A prevalent stereotype that exists in literature and popular culture is that women who associate with gay men are self-conscious, and accordingly, these women cannot attract the attention of straight men (i.e., usually termed as “fag hags”). Ironically enough however, many of these women who spend time with gay men report having positive feelings towards their bodies.
For the most part, straight women view gay men as accepting, comforting, and trustworthy friends. Women are able to be themselves around these men without having to worry about the rejection or sexual tension that characterizes their relationships with straight men. Gay men are perceived by women to appreciate a woman’s inner beauty, rather than concentrating solely on her physical attributes1,2. Because gay men are not sexually attracted to women, they may be able to initially see women for who they are inside and out.
If women are able to receive positive validation from their gay male friends, this may effect how they internally view themselves. Indeed, research has demonstrated that women who have a lot of gay male friends have higher body self-esteem and higher feelings of sexual attractiveness3. It is a possibility that women who have many gay male friends are able to receive positive validation a lot more frequently than women who do not have any gay male friends.
Even though this research is very insightful, there could be an alternative explanation. Because this study was correlational, it is hard to say that friendships with gay men actually cause women to feel better about their bodies3. It could be that women who already feel good about their bodies (i.e., women who are very attractive) make many gay male friends. This could be a highly plausible explanation because many attractive women make friends with gay men to avoid the sexual overture that is experienced in their friendships with straight men. Regardless, women seem to readily make friends with many gay men due to the non-judgmental nature of their relationship.
- Cho, M. (2001). I’m the one that I want. New York: Ballantine Books.
- Hopcke, R. H. & Rafaty, L. (1999). Straight women, gay men: Absolutely fabulous friendships. Berkeley, California: Wildcat Canyon Press.
- Bartlett, N. H., Patterson, H. M., VanderLann, D. P., & Vasey, P. L. (2009). The relation between women’s body esteem and friendships with gay men. Body Image, 6, 235-241.