Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

Emotionally, are gay men more like men or women?

Asked by wundayatta (58625points) July 5th, 2012

In their emotional lives, do you think gay men are more like the stereotypical man or are they closer to women? Men, of course, are not supposed to be that fluent with emotions. They don’t know what they are feeling and aren’t good at talking about their feelings. Of course women are supposedly much more fluent in emotions, and can certainly talk about them very well.

There are different components to emotions. I don’t think that intellectually understanding of emotions necessarily equips one to speak emotions well. That is, you might be a therapist of some sort, or you might just be educated about emotions, yet still be reluctant to engage in conversation about emotions.

Do you think gay men do better than straight men as far as communicating about emotions? If so, how much better? Enough to be more like women, or only slightly better than straight men, or just the same as other men?

Examples of conversations you’ve had, as a woman with a man, or a man with a woman or a man with a man, and how you think this conversation compares to the stereotypical heterosexual relationship would be greatly appreciated.

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27 Answers

tinyfaery's avatar

Gay men is a broad term. Not all gay men are emotional and some straight men are. Sexual preference has nothing to do with emotional intelligence.

CWOTUS's avatar

Is there still a chance to edit the topic question? “Are gay men more like men?” No, really? You meant “heterosexual men”, I’m sure, and just forgot to include that word, right? Hurry, man.

wundayatta's avatar

Yes, I was thinking the stereotype issue, @tinyfaery, but wasn’t sure how to deal with it. Your post gives me the suggestion that what I want is examples of different ways you’ve seen people of different sexualities deal with emotions.

It’s a pretty big statement to say that sexual preference is not coordinated with emotional intelligence. Do you have any reasoning or, better yet, evidence to support that assertion? I’m not sure I’m talking about emotional intelligence, though, but it’s an interesting issue.

However, I think it is pretty clear that men and women are quite different in their emotional communications. I think you might wish that gay men would be no different from anyone else, but they have to fit somewhere on the spectrum of emotional communication, and unless you are saying men and women are the same here, there’s room to fit gay men in somewhere with relation to other men and women.

@CWOTUS Too late, but yes, that is what I meant.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

As you know, I believe questions such as these make no sense. Each gay person is like themselves. What do you think my gender non-conforming brain is like? If for some part of my life I was raised like a girl, is my brain closer to women? But if I’ve never been straight, so to speak, is it closer to men? What if I don’t prefer one sex over another for sex but actually prefer androgyny? Is my brain more like those awful trans brains?

syz's avatar

I think that’s way too much of a blanket statement to give you any sort of real answer.

Bill1939's avatar

While many couples relate via personas that reflect the social traits of masculine dominance and feminine subservience, other forms of relationships exist. The spectrum of emotionality includes range, sensitivity and intensity. Likewise the spectrum of sexuality is similarly multidimensional. To divide humans into four kinds of people is as reasonable as the ancient Greeks deciding there were four kinds of elements. At best it is an over simplification, and at worse it is prejudicial stereotyping.

CWOTUS's avatar

Surely you know, @Simone_De_Beauvoir, that your inability (or refusal) to comprehend such a question makes no sense, I expect, to many users who are less vocal than I am. I’m certain it makes no sense to the 99+% of the world who doesn’t even know that Fluther exists. No matter. I would like to understand some of what you say sometimes on this topic, but I fear that you and I use a common language in ways that the other simply can’t (or won’t) ‘get’.

I think that unspoken “gender norms” (pretty broad ones, too) exist in cultures with tacit and unthinking agreement from the overwhelming majority, and explicit agreement / enforcement from a smaller minority, but still more than those who share your viewpoint. Not that your viewpoint is wrong; it’s just pretty darned unpopular (like my libertarian views in this forum, for example). If it were put to a vote, I suspect that most who don’t even give it a thought would still vote against the way you think (or seem to think) we ought to think about such things.

I’ve been straighter than straight for my whole life, but I identify in a lot of ways with women. I like chick flicks; I’m a member of a (nearly all-female) book club and I read and talk about the books that the women pick (and usually enjoy them); I can get pretty emotional about things that a lot of men don’t care about a bit. But for all that I consider myself “a normal male”, even if you wouldn’t find most of my responses on any bell curve of male behavior, if such a chart could even be expressed in any kind of mathematics. In those ways I understand “gender nonconformance”, but still… I’d be simply astonished to find that anyone who has met me – even if they see me cry at a chick flick – would have a moment’s doubt that I’m a hetero guy. The idea is just preposterous.

But even given all that, I completely understood the genesis of the question. It seems to be a valid one, too (even if it could have been worded better).

To get back to the response to the question… I think age has more to do with some of the male responses to stimuli, too, though, maybe even more than “sexual preference”. And I’m convinced that education, “exposure to the rest of the world” and social conditioning (however that can be quantified or evaluated) has at least as much effect on the answer as sexual preference.

