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The balance of power in lesbian relationships

Abstract

A questionnaire study investigated the balance of power in lesbian relationships and factors that affect it. Seventy-seven lesbian women currently in a romantic/sexual relationship participated. Although lesbians strongly endorsed an egalitarian ideal of equal power in love relationships, nearly 40% reported an unequal balance of power in their relationship. As social exchange theory predicts, the partner who was relatively less dependent on the relationship and who had greater personal resources tended to have greater power. Compared to women in equal power relationships, women in unequal power relationships reported less satisfaction and anticipated more problems in their relationships. No evidence of butch-femme role playing was found. It is suggested that the determinants of the balance of power go beyond attitudes and reflect processes of social exchange that can occur regardless of ideology or sexual orientation.

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Additional information

The authors wish to thank Susan D. Cochran, Naomi McCormick, Karen S. Rook, and Richard R. Lau for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this article, and Christine Padesky for her assistance in data analysis.

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Caldwell, M.A., Peplau, L.A. The balance of power in lesbian relationships. Sex Roles 10, 587–599 (1984). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00287267

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00287267

Keywords

  • Social Psychology
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Role Playing
  • Social Exchange
  • Great Power