chapter
Effeminacy
Pages 9

The popular imagination often associates effeminacy with the supposedly telltale audible and physical signs of a man’s homosexuality. Pejorative terms like “faggot” in the United States and “poof” in the United Kingdom invoke a well-known stereotype of the gay man as a limp-wristed, lisping, mincing individual who deviates from the male norm because he embodies femininity, not masculinity. This stereotype takes for granted that femininity encompasses such qualities as delicacy, fragility, sensitivity, and weakness, whereas masculinity manifests courage, invulnerability, mastery, and strength. As a result, the stigma of effeminacy strives to separate male homosexuality from male heterosexuality. In other words, if gay men have discarded their manhood in favor of femininity, then straight men have exclusive rights over masculinity. The stereotype assumes that no one should regard effeminacy as an authentic or appropriate masculine behavior.