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?
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:
- 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.