A Study Investigating Gender Roles andSexual Happiness:Is There a Sexual Advantage toAndrogyny?Micole McCarthy FullerPSYC 203 – Human SexualityApril KindrickJune 2nd, 2012
Background Since the beginning of time, men and women have been subject to gender stereotypes. Oftenwe are raised to understand how we should behave and what is appropriate for us based on our biologicalsex. This conditioning is called gender socialization and leads to people taking on certain traits that arestereotypically identified with either men or women. However, just because our biological sex says a manis male, it does not mean that he always adopts an overtly masculine gender role, and just because awoman is female, it doesn‟t mean that she is bursting with femininity. Depending on how we were raised,how we socialized, and whom we socialized with, we adopt different personality traits and develop ourown gender role identification. This means that a man who was raised under the traditional standards thathe must be independent and aggressive to really be a man will most likely adopt a primarily masculinegender role. However, if a different man was raised under the pretext that men can be nurturing andsensitive (both traits that are associated with women) he may adopt high levels of femininity. Similarly, ifa woman is conditioned to believe that she can be just as strong and self sufficient (masculine traits) as aman, she will likely adopt high levels of masculinity. Additionally, there is not only feminine and masculine as gender roles. There are actuallyfour different primary types of gender roles that people can be categorized into: masculine, feminine,androgynous (high levels of masculinity and femininity), and undifferentiated (low levels of masculinityand femininity). But how do we identify and categorize individuals into these gender roles?
In the early 1970‟s, social psychologist Sandra Bem created an inventory-survey that measures an individual‟slevels of feminine and masculine behavioral traits called the Bem Sex Role Inventory (Crooks & Baur, 2011). There have beenmany inventories, surveys, and questionnaires developed over the past few decades for identifying individuals‟ gender roles,however the Bem Sex Role Inventory remains one of the most reputable and well known. It is this inventory that will be usedto identify gender roles in subjects for the primary upcoming research study. In Western civilization, going back centuries, we can see many of the same suppressing stereotypical norms thatwe condition our children to believe today; for example, women are restricted as homemakers and to be the primary nurturersfor children, while men are conditioned to never cry nor show signs of weakness as they must be the backbone andbreadwinners of the family. However, over the past few decades we have seen many disagreements and movements againstsuch suppressing stereotypes. Women are being encouraged to step into the workforce and develop careers, and many men arebeginning to accept the notion of being stay-at-home fathers and the primary nurturers of their children. Stepping away fromthese stereotypical cultural norms, many people are beginning to appreciate the value of being able to possess both masculineand feminine traits so they can lead more enriched and well-rounded lives. However, there are still many people who swear bythe traditional standards of „men as masculine‟ and „women as feminine‟. So as the knowledge of different gender rolesbecomes more widespread and researched, a popular question has arisen: Is one gender role more ideal than the others? Theforthcoming study will actually take this query one step further and ask the question: Is one gender role (androgyny) moreideal regarding sexuality and sexual interactions than the others (masculinity, femininity, and undifferentiated)?
Individuals who score as primarily feminine or primarily masculine on the Bem Sex Role Inventory are more attunedto culturally acceptable and sex-appropriate behaviors (Miller et al., 2009). And while these individuals may associate themselves withsuch “appropriate” and widely accepted standards, they are also putting themselves under the pressure of working within culturalnorms and are therefore under more pressure to behave as is considered suitable by traditional – and somewhat conservative – Westernsociety. They are restricted to only behaving in the dated and limited ways of their one-sided gender. In example, if a primarilyfeminine woman is curious to know the feeling of being assertive and aggressive sexually and would like to initiate sexual relationswith her partner, a deep-seated feeling of discomfort and improperness may overwhelm and dissuade her from ever making such anattempt. Eventually this could lead to a feeling of redundancy and boredom in her sexuality and sexual intercourse, as she is restrictedto minimal and traditionally valued behaviors. This rather inevitable feeling of redundancy is not limited to primarily feminine women. Overtly masculine men arejust as susceptible to such a feeling; they are also less likely to be open to trying new things (unlike an androgynous individual) as theyare pinned down to their traditional masculine traits. For example, most masculine men are conditioned to believe that it is a man‟s jobto be sexually aggressive and proactive. If such a masculine man encounters an androgynous woman as a sexual partner and thiswoman tries to be the aggressive initiator in the sexual intercourse, while she may feel satisfied and enjoy the experience, she may haveinadvertently made her masculine counterpart feel emasculated and “turned off” sexually. Here we see how this masculine man‟sunyielding traits have deprived him of the chance to openly enjoy a new sexual experience.
