Heterosexual marking occurs when people behave in ways that are interpreted by others as evidence of heterosexuality. In an exploratory comprehensive study of this phenomenon, we conducted 12 focus groups with 57 individuals: four groups composed of heterosexual women, four composed of heterosexual men, and four composed of mixed-gender sexual minorities. In this article, we present our findings on participant conceptions of heterosexual marking that are related to gender stereotypes, gender differences, and gender inequality. Much of the heterosexual marking described by our participants reflects and reinforces stereotypes that equate gender conformity and heterosexuality. Our data suggest that heterosexual marking by men/boys and women/girls differs in several ways, including gender conformity, sexual prejudice, extent of marking, and types of marking. Furthermore, some aspects and types of heterosexual marking described by our participants reflect and reinforce gender inequality. As a result, our discussion notes some problematic implications of the heterosexual marking we describe, including rendering gender non-conformity among heterosexuals invisible and unacceptable, supporting discrimination against gender non-conformity, and more directly reinforcing gender inequality.
Sex Roles – Springer Journals
Published: Apr 2, 2016
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