I also agree with @syz and @tinyfaery that it’s just too broad a question on its face.

bolwerk's avatar

There is research supporting the possibility that gay men are more empathetic. The probable evolutionary function for being exclusively gay is that it helps a family/clan support itself without burdening it with additional offspring, which is why supposedly younger brothers tend to be more likely to be gay. It makes more evolutionary sense to have a male be taken out of the reproductive pool for this function because taking a female out means that there is one less female capable of producing offspring, which harms the community’s reproductive odds – in other words, it’s not too evolutionarily costly to lose a penis, but losing a functional vagina is very costly, especially in a small community. (It is, in fact, why exclusive female homosexuality is pretty rare, at least in the course of a woman’s reproductive life. It’s downright common for men in comparison.)

Aethelflaed's avatar

I think some men use being gay as a (sometimes) socially acceptable reason to not live up to society’s shitty standards for men, including the expected stoicism.

DominicX's avatar

@Aethelflaed I know I do. I also use it as an excuse to like certain “feminine” things. There are some perks to being gay, and one is definitely not feeling as bound by expectations of men.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@CWOTUS Okay, so you are saying most people think gender is a real thing. So what?

mowens's avatar

As a gay man I can say that we come from all walks of life, and a lot of times you would have no idea.

However, the loudest of us are the stereotypical gay guy. That is not bad… and that is not good. That is just who they are. Some are bad people, most are good people.

However, the majority of the guys that I end up meeting are in fact… close to that stereotype in some form or fashion.

That being said… I am tired and it is time to sleep.

ETpro's avatar

I don’t peek into their bedroom window, but I assume the two guys that share the third-floor condo here in this building are gay. I know from rubbing shoulders with them in the front entry that both guys spend some serious time in the gym. Talking to them, they don’t strike me as the least bit Nelly. I’ve known gay guys who were sensitive as a touch-me-not and as lilting as a Lilly. I’ve know others that were gangsta bikers—almost like drag kings, all covered in black leather, studs and muscles bulging.

I can’t prove it, but I would guess that the 15 to 20% of the population that test psychologically as Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) are pretty evenly spread among the genders and gender orientations. If it seems like gay guys are fem, I’d guess it’s more because they feel free to be so, as @DominicX suggests, than because there is some causal relationship.

There may be some statistical proof of your theory, but I’d prefer we not bother to look for it. I can make a very strong case that stereotyping humans and trying to slot them into convenient categories for simplified understanding is always more harmful than helpful.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@DominicX I actually use my not-straightness the same way (but with masculine things, obviously).

digitalimpression's avatar

I don’t know conclusively. However, every gay man I have met has been much more feminine in many regards.. to include emotions. Perhaps that is why they got along with women better, had more female friends than male friends, and cried during girly movies. I’m not sure why there seems to be a negative connotation to this idea. So what if gay men are more emotionally similar to women? Is that a bad thing?

There seems to be a lot of unnecessary defensiveness going on here.

ETpro's avatar

@digitalimpression To answer your question first, no; being effeminate is not a bad thing. I am very glad that about half of humanity is effeminate. But insisting that all individuals of a particular race/gender/sexual-orientation are this or that without doing any research to arrive at that conclusion can lead to a great deal of bad. You may observe that gay men are more feminine and lesbians are diesel dykes. However, if you go into your search believing that’s what defines gay, that is what you are going to see. Any gays that fail to fit that form factor fly right under your gaydar.

Defending minorities from stereotyping is not, in my opinion, a bad thing. In fact, it’s a thing I think should have begun long ago.

digitalimpression's avatar

@ETpro You’re making it sound (to me) as if I don’t want you to “defend minorities from stereotyping” which isn’t the case. I’m only saying that in cases where the stereotype happens to be accurate .. so what?

Aethelflaed's avatar

@ETpro But femininity is devalued in society. From “pink collar” jobs and the devaluation of care work, to how “you’re being too sensitive/emotional” is considered a valid response to any claim of bigotry but “you’re being too logical” is only going to be seen as a snarky compliment, to how anyone who’s too emotional gets diagnosed with bipolar, to how female candidates have to seem extra-tough on “daddy” issues like defense and crime while distancing themselves from “mommy” issues like education and healthcare, we don’t value femininity. So when “gay men”, as a group, are seen as associated with something we devalue, it becomes a justification for lots of homophobia to hide behind.

@digitalimpression Ok, so why does the stereotype happen to be accurate in so many cases? Is it becomes there’s something about wanting to bum another man that makes you more interested in watching Sleepless in Seattle? Is it because we tell young gay men that this is what gay masculinity looks like, so if they want to be able to find others like them for purposes of boning/bonding they best perform their gender the same way?

digitalimpression's avatar

@Aethelflaed As I said before, I can’t provide a conclusive answer. I’m by no means an authority on human behavior.

It isn’t a mystery that the people I know are gay have been feminine because the ones that aren’t.. well.. I probably still don’t know that they are gay… which incidentally is (probably) why the stereotype exists in the first place.

Ron_C's avatar

The gay guys I know are no different than other guys. I would say that they never get in touch with their feminine side.

wundayatta's avatar

I’ve known quite a few gay men in my life. I’ve known some butch guys and I’ve known some drag queens and I’ve known some femmy guys. The guys I know have been professors and priests and support for men dying of AIDS and government officials and poets and… well, not sure what they ended up doing for work.

