The “Forbidden Fruit” Phenomenon

It is obvious that gay men do not have a sexual attraction to women. This absence of attraction ultimately eliminates women’s need to self-protect against awkward love games or unwanted sexual advances. Women have an appreciation for their gay male friends because they are able to provide a platonic friendship without the sexual overture. But are there times when a straight woman may wonder or hope that her gay friend is romantically interested?

forbidden fruit

For the most part, women desire men who will care for them, empathize with them, and listen to their concerns. Because gay men have such an instinctive ability to easily provide these things to their female friends, is it possible that these actions may arouse the desire for her gay friend to be a romantic partner? By providing a loving and nurturing relationship to his female friend, a gay male may become romantically or even sexually desired.  I call this the “Forbidden Fruit” phenomenon. It should be kept in mind that even though gay men are not attracted to women, women still have the potential to be attracted to gay men, as their heterosexuality does not discriminate between gay or straight men. Although the last thing that a gay man wants to do is sleep with his female friend, gay men may play along with his female friend in a way that teases her curiosity without ultimately doing anything sexual1. For example, gay men are not afraid to get crazy with their female friends on the dance floor.

“Maybe there won’t be marriage. Maybe there won’t be sex. But by God, there’ll be dancing!” – George, in the film: My Best Friend’s Wedding

Although exchanging loving words (e.g., “I love you”) and romantic-like gestures may become awkward in most opposite-sex friendships, a gay man may appreciate his female friend’s admiration, and this admiration may be beneficial to his overall self-esteem.

References:

  1. Hopcke, R. H. & Rafaty, L. (1999). Straight women, gay men: Absolutely fabulous friendships. Berkeley, California: Wildcat Canyon Press.

3 Ways Women Help Gays Come Out

For most gay men, coming out is one of the most important and pivotal events in their young lives. Even though this event can be particularly stressful and challenging, gay men may look to women in particular to assist them through this process. Here’s how women can help:

1. Keeping a secret. Even before a gay man comes to terms with his sexual orientation, a female friend is usually the first person to “know”.  Similar to a mother in this respect, women are pretty good at noticing certain patterns in a man that do not line up with the stereotypical straight male. Because female friends have this hunch early on, they might be more mindful of the topics that they discuss with their closeted gay friend. Rarely are female friends motivated to “out” their gay friend without their friend’s consent. Genuine female friends allow gay men the time and the space that they need in order to make their cathartic transition.

“Matt probably is gay, but he hadn’t told me. That’s the hard thing: there’s a difference between knowing and ready to embrace it. That’s why I think ‘outing’ is a terrible thing. I don’t think it’s constructive, and it could damage the relationship. I mean if you’re in private and the question comes up you can ask, but I never felt the need to.” (Cathie in Straight Women, Gay Men: Absolutely Fabulous Friendships)1

closet

2. Creating a safe space. When young gay men discover that they like boys, their gut instinct is usually to tell their female friends before anybody else. Gay men know and are somewhat confident that their female friends will be the ones to accept them for who they are regardless of their sexual preference. Also, if gay men notice that their female friends are non-judgmental, accepting, and supportive towards other gay men who are “out,” they may be more willing to come out themselves.

3. Being proponents. On average, women’s attitudes towards gay men are much more positive than straight men’s attitudes2. Not only that, but straight women seem to prioritize helping their gay friends through the coming out process.  Some women may be passive, sympathetic observers for their gay friends, but others may actively support their gay friends through their transition. However, this is not to say that women “force” their gay friends out of the closet; rather, many women encourage their gay friends to be who they are. If gay men know they have a supportive friend and ally through their transition, they may be more willing to come to terms with their sexuality and make friends with other LGBT individuals.

References:

1. Hopcke, R. H. & Rafaty, L. (1999). Straight women, gay men: Absolutely fabulous friendships. Berkeley, California: Wildcat Canyon Press.

2. Herek, G. M. (1988). Heterosexuals’ attitudes towards lesbians and gay men: Correlates and gender differences. Journal of Sex Research, 25, 451-477.

