Who wears the pants?

Homosexual couples often are asked the question “Who is the male and who is the female in your relationship?” Because the majority of us have grown up and have become familiar with the male-female sexuality construct, it is natural for one to want to characterize each individual into one of these two roles. When you think about it, this is a pretty hetero-minded question to be asking. In heterosexual relationships, specific gender roles have set standards and expectations of each party involved. In reality, what we really should be asking is, “Who is in control?”
The genderized role of a male is that he is strong and domineering, and usually is the sole breadwinner in the relationship. Males engage in activities that foster competitiveness and are generally looked at as being on top in the relationship hierarchy. The genderized role of the female is that she is submissive to men and has a more passive personality. The women is supposed to look good and do all of the tasks, such as a variety of household chores, that will make the male’s life easier. These gender categorizations make it easy for one to differentiate who is who in the relationship. This is why we have such a tendency to point out who is more feminine and who is more “butch” in a homosexual relationship.
The most obvious way society determines who is who is simply by the clothes each partner wears. But there are personality traits that are associated with each role. The person that is more “butch” generally wears the pants in the relationship, is more aggressive, and is the breadwinner. I was not surprised when I read in the Relationships and Sexuality article “in gay male couples, income is an extremely important force in determining which partner will be dominate.” Money fosters dependency, which is why in the stereotypical heterosexual couple the male works and the female stays at home and caters to him. Gender roles in homosexual relationships can produce many problems. By deeming one person to be butch and one to be feminine, this confines each to their respective stereotypes. Members may not be able to express their true selves due to the restrictions their gender roles have placed on them.
After reading many articles on the topic, it seems that what a lot of scholars feel really determines the hierarchy in homosexual relationships is which member has sexual dominance. This means that whoever is penetrating is the one in charge. It seems that there is a huge disconnect between the equality homosexual couples want to achieve and what they actually achieve. In an early study, 92% of gay men and 97% of lesbians defined the ideal balance of power as one in which both partners were “exactly equal”. When compared to a later study that asked lesbian and gay couples “who has more say” in your relationship, only 38% of gay men and 59% of lesbians characterized their current relationship as “exactly equal” there is a clear disconnect. Establishing and defining gender roles in homosexual relationships is not black and white. I think we have a very hard time understanding homosexual relationships because of the heterosexual imagery we are constantly presented with and have grown accustomed to.

2 thoughts on “Who wears the pants?

  1. The block: please remember when you quote directly from a source to provide both the author and the page number so that readers can find the quote should they need to. Also, if you are going to quote sources you have found outside of our course readings, please make sure you cite those as well. Now, on to your content: I think you are mixing up a few different things here. First, I think you are refereeing to the ways compulsory heterosexuality and heterosexist thinking assumes that gay and lesbian partnerships have a “man” and a “woman.” this, of course is entirely problematic in that same sex partings are just that: same sex. You also use the terms “butch” and “feminine” but I think you might mean “butch” and “femme,” which is a dynamic that shows up in lesbian couples sometimes. While it may be about power (financial or otherwise) it is also about gender identity and how one feels most comfortable moving through the world. If you are interested in learning more about this, you may want to take a look at the book “Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold” which is an oral history of butch/femme relationships in the New York bar scene.

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