Jesse Bering’s brilliant Scientific American column ‘Bering in Mind’ has a fantastic discussion of the cultural concept of the ‘fag hag’ – a woman who supposedly hangs around with gay men due to her own inadequacies.
I always assumed that ‘fag hag’ was nothing more than a particularly snide homophobic insult from the English language but it turns out that the general concept exists across the world – from Mexico to Japan.
Bering covers a recent research study that set out to investigate the concept and test whether women who do have lots of gay friends have poor self-esteem, worse body image or less satisfactory relationships.
This turns out not to be the case, and, in fact, the more gay male friends that a woman had, the more sexually attractive she felt, although conversely, longer friendships with the closest gay friend predicted lower self-perceived attractiveness.
Bering does a fantastic job of picking apart possible explanations and caveats from what, after all, is a correlational study, but he also notes a fascinating observation at the end:
It occurred to me while writing this article that the social category of straight men that like to socialize with lesbians is astonishingly vacant in our society. Sure, you may hear about some random ‚Äúdyke tyke‚Äù or ‚Äúlesbro‚Äù (two terms that, unlike fag hag, are hardly part of the popular slang vocabulary and actually required me to do some intensive Googling), but their existence is clearly minimal. Do you have any good guesses on why there‚Äôs such a discrepancy in frequency between the two cases?
I wonder whether the disparity between the marking of ‘fag hags’ and the lack of similar names for men who hang out with lesbians at least partly reflects the fact that gay men have traditionally been more stigmatised than gay women, and hence there is a greater drive to stigmatise those who socialise with them.
I also wonder the situation is simply less common although I can’t find any research that has actually looked at the issue.
Link to ‘Studying the elusive fag hag.’