Confessions of a “Fag Hag”

By: Ashley Hart

Personally, the term “fag hag” is something I will identify with only with friends. It has become an inside joke; immediately forgiven and accepted as fact. Outside of that relationship, it makes me feel like a creepy old witch who collects gay men like mail-order Precious Moments figurines. I didn’t hunt down gay men with Liza Minnelli tickets in hopes they would be my friends. Obvious gay man stereotype aside, it wasn’t a conscious decision to be a “fag hag.” I happen to come from a family where the LGTBQ community was accepted and during my undergraduate years my best friends happened to be gay. As a “fag hag” (please someone come up with a better term), I was subjected to stereotypes. Surely, I must have dated him before he came out a) as his cover or b) because I had no idea he was gay. Also, since I am a “fag hag” I am automatically a loud, broad-like character who struts around in extravagant clothes and is perpetually single.

fag hag buttonDear people of the world, do you like being put in a box because of a label? Me either.

There is a level of comfort that can be provided by gay men. Men and women think differently. Our approaches to various situations differ. By having a gay friend, I am able to discuss potential partners freely without having to worry whether or not there is sexual tension between him and myself. I have straight male friends and anytime I mention someone I’m interested in I am usually met with the responses “Why are you asking me?” and “I don’t know.” Meanwhile I talk to my gay friend and he will be bluntly honest, which is all I really need in the moment. Alternatively, we can be each other’s wing-people. There is no competition between us and there is no underlying reasons to purposely hinder our advances. It is not about gay and straight: it is about being genuine with another person.

The LGTBQ community has taken ownership over the word “Queer,” a word formerly used as a social slur. Overtime it has been embraced and has become a term that swiftly identifies one as a member of the LGTBQ community without need of further definition (or a break-down of an every-growing acronym). Meanwhile, the term “fag” is still looked down upon and considered derogatory. By forcing it into a cute rhyme scheme with the word “hag” (cue the Witch’s theme from The Wizard of Oz) you are forgiven the offense. It doesn’t make it better. It doesn’t even make sense. Two negatives may make a positive in math, but in a social setting, it just makes things awkward. It is like being outed as a gay man groupie, which you’re not. Meanwhile, straight men who are good friends with gay men are deemed “fag stags.” Why are they this majestic creature in the woods, and why are women becoming the fairy tale character who eats children?

So for your personal entertainment here is a list of other colloquialisms that seem to embrace a smattering of potentially offensive terms:

salkdfjlkStraight Man-Gay Man: “Fag Stag”

Straight Woman-Gay Man: “Fag Hag,” “Queen Bee,” “Homo Honey,” “Fruit Loop,” “Goldilocks,” “Flame Dame,” “Fairy Princess,” “Gabe,” “Cherry Fairy,” “Queer Dear,” “Gayboy Bunny” (this one is for the more attractive “fag hags” that are in stable relationships)

Lesbian Woman-Straight Man: “Dutch Boy”, “Lesbro”, “Dyke Tyke,” “Dikey Likey” (UK)

All Of The Above-Gay Men: “Fruit Flies”

A good rule of thumb is to use these terms with caution. Words have significant power and you do not want to abuse it. As a straight woman, I have a right to determine which title I identify with, just as much as other members of the LGTBQ community. For all intents and purposes, I am an Ally. I have to know you better before I tell you the intricacies of my private life.

 

Ashley Hart is a current graduate student at Florida State University. She is pursuing her master’s degree in literature and cultural studies.

Housewives and their Gay…Handbags?

While the relationship between gay men and straight women can be viewed as positive, both gay men and straight women may have the potential to turn their relationship sour. Specifically, straight women have recently been criticized for treating their gay male friends as personal accessories. Many gay men have spoken out about this unfair treatment, saying that they would rather be treated as friends rather than personal stylists, make-up artists, or shopping gurus1. Even though this criticism has been targeted towards all women, it may be most relevant to the women who are under the watchful eyes of the media: wealthy women (e.g., the Real Housewives of XYZ).  Why do these rich, powerful women treat gay men as their accessories?