There have been multiple studies that look into themany aspects of androgyny. Many discuss how androgynousindividuals can more easily adapt and respond appropriatelyto the current situation they find themselves in compared totheir feminine, masculine, and undifferentiatedcounterparts. This is usually because androgynousindividuals have been raised to adapt to situationsaccordingly and to not allow sex-based stereotypes keepthem from doing what makes them happy. This is why theycan embody both masculine traits and feminine traits: theywere conditioned to believe that just because you are acertain sex, doesn‟t mean that you can‟t enjoy the samethings as the other sex. For example: girls can be feminine,but if they think that going outside and getting rough anddirty would be most enjoyable for themselves, they shouldpursue that. However, that doesn‟t mean that in that sameday they can‟t also enjoy wearing pretty jewelry and make-up, or behave gracefully. Similarly, androgynous values cantestify that, just because a man is male, it doesn‟t mean thathe has to be tough and aggressive all of the time, and it isabsolutely fine for a man to show signs of compassion andsensitivity when the apposite moment calls for it.
Going forward, as androgynous individuals are more likely to adapt to appropriate behavior invarying circumstances, it can be argued that sexual intercourse can be a more fulfilling experience as theandrogynous person will be able to respond to their partner‟s needs – and their own needs – aptly, whether itconsist of aggressive or tender behavior. Additionally, as they have been taught to do what makes them happiestand feels natural to themselves and the situation, these individuals are more likely to be most confident in theirsexuality and promiscuity. Furthermore, there has been research that concluded that androgynous individuals are more innatelycreative (Stoltzfus et al., 2011) and, in a study on attractiveness, opposite-sex androgynous subjects were deemedas more desirable; this could be due to the fact that androgyny is often related to high self-esteem and good heath(Woodhill & Samuels, 2004). Additionally, in another study androgynous individuals were found to be among thehighest to score in sensual and emotional categories (Miller et al., 2009). Using this background information regarding the positive and liberating aspects of androgyny,supported by multiple scholarly articles, I went on to examine the theory that androgynous individuals enjoy theirsexuality and overall sexual intercourse more so than feminine, masculine, and undifferentiated individuals.Following is the information and the results I gathered while conducting the study.
Hypothesis This study‟s focus is to investigate the responses of individuals from each gender role to determine which gender role has the highest levels of sexual happiness. From previous research, this study hypothesizes that androgynous individuals enjoy their sexuality and sexual behavior more than masculine, feminine, and undifferentiated individuals.
Method Participants for this study were 16 heterosexual, lower-middle and middle class Americans, 8male and 8 female, age 20 – 33, all of whom reside on the West Coast. All but 2 participants are Caucasian(other 2 participants were  Hispanic-American and  Asian-American) and all have engaged in a rangeof sexual interactions, from kissing to intercourse. In this study there were two surveys that were used to gather the information needed. The BemSex Role Inventory was the first survey sent out and was used to identify each participant‟s gender role:masculine, feminine, androgynous, or undifferentiated. The Bem Inventory was emailed with instructions(without the scoring information – only the instructions and personality traits) to each participant. Uponcompletion, each participant was asked to email this survey back with their personal scores bolded next toeach personality trait. Using the scoring rubric supplied with the original Bem survey, it was possible tocalculate which gender role each participant associated with. In addition, each participant was not informedwhat gender role they were labeled as; it was a concern that this information may influence which responsesthey chose in the Sexuality survey.
After receiving all completed Bem Inventory surveys, each participant was sent instructions andweb page links to the primary, multiple-choice and ranking-choice (from “Strongly Disagree” to “StronglyAgree”), 44-question survey, created by this researcher, titled Sexuality and Sexual Behavior. This survey wasbroken into three parts (as the website used to create the survey only allowed 20 questions per survey created)and each part of the survey was labeled Sexuality and Sexual Behavior 1, Sexuality and Sexual Behavior 2,and Sexuality and Sexual Behavior 3. The questions in this survey all related to, and were broken down into,5 different sub-categories that are believed to equal/lead to overall sexual happiness: Personal Confidence,Sexual Confidence, Sexual Satisfaction, Adaptability/Adventurous, and Aggressive Sexual Attitude. Uponreceiving the completed Sexuality surveys, participant‟s responses were gathered and their scores calculatedfor each sub-category, as well as for their overall score on the survey (explained more in Results section).