The ones I knew well are pretty much still alive. If any have died, no one ever told me.

Two of them were my best friends in life. Also, many of my female friends have been lesbians, including several I was sexually involved with.

So I have often asked myself why this is. Why do I feel more comfortable around gay men and lesbian women than most people seem to be? Why do I have many female friends, but almost no straight male friends?

I trust the gay men in my life more than I trust the straight men. The few straight men in my life are artists and musicians. I think they are probably more in touch with their feelings and more able to express emotions than most men. I think the gay men in my life are also more in touch with their emotions.

There is a phenomenon called the “fag hag.” These are women who love gay men. Why? Because they can talk to these guys about anything, and not feel like the guy is going to want to bone them, to put it crudely. Is this because gay men are not interested in women, sexually, or is there more to it? Could it be that gay men, as a generalization, are more comfortable talking about their feelings and more comfortable listening to women than most straight men?

I’m willing to make the generalization. I think that gay men, in general, are more sensitive, and can talk about emotional issues with greater facility. Maybe it’s just the men in my life, but I don’t buy that. Although, I am pretty selective about who I like, so it could be just that my friends are sensitive first, and just happen to be gay, second. I think there’s a relationship.

Homosexuality also seems to bring a bit of politicization with it. Is that just because I hang out with political people or is that because of discrimination against homosexuals in our society? They have to be political because they are fighting for their lives?

I am generally uncomfortable with most straight men. There’s a barrier between us because unless they’ve done a lot of men’s group work, they just can’t let down their barriers about their emotions, especially around feelings of weakness. I see this all the time in my bipolar group—where the men are talking about falling apart and yet are always doing it in a kind of defensive way I don’t see the women doing it.

I have always tried to be more facile with my emotions, and have tried to learn to talk about them and identify them and feel them. I’ve been told by more than one woman that this is pretty unusual. Frankly, I think most men are dying to be able to open up, but can’t because of social pressures. I think most men are sensitive, inside, but just can’t allow themselves to show it. But what do I know? I’m not other men.

I’m perfectly happy making generalizations because I know that I take individuals on an individual basis. I’m not worried about treating people wrong or leading people astray by making generalizations. Generalizations do no have to lead to prejudice and if there is any crowd where it won’t lead to prejudice, surely it is among us jellies?

We can, I hope, make generalizations for purposes of study, knowing that individuals are all different. If we can’t do that, then we are children, stuck in some kind of silly rules-based universe. Let’s talk about serious issues and let’s talk like adults. Let’s talk without fear. Let’s assume we have people’s good will at heart. We don’t make generalizations to hurt anyone. We do it to understand.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@wundayatta I, too, am more comfortable with queer individuals rather than with straight individuals but it’s not so much about their sexuality, it’s that it’s about gender behavior that might (not always) be less rigid. Once you’re already ‘wrong’ in the eyes of society and you learn about the bullshit of heteronormativity, it’s not that hard to start stripping away ideas about gender. So many gay men are not like bro-dudes (the worst species, if you ask me) because they don’t have to be like bro-dudes (again, not all!) and lesbian women feel much more in control of their sexuality (some anyway) and so forth and so on. If you hang around people who have struggled about their race, sexuality or gender, you will be hanging around people who (hopefully, assholes are everywhere) are much more lenient to ‘abnormal’ traits you might have. Besides, I literally think everyone including the straight men are uncomfortable with straight men, their image not the reality.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The only gay men I know are definitely effeminate, more so than most women I know. But that’s just the ones who I know are gay.
Sometimes there are gay couples bickering over something on Judge Judy. They bitch at each other at least as much as women. Their tones and mannerisms are exaggeratedly feminine. And no, I’m not assuming that the random gay couples that show up on Judge Judy are any proof of how all gay couples act. I have very limited interaction with gay people. Not by choice, but because of the type of community I live in.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@digitalimpression So do you know these men are actually into having sex with other men, or do you know that they’re more sensitive and perhaps really good with a curling iron?

ETpro's avatar

@wundayatta You’ve said you really don’t get on well with the Man’s-man types. You gravitate toward gay men and women who are sensitive. You went on to say that the machismo type gay men put you off, and so you steered clear of them. So you are not going to be observing a representative sampling of the total population, and therefore your postulate that gay men are more sensitive quite likely has more to do with your filtering of the set you sample than with some general trend in the population.

digitalimpression's avatar

@Aethelflaed I’m not confused about what “gay” means. Are you?

Aethelflaed's avatar

@digitalimpression It isn’t a mystery that the people I know are gay have been feminine because the ones that aren’t.. well.. I probably still don’t know that they are gay… which incidentally is (probably) why the stereotype exists in the first place. My point is this: do you know these feminine men are gay because they’ve said “I’m gay” or at least talked about a boyfriend or male shag, or have you assumed that they are gay because they are feminine without specific confirmation about their sexual desires and habits?

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