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Masculine Overcompensation

Sexistential Crisis: An Intersectional Analysis of Gender Expression and Sexual Orientation – Brodie J. Lewis, Cassandra Hesse, Briana Cook, & Cory L. Pedersen


Masculine overcompensation is a phenomenon that occurs when a male exhibits hypermasculine characteristics in response to threats to his masculinity (Willer, Rogalin, Conlon, & Wojonowicz, 2013).  Heterosexual males have been found to respond to gender identity threats with higher levels of stereotypically masculine characteristics and increased antisocial behaviour, but it is not known whether gay men respond correspondingly when their masculinity is challenged.  Our study posed to determine the extent to which gay males exhibit masculine overcompensation previously seen in heterosexual males.


In accordance with procedures adopted by Willer et al. (2013), 867 participants (661 gay men) with a mean age of 25.15 years (SD = 7.61) were administered a gender identity survey which provided randomly generated feedback indicating to participants that they had scored in either the “masculine” or “feminine” range of gender expression relative to extant research. We then examined how this feedback might affect their responses on subsequent questionnaires of support for war, views of homosexuality, attitudes toward pornography, and endorsement of hostile rape myth.  Results revealed significant main effects of gender self-expression and sexual orientation on the Attitudes towards Erotica Questionnaire (harmful effects composite), significant main effects of sexual orientation on the Attitudes towards Erotica Questionnaire (restriction composite), and significant main effects of gender self-expression and sexual orientation on the Rape Supportive Attitudes Scale (victim callousness).  We also identified significant interactions effects of gender self-expression X sexual orientation on the Support for War composite, and gender self-expression X sexual orientation on the Negative Attitudes toward Homosexuality composite.  Contrary to hypothesis, the effect of condition (i.e., telling participants their gender expression was either masculine or feminine) had no effect on any dependent variable.


Possible explanations for a lack of masculine overcompensation were posited as follows: (1) threats issued through an online survey may not be seen as valid as those issued in face-to-face interactions, (2) the strength of our IV in general, or (3) a more global sample than that utilized in previous research may not replicate masculine overcompensation, as this phenomenon may be unique to Americans.  Further research is needed to understand whether alternative manipulations explain the attitudes of gay/straight participants to controversial topics like pornography, rape, homosexuality, and war.


Article published in the Journal of Homosexuality, doi: 10.1080/00918369.2018.1525943

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