Results Most participants were labeled as undifferentiated or masculineupon taking the Bem Sex Role Inventory, with only a few leftover asfeminine or androgynous: 5 undifferentiated participants, 2 feminineparticipants, 6 masculine participants, and 3 androgynousparticipants. I gave each answer for each question on the Sexuality survey anumber to tally up to a score. The more positive, adventurous,confident or satisfied the answer seemed to be the higher thenumerical score. This made it possible to create numerical scoringsfor the overall survey and for each sub-category of the survey. I thenused these accumulative scorings – mainly by utilizing the mean (M)of the scores – to discern which gender role appears to enjoysexuality and sexual interactions the most. It should be noted thatsome sub-categories of the Sexuality survey have higher scores thanthe others, which is due to certain sub-categories having morequestions than the others (therefore, higher overall scores). My hypothesis clearly states that I believe androgynousindividuals enjoy sexuality and sexual interactions the most, and Iwas very confident on this notion. However, while androgynousindividuals did score quite high on this survey, masculine individuals(both male and female) overall scored the highest (Masculine: M =150.5, Median = 149; Feminine: M = 138.5, Median = 138.5;Androgynous: M = 143.33, Median = 143; and Undifferentiated: M =138.8, Median = 138).
On the other hand, upon breaking down the survey, and scores, intothe smaller sub-categories that are believed to make up sexualhappiness, it was interesting to see that masculine participants didn‟tscore highest in every category:Personal Confidence: Masculine: M = 12.33, Median = 11.5, Mode =11; Feminine: M = 9.5, Median = 9.5, Mode = N/A; Androgynous: M =11.66, Median = 13, Mode = N/A; and Undifferentiated: M = 12.4,Median = 12, Mode = 12).Sexual Confidence: Masculine: M = 40.5, Median = 40.5, Mode =N/A; Feminine: M = 38, Median = 38, Mode = 38; Androgynous: M =37.66, Median = 38, Mode = N/A; and Undifferentiated: M = 34,Median = 38, Mode = 38.Sexual Satisfaction: Masculine: M = 33, Median = 32.5, Mode = 32,33; Feminine: M = 29.5, Median = 29.5, Mode = N/A; Androgynous: M= 35, Median = 34, Mode = 34; and Undifferentiated: M = 31, Median =33, Mode = 33.Adaptability/Adventurous: Masculine: M = 48.66, Median = 48, Mode= 48; Feminine: M = 44, Median = 44, Mode = N/A; Androgynous: M =44.33, Median = 46, Mode = N/A; and Undifferentiated: M = 46.4,Median = 33, Mode = N/A.Aggressive Sexual Attitude: Masculine: M = 16, Median = 16, Mode =15, 16, 17; Feminine: M = 14.5, Median = 14.5, Mode = N/A;Androgynous: M = 15.33, Median = 16, Mode = 16; andUndifferentiated: M = 15, Median = 15, Mode = N/A.
While the first graph, Gender Roles and Sexual Happiness, depicts theoverall scores from the Sexuality and Sexual Behavior survey (showing clearly thatmasculine participants accumulated the highest overall score), the Gender Roles andSexual Happiness Traits graph on the previous slide clearly depicts the lowest andhighest scores for each gender role in each sub-category in the Sexuality survey. It canbe seen that masculine participants scored highest in 3 out of the 5 categories, comingin second once to androgynous participants in Sexual Satisfaction, and second once to,somewhat surprisingly, undifferentiated participants in Personal Confidence. (Theseresults will be discussed more in the Discussion section).
Discussion In the beginning, as the Sexuality survey results started pouring in, it wasn’t very clear whichgender role was coming in the lead as far as the highest score(s). At first it seemed that there was no majorpattern developing between gender role and sexual happiness. However, once all of the Sexuality surveyresults were put together, scored and ranked, and then listed from lowest overall score (122) to highestoverall score (164), a discernable pattern could be seen. The lowest scores consisted of undifferentiatedparticipants and then feminine participants, while the higher scores were mostly made up of masculineparticipants and then androgynous participants (with the occasional anomaly of an undifferentiatedparticipant’s survey popping up here and there in the mid-high scores). If this had been the ultimate methodof discerning which gender role had scored highest and lowest, the rankings would have appeared as follows:1st place (highest) = Masculine, 2nd place = Androgynous, 3rd place = Feminine, 4th place = Undifferentiated.And while these results closely match the mean score results, when using the mean scores to calculatehighest to lowest scores, undifferentiated participants would have scored second lowest, and feminineparticipants would have scored lowest (as can be seen on the Gender Roles and Sexual Happiness graph).