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Gay Men’s Perceived Skill. Although not all gay men may be regarded as having superb fashion or design sense, it is possible that these women generalize all gay men as possessing such knowledge. Because women generalize these specific skill sets to gay men, it isn’t surprising that women turn to gay men to assist them with enhancing their appearance or improving their home décor. There may be a few reasons why women generalize these skills to their gay male friends, but I will name one. Because the media embraces the stereotypical professions that some gay men pursue, women who are in the media spotlight may consider it to be commonplace to have a gay male friend who is a designer or hairdresser. Through witnessing gay men in these roles and professions (specifically on the Bravo channel), these women may perceive gay men to be valuable resources for themselves.

Heightened Competition. Not only are female celebrities are expected to look good while on camera, but they are constantly motivated to look top notch in front of their attractive female friends and their wealthy husbands. Because of this, these women may desire to have their outward appearance enhanced on a daily basis. Whether it be wearing the latest fashion trends or ensuring that their hair is flawless, these women constantly feel that they need to look their best. In order to achieve this goal, these women may rely on others to provide such assistance or advice. However, wealthy housewives don’t just consult anybody about beauty. Rarely do we see these women relying on other women to assist them in this respect. Rather, they mostly rely on gay men to take them shopping, do their hair, or put on their make-up. This is most likely due to the fact that women are in direct competition with other women for mating partners (especially in an environment where many women are in direct competition for wealthy, attractive men), thus these women may be less apt to trust other women with such duties. Gay men may be heavily relied upon because of their trustworthy opinion with regards to a woman’s dress or outward appearance2.

Here is an entertaining video to illustrate this phenomenon:

References:

  1. http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/college-student-takes-%E2%80%98gay-bff%E2%80%99-stereotype-amazing-speech080713
  2. Russell, E.M., DelPriore, D. J., Butterfield, M. E., & Hill, S. E. (2013). Friends with benefits, but without the sex: Straight women and gay men exchange trustworthy mating advice. Evolutionary Psychology, 11, 132-147.

The “Gay or Straight?” Game

One interesting thing about straight women and gay men is their mutual attraction to the same gender. Not do they share an appreciation for attractive men, but they are usually willing to talk about them for hours. When women and gay men get together over coffee, lunch, or dinner, men never seem to get left out of their conversation. While it is true that gay men and straight women can be seen discussing other topics, a great chunk of their time together may be discussing how to snag a guy that they are both checking out.

gay straight game

The Game. For gay men and straight women, one of the more unique and fun aspects about “playing the field” is deciphering the sexual orientation of a cute guy.  When an attractive guy passes this couple on the street, you can almost always expect them to ask one another: “Whoa, do you think he’s gay or straight?” This simple question may turn into a little game for gay men and straight women. Although it is not uncommon for gay men to hope that the attractive man in question is homosexual, rarely do gay men impinge on their female friend’s romantic opportunity if the male in question is in fact heterosexual. The reverse is also true.  Females usually do not encroach on their gay friend’s romantic opportunity with another gay man. In fact, women may find joy in being able to set up their gay friend with another gay man who is attractive1.

“When we walk down the street together, a gay friend will often say, ‘Oh, that guy was checking you out,’ and I’ll say, ‘No, I think he was looking at you,’ and we’ll both walk away feeling better about ourselves.”  (Hopcke & Rafaty, 1999)

Hating the Player and Not the Game. Even though this game can easily be played between two gay men (which is done pretty frequently), a couple of complications may arise. First, gay men may take the game too competitively with other gay men. Imagine an attractive man walking past two single gay friends at the mall. Naturally, both gay men may lock their eyes on him. However, rather than mutually expressing their attraction to this man to each other, one of them may hold back while the other might insinuate asking him out. This may become problematic if both gay men desire this particular man.

