The male role and avoiding femininity

Abstract

When confronted with males and females deviating from society's sex-based gender role prescriptions, people tend to respond more negatively to the males' transgressions. In order to develop an understanding of the reasoning behind this phenomenon, two theories were tested. The social status model predicts that males are punished because feminine behavior is lower in status than masculine behavior. The sexual orientation hypothesis predicts that, for males, there is a stronger perceived link between gender roles and sexuality and that a male acting in a feminine way is more likely to be considered a homosexual than a female acting in a masculine way. A group of mostly Caucasian participants were asked to rate a male or female target, performing in either a male- or female-valued manner, on variables assessing social status and perceived homosexuality. The results suggested that the basic assumption of the social status model (i.e., higher male role status) could not be upheld; hence this hypothesis could not adequately be tested. However, strong support emerged for the sexual orientation hypothesis. The functions of homophobic attitudes and the idea that these two models may not be mutually exclusive, especially from within a developmental framework, are discussed.

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Correspondence to Donald R. McCreary.

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Portions of this research were reported at the Interdisciplinary Symposium on Men's Studies, University of Toronto, Canada, November 1993, and at the annual meetings of the British Psychological Society, April 1992. The author wishes to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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McCreary, D.R. The male role and avoiding femininity. Sex Roles 31, 517–531 (1994). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01544277

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Keywords

  • Social Psychology
  • Social Status
  • Sexual Orientation
  • Gender Role
  • Strong Support