Focusing a little more on this topic, one of the more interesting things noticed in this studywas the unpredictability of undifferentiated individuals. For example, while undifferentiated participantshad some of the lowest scores yielded from the Sexuality survey, their mean score for the sub-categoryPersonal Confidence was the highest of all gender roles and was .07 “points” higher than masculineparticipants‟ (who took the lead in this study overall). Additionally, if we go off of only the mean scoresfrom each gender role group, undifferentiated participants seem to take the lead over feminineparticipants. However, when lining up all of the overall scores from lowest to highest – incorporating allgender roles‟ survey results – most undifferentiated individuals were among the lowest scores, with onlytwo of the undifferentiated participants scoring in the mid-high survey scores (which were primarilymade up of masculine and androgynous individuals). It is believed that this could be the result of having such a small number and range ofparticipants. In a larger study, these undifferentiated “anomalies” would probably have raised less red-flags than they did in a small study such as this one, as there would have been more androgynous andfeminine participants than there were available and included in this study. In the future, researcherscould first have a very large number of individuals take the Bem Sex Role Inventory, and then use onlythe individuals they need to add up to an equal number of participants associated with each gender role(i.e. 20 feminine, 20 masculine, 20 androgynous, and 20 undifferentiated). A larger study such as thiswould most likely yield clearer and more concrete results.
Finally, the last concern for any inaccuracies in this study wasthe fact that the Sexuality and Sexual Behavior survey was not anonymous.While only two participants mentioned anything about the “personal andprivate” nature of this survey (and having to supply their names) as beingsomewhat uncomfortable – though they promised to answer honestly – itwas a major concern overall. Unfortunately, the requirement of names for theSexuality survey was imperative for the ability to correlate participants‟survey answers and scores with their assigned and notated gender role. It hadbeen considered to inform each participant of their gender role uponcompleting their Bem Inventory survey and then having them supply theirassigned gender role instead of their names. However, it was also a concernthat, for example, by telling a male participant that he was masculine, hemight be inclined to choose only answers in the Sexuality survey thatappeared to be of a masculine nature, instead of choosing the answers thatseemed instinctively truthful for himself. Additionally, while the twoparticipants did voice their concern about the private nature of the questionsin the Sexuality survey, it was mostly out of concern that others would notbe so willing to be forthright and completely honest in their answers.However, each participant was asked after taking the Sexuality survey if theyfound it to be uncomfortable, and each of them said “not at all”. But even so, “Do I like to have what done where?!if this study was ever to be repeated, it may be prudent to find a way to have Well that‟s much too private!!”the Sexuality survey be anonymous.
Moving forward, it should be noted that some people may claim that the Sexual Satisfaction category inthe Sexuality and Sexual Behavior survey should have more established scores and taken more seriously than the othercategories in this survey, as it appears to correlate most directly with the final purpose of this investigation (who enjoyssexuality and sexual behavior the most). However, the other four sub-categories in this survey seem to be equallyimportant to determining which gender role has the highest level of sexual happiness – thus enjoying sexuality andsexual interactions the most. These other categories are especially important when using a survey (such as the Sexualitysurvey) where the scores are based on the participant‟s personal determinations and opinions of themselves to configureand deduce the results of such a study, especially when it is the only method used to make a conclusion. Ergo, it doesnot have any additional support from other study methods such as experiments or direct participant observations. This isnot to say that Sexual Satisfaction isn‟t overtly important to this survey and study, just that it‟s not the only category toconsider. Additionally, it might be noteworthy to comment that in this category, androgynous individuals did score thehighest – suggesting that my hypothesis might not have been 100% inaccurate. On another note, it was, interestingly enough, assumed from previous background research that masculineindividuals (particularly masculine men) might have a more difficult time allowing their partner to take charge in sexualsituations. However, from the overwhelming response of “Agree” or “Strongly Agree” to questions such as question #32on the Sexuality survey: “I am comfortable allowing a/my partner to take charge in a sexual situations (from kissing tointercourse)”, its become quite clear that not a single individual had an issue with their partner taking charge in a sexualsituation – not even the most overtly masculine participants.