Second, gay men may experience hints of jealousy when they play the game with one another.  Because gay men’s mating opportunities are quite limited compared to straight men’s mating opportunities2, gay men may place exceptionally high value on an attractive guy, especially if they are attractive themselves.  If one gay friend is slightly more attractive than the other, the gay friend that is more attractive may have a better chance at “winning” the game. Ultimately, this may cause a sense of tension and jealousy between these two gay men.

References:

  1. Hopcke, R. H. & Rafaty, L. (1999). Straight women, gay men: Absolutely fabulous friendships. Berkeley, California: Wildcat Canyon Press.
  2. Russell, E.M., DelPriore, D. J., Butterfield, M. E., & Hill, S. E. (2013). Friends with benefits, but without the sex: Straight women and gay men exchange trustworthy mating advice. Evolutionary Psychology, 11, 132-147.

Do Gay Men Make Women Feel Thinner?

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.

Beautiful woman measuring her waist - high key shot in studio

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.

References:

  1. Cho, M. (2001). I’m the one that I want. New York: Ballantine Books.
  2. Hopcke, R. H. & Rafaty, L. (1999). Straight women, gay men: Absolutely fabulous friendships. Berkeley, California: Wildcat Canyon Press.
  3. 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.

Forget Grindr: 3 Ways Women Can Help Gay Men Get Dates

On smartphones, Grindr may provide a useful way for gay men to meet one another, but gay men may also want to consider the help of their female friends. Here’s why:

1) Connection:

One big dating dilemma that gay men have is the difficulty of finding other gay men. Not only must gay men find other gay men who represent a smaller portion of the population, but they also must figure out if a particular man they are interested in is gay or straight. Women may be able to help alleviate this problem. It is very common in this day and age for a woman to have at least one gay friend. Because most straight women love the company of gay men, it wouldn’t be surprising for a gay man to discover that his straight female friend has a connection with another gay man. Thus, gay men may find it valuable to meet other gay men through their female friends1.

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2) No Threat:

One of the most beneficial things for gay men about having female friends is that they are “worry free.” In general, women will not go chasing after their gay male friend’s potential mates, nor will they attempt to sabotage their relationship. Both straight women and lesbian women tend to stay in their own dating lane when it comes to assisting their gay male friends with finding another guy. Even though gay men provide great networking and dating opportunities for other gay men, there is always a hint of competitiveness that may interfere.

3) “Matchmaking Fever”:

It may come at no surprise that straight women love setting up gay men with one another. When women arrive with their single gay friends at a party, gay bar, or special event, they are almost always itching to set each one of them up. Women are not usually shy about approaching an attractive gay stranger to introduce herself and her gay male friend.

“I think it is hilarious when my female friend tries to fix me up with men – particularly since she seems to concentrate solely on looks, ignoring little details like age, intelligence, and employment prospects. But she certainly does know a cute guy when she sees one.” (Hopcke & Rafaty, 1999)

However, many women are more discriminating and have an eye for a gay man her friend might find attractive as a dating partner2.

“I don’t want my gay friends to think I’m just assuming all gay men are compatible with one another. I have introduced larger groups of gay men from different parts of my life to each other, letting my theatre friends meet my other friends at a party, and this has worked better than a one-on-one fix up.” (Hopcke & Rafaty, 1999)

References:

  1. Russell, E.M., DelPriore, D. J., Butterfield, M. E., & Hill, S. E. (2013). Friends with benefits, but without the sex: Straight women and gay men exchange trustworthy mating advice. Evolutionary Psychology, 11, 132-147.
  2. Hopcke, R. H. & Rafaty, L. (1999). Straight women, gay men: Absolutely fabulous friendships. Berkeley, California: Wildcat Canyon Press.

What is a Fag Hag?

