GENDER CHARACTERISTICS ATTRIBUTED TO HETEROSEXUAL, HOMOSEXUAL, AND BISEXUAL PERSONS BY THERAPISTS AND NON-THERAPISTS

MARILYN VAUSE MCGIRR, Fordham University

Abstract

In our society, traditional gender-role stereotypes have described "masculine" men as assertive, independent, and decisive and "feminine" women as dependent, warm, and concerned with the welfare of others. Inherent in the stereotype was the assumption that masculine men and feminine women were heterosexual. Adherence to the gender-role stereotypes implied an acceptable level of personal adjustment and heterosexual status, while non-adherence implied that persons were mentally "sick" and sexually deviant. These stereotypes were widely held by lay persons as well as mental health practitioners who were presumably trained in standards of adjustment for men and women. Recently, the Women's Movement and the Gay Liberation Movement have sought to challenge these traditional gender-role stereotypes. Changing psychological theory has also posited the view that androgynous behavior, i.e., the expression of both masculine and feminine behavior, results in wider role options, greater adaptability, and, by extension, a better level of adjustment for men and women. The focus of the present research was to explore the current gender-role stereotypes for persons of heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual sexual preference held by therapists and a group of comparably educated non-therapists. Also, the variables of self gender identity, attitudes toward women, and knowledge of psychosexuality were explored to determine the extent, if any, of their relationship to stereotypic ratings of others.^ Participants were 62 therapists (clinical psychologists and psychiatric social workers) and 80 non-therapists (teachers and lawyers) from the metropolitan New York area. Each participant was contacted by mail and asked to complete a questionnaire with measures of: stereotypic ratings of heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual persons; self gender identity; attitudes toward women; and knowledge of psychosexuality. Data was analyzed using a 2 (respondents' status, i.e., therapist vs. non-therapist) x 2 (sex of stimulus person) x 3 (psychosexual orientation of stimulus person, i.e., heterosexual, homosexual, vs. bisexual) nonorthogonal regression approach of analysis of variance procedure with independent measures. Correlation of variables related to stereotypic judgments of others was determined by the Pearson correlation coefficient.^ Results indicated that: (a) therapists did not differ significantly from non-therapists in their ratings of stimulus persons; (b) men, described as masculine, were rated significantly different from women, described as feminine, on the basis of biological sex; (c) a significant interaction effect was found for sex x psychosexual orientation of stimulus persons such that heterosexual men and women were rated significantly different from one another; (d) heterosexual women were the most stereotyped of all stimulus persons; and (e) gay and bisexual persons, described as androgynous, were rated similar to and not statistically different from one another. Contrary to expectations, self gender identity, attitudes toward women, and knowledge of psychosexuality were not significantly related to stereotypic ratings of others. Therapists, in comparison to non-therapists, were significantly more liberal in their attitudes toward women and had more knowledge of human psychosexuality. The two groups did not differ significantly in their self gender identity, both groups perceiving themselves to be androgynous in comparison to their ratings of stimulus persons. ^

Subject Area

Psychology

Recommended Citation

MCGIRR, MARILYN VAUSE, "GENDER CHARACTERISTICS ATTRIBUTED TO HETEROSEXUAL, HOMOSEXUAL, AND BISEXUAL PERSONS BY THERAPISTS AND NON-THERAPISTS" (1980). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8020074.
https://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8020074

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