As for the final results of this study, I believe that perhaps those traits that allow an androgynousindividual to adapt to different situations with either feminine or masculine positive responses and actions, mayalso allow them to respond in a negatively feminine or masculine way, and that this may have lead to some ofthe lower sexual happiness scores – for more information on the concept of negative androgyny, refer to thearticle Desirable and Undesirable Androgyny: A Prescription For The Twenty-First Century by Brenda MaeWoodhill & Curtis A. Samuels. Additionally, androgynous individuals have been known to be more sensitive toothers‟ needs (such as their partner‟s), which is often considered a very good trait to possess, but may also havelead to their lower scores on the Sexuality survey (the same goes for both feminine and undifferentiatedparticipant scores, as this is a personality trait they all share). Therefore, while masculine individuals have beenknown to be more assertive and self-focused, androgynous individuals are most likely paying more attention totheir partner‟s needs than their masculine counterparts are. At times this could be a positive thing for they couldshare in their partner‟s sexual happiness; however, if their partner is having issues with their own sexuality andfeelings about sexual activity, it could impede the androgynous individual‟s personal feelings of happiness inregards to their sexuality and sexual interactions. This leads to another important thought to consider: that,while gender role may play a large part in an individual‟s sexual happiness and satisfaction, there are manyother aspects of a person‟s life (current relationship status; personal, romantic, and emotional well-being; etc.)that may influence current sexual well-being and enjoyment.
In the end, while this study may disprove my hypothesis, it still shows that androgynous individualsdo have high levels of sexual happiness, coming in only second to masculine individuals. That being said, whilemasculine individuals didn‟t score the highest (according to mean scores) in every sub-category of the Sexualityand Sexual Behavior survey, they did score the highest in 3 of the 5 sub-categories (and never got lower than thesecond highest score). They also had the highest scores when “ranking” lowest overall score to highest overallscore among all gender roles and survey results, and had the highest (mean) overall score on the Sexuality survey.As partially stated above, this is probably because, according to the Bem Inventory and previous studies,masculine individuals possess the most traits that will aid them in acquiring what they want and what makes themhappiest (both sexually and in life altogether). Overall, this information and this study‟s results give me theconfidence to conclude for now that masculine individuals seem to enjoy their sexuality and sexual behavior morethan other gender roles. In the future, however, it would be nice to repeat this study with a larger number, andwider variety, of participants – for the results may be more accurate, irrefutable, and possibly different than thissmall study‟s results.
ResourcesCrooks, R., and Baur, K., Our Sexuality. 11th ed. Belmont: Wadsworth, 2011. Print. 143.Dohi, I., Yamada, F., & Asada, H. (2001). The Relationship Between Masculinity and the Type A Behavior Pattern: the Moderating Effects of Femininity. Japanese Psychological Research, 43(2), 91.Miller, N. B., Falk, R., & Yinmei, H. (2009). Gender Identity and the Overexcitability Profiles of Gifted College Students. Roeper Review, 31(3), 161-169. doi:10.1080/02783190902993920Stoltzfus, G., Nibbelink, B., Vredenburg, D., & Thyrum, E. (2011). Gender, Gender Role, and Creativity. Social Behavior & Personality: An International Journal, 39(3), 425-432. doi:10.2224/sbp.2011.39.3.425Tolman, D. L., Impett, E. A., Tracy, A. J., & Michael, A. (2006). Looking Good, Sounding Good: Femininity Ideology and Adolescent Girls‟ Mental Health. Psychology Of Women Quarterly, 30(1), 85-95. doi:10.1111/j.1471- 6402.2006.00265.xWoodhill, B., & Samuels, C. A. (2004). Desirable and Undesirable Androgyny: A Prescription For The Twenty-First Century. Journal Of Gender Studies, 13(1), 15-28. doi:10.1080/0958923032000184943
SurveysBelow are the two surveys I used for this study: The Bem Sex Role Inventory(with scoring rubric) and the primary Sexuality and Sexual Behavior survey I created. BEM SEX ROLE INVENTORYRate yourself on each item, on a scale from 1 (never or almost never true) to 7 (almost always true). When you have completed the inventory, transfer your ratings to the inventory score sheet.
Sexuality and Sexual Behavior SurveyHere are the three links for the Sexuality and Sexual Behavior survey(copy and past URL into your browser‟s URL box):Sexuality and Sexual Behavior (part 1)http://fluidsurveys.com/surveys/micolemf/sexuality-and-sexual-behavior/Sexuality and Sexual Behavior (part 2)http://fluidsurveys.com/surveys/micolemf/sexuality-and-sexual-behavior-2/Sexuality and Sexual Behavior (part 3)http://fluidsurveys.com/surveys/micolemf/sexuality-and-sexual-behavior-3/Note: If you would like to review my 12-page scoring document for thissurvey (complete with color-coded breakdown of each sub-category andred numerical scores next to each answer), please let me know.