scholar
  2. Bem, S. L. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 155–162.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Cejka, M. A., & Eagly, A. H. (1999). Gender-stereotypic images of occupations corresponds to the sex segregation of employment. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 4, 413–423.Google Scholar
  4. Clausell, E., & Fiske, S. T. (2005). When do subgroup parts add up to the stereotypic whole? Mixed stereotype content for gay male subgroups explains overall rating. Social Cognition, 23, 161–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Clifton, A. K., McGrath, D., & Wick, B. (1976). Stereotypes of women: A single category? Sex Roles, 2, 135–148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Eagly, A. H. (1987). Sex differences in social behavior: A social role interpretation. Hillsdale, New Jersey: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  7. Eagly, A. H., & Steffen, V. J. (1984). Gender stereotypes stem from the distribution of women and men into social roles. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 46, 735–754.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Eagly, A. H., & Steffen, V. J. (1988). A note on assessing stereotypes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 14, 676–680.Google Scholar
  9. Eagly, A. H., Wood, W., & Diekman, A. B. (2000). Social role theory of sex differences and similarities: A current appraisal. In T. Eckes, & H. M. Trautner (Eds.) The Developmental Social Psychology of Gender. (pp. 123–174). Mahwah, New Jersey: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  10. England, E. M. (1992). College student gender stereotypes: Expectations about the behavior of male subcategory members. Sex Roles, 27, 699–716.Google Scholar
  11. Etaugh, C., & Stern, J. (1984). Person perception: Effects of sex, marital status, and sex-typed occupation. Sex Roles, 11, 413–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Kite, M. E., & Deaux, K. (1987). Gender belief systems: Homosexuality and the implicit inversion theory. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 11, 83–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Laner, M. R., & Laner, R. H. (1979). Personal style or sexual preference? Why gay men are disliked. International Review of Modern Sociology, 9, 215–228.Google Scholar
  14. Madon, S. (1997). What do people believe about gay males? A study of stereotype content and strength. Sex Roles, 37, 663–685.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. McCreary, D. R. (1994). The male role and avoiding femininity. Sex Roles, 31, 517–531.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Myers, A. M., & Gonda, G. (1982). Utility of the masculinity–femininity construct: Comparison of traditional and androgyny approaches. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, 514–522.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Page, S., & Yee, M. (1985). Conception of male and female homosexual stereotypes among university undergraduates. Journal of Homosexuality, 12, 109–118.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Peplau, L. A., & Fingerhut, A. (2004). The paradox of the lesbian worker. Journal of Social Issues, 60, 719–735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Simmons, J. L. (1965). Public stereotypes of deviants. Social Problems, 13, 223–232.Google Scholar
  20. Spence, J. T., & Helmreich, R. (1978). Masculinity and femininity: Their psychological dimensions, correlates, and antecedents. Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press.Google Scholar
  21. Taylor, A. (1983). Conceptions of masculinity and femininity as a basis for stereotypes of male and female homosexuals. Journal of Homosexuality, 9, 37–53.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. Whitley, B. E. Jr. (2001). Gender-role variables and attitudes toward homosexuality. Sex Roles, 45, 691–721.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Wong, F. Y., McCreary, D. R., Carpenter, K. M., Engel, A., & Korchynsky, R. (1999). Gender-related factors influencing perceptions of homosexuality. Journal of Homosexuality, 37, 19–31.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of California, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

Personalised recommendations