In literature and pop culture, women who enjoy the company of gay men are portrayed as overzealous, clingy, and despising straight men. These women are often referred to as fag hags:

fag-hag: heterosexual woman extensively in the company of gay men. Fag-hags fall into no single category: some are plain Janes who prefer the honest affection of homoerotic boy friends; others are on a determined crusade to show gay boys that normal coitus is not to be overlooked. A few are simply in love with homosexual men; others determine to their chagrin that their male friends are charming but not interested sexually. No matter how you cut it, fag-hag has an ugly ring to it.

– The Queen’s Vernacular: A Gay Lexicon (Rodgers, 1972).

Miss_Fag_Hag_Coney_Island_Mermaid_ParadeAlthough this term is not necessarily seen as a positive one, it is still widely used in the LGBT community. Obviously, no gay male likes being called a ‘fag,’ and no straight female like to be referred to as a ‘hag.’ Yet, some females take pride in the term while gay men have no problem using it to refer to their female friends. Why?

The gay male’s perspective: In situations where fag hag is used in an enduring way among friends, the term may be used to symbolically affirm a woman’s membership and acceptance among her gay male friends. Gay men may see the term as a way to share and express (humorously) the stigma of being gay in our society to a supportive female who is of no threat1. However in some cases, women who are “gay friendly” may not be called fag hags as many gay men reject this label.

The female’s perspective: Many females do not like being referred to as a fag hag due to the “hagginess” of the term. However, some women wear it as a badge of honor. This may be due to a female’s wanting to be included in a group a men who will accept her for who she is and won’t compare her to the “ideal” female beauty (like straight men do). But, many women disagree with the stereotypical portrayal of fag hags as outdated, noting that the “new” fag hag is a woman who seeks out friendships with gay men for inherent pleasure, not necessarily out of desperation for male attention2.

Although the term fag hag may sound like an insulting term, it is still widely used in and out of the gay community. By understanding its roots, we can ultimately learn why it is still a pervasive term in our society.

References:

1. Moon, D. (1995). Insult and inclusion: The term fag hag and the gay male “community”. Social Forces, 74, 487-510.

2. Thompson, D. (2004). Calling all fag hags: From identity politics to identification politics. Social Semiotics, 14, 37-48.

How quick do gay men and straight women click?

One striking aspect about gay men and straight women is their ability to become friends almost instantaneously.   Whether it is at the movies, the mall, a restaurant or bar, gay men are able to “show no fear” when they introduce themselves to women. Likewise, women are mutually able to open up to gay men that they are meeting for the first time.  There seems to be a unique exchange of words and expressions that solidifies a unique connection. But how quick can these two click? It may depend.

How quick do they click

In a few days? Granted, all friendships take time to form. Like all individuals, gay men and straight women must allot some energy and resources to cultivate great friendships over time. Not all gay men and straight women are able to make friends with one another immediately. Many of these individuals need time to develop a long lasting sense of reliability and trust.

In a few hours? Although straight women and gay men need time to form a holistic friendship, their attraction towards one another as friends is noteworthy1. Because of this, they may be able to express more openness and interest toward one another than they are with other individuals of different genders or sexual orientations.

In a few seconds? It may seem farfetched, but some straight women and gay men “click” the moment they begin a conversation1. If a straight woman knows that a man is gay (even before meeting him), she may be more open about certain aspects about her personal or romantic life than if the sexual orientation of the male was ambiguous. But how can straight women be 100% certain of a male’s sexual orientation before even meeting him? She cannot. However, gay bars or LGBT events are ideal spots where straight women can safely assume (for the most part) that the men they meet will be gay. If there is no ambiguity about a man’s sexual orientation, a woman is likely able to feel more comfortable talking about certain topics. Because gay men appreciate a sense of openness and comfort from their female friends2, gay men may welcome conversation and make a friendly connection in no time at all.

References:

  1. Hopcke, R. H. & Rafaty, L. (1999). Straight women, gay men: Absolutely fabulous friendships. Berkeley, California: Wildcat Canyon Press.
  2. Grigoriou, T. (2004). Friendship between gay men and heterosexual women: An interpretive phenomenological analysis. London, England: London South Bank University, Families and Social Capital ESRC Research Group.