Stereotypes and assumptions: Sexual orientation

stereotypes + assumptions: straight male
stereotypes + assumptions: straight male

This is generating a lot of extremely interesting discussion on my Flickr photo stream, so I thought you might like to check it out. Last weekend I participated in a sex ed training exercise about stereotypes and assumptions regarding sexual orientation. Remember, sexual orientation isn’t a choice — like, if you’re straight did you choose to be straight? Anyway, as I wrote in my stream, this was an exercise where a fairly big group yelled out assumptions and cultural perceptions and stereotypes about different sexual orientations. In a way, it was oddly like brand/label brainstorming. And then we discussed the results across the gender and orientation gaps, which were really interesting. For instance, I noticed that for ‘straight male’ the term “father” came out of the group, whereas it didn’t when we were on ‘gay male’. I also noticed that bisexuality is viewed negatively across the board in many ways, and while female bisexuality appears to be such a given perception and still isn’t considered orientation (i.e. ‘she’s straight but experimenting’ or ‘she’s *really* a lesbian’), bisexual men are invisible and practically regarded as a myth. They’re a sexual minority within a sexual minority.

Talk about thought provoking cultural perceptions. The different handwriting/ink colors are because there were two people trying to write as fast as possible, and I noticed that when really negative things were stated, lighter more humorous things came out (like “92.7”, a local gay dance radio station). There are more after the jump, and if you click on the images you can get to larger versions that are easier to read.

stereotypes + assumptions: bi female
stereotypes + assumptions: bisexual female

stereotypes + assumptions: bi male
stereotypes + assumptions: bi male

stereotypes + assumptions: gay male
stereotypes + assumptions: gay male

stereotypes + assumptions: straight female
stereotypes + assumptions: straight female

stereotypes + assumptions: lesbian
stereotypes + assumptions: lesbian

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  1. Wow! Good stuff here – this is an excellent summary of a lot of the stereotypical crap people pile on each other based on gender and sexual orientation. (I’ll even admit to having held a few myself.) A list for trans probably wouldn’t have been out of place either.

    And as a straight guy, I thank you in particular for including a straight male list, because god knows there are plenty of stereotypes about us too, often, ironically, perpetuated by some of the “PC” types who are so offended by stereotyping in other contexts. (Related to this, as a blogger I’ve taken some shit from “feminists” for being a straight male who has the temerity to identify as sex-positive.) Its not that some things might not even apply individually (in my case, horny/porn-watching/meat-eating – check, check, check – but I bet this could apply the same to some people who are anything but straight men), but that sure as hell doesn’t mean you can shoehorn most straight guys into a one-size-fits-all Frat Boy/NASCAR Dad stereotype.

    Also, I haven’t thought about this until I was writing it, but its interesting that the first stereotypes that come to mind about all of these groups seem to be stereotypes about white members of group X. I mean, if the list was for straight black guys or gay black men or straight asian women, I bet there would be a rather different set of stereotypes. But mention just gender and sexuality, and white seems to be pretty much the default.

  2. I find it really interesting that both straight men and straight women are “boring” according to these. :) So, only gay or bi people have interesting sex? Hmm. Tell that to all my swinging, polyamorous, one-night-stands in bathroom stalls-having straight friends, cause I don’t think they got the memo! :)

  3. This reminds me of an EXTREMELY poorly conducted racial/sexual sensitivity that turned out to be offensive to a lot of people and actually required ANOTHER meeting/training for our group just to recover from the first one.

    The first one essentially consisted of encouraging everyone to say the really offensive things that people ACTUALLY think about race.

  4. I too am fed up with these common stereotypes! I’m a bisexual man and I’m tired of people telling me that I’m non-existent.

    (Also, why is ‘3somes’ on the Bi-guy one and not the straight one?)

  5. I would have to agree with M,

    I’m a bisexual and always criticized for not being able to make a “choice”. People continue to think that it is only for attention but it’s who I am. I can’t help being attracted to both girls and guys.

    Being bisexual has its perks, but it does feel like a curse.

  6. in regards to the bisexual female stereotypes:

    i am a bisexual female; i like men and women equally. though i do like women, i am not *really* a lesbian; though i did consider it for a while after my parents caught me naked with another girl at the age of 13. ever since that experience i’ve known that i was attracted to both males and females and when i would say that i was bi in high school i was told that “no you’re not, you’re just confused.” now that i’m 25 my attraction hasn’t changed at all. something i also found interesting about my first experience with a girl: my mom said it was all right since it was just experimentation, but it wouldn’t be all right if i was actually attracted to the girl.

    there obviously is some truth to the stereotypes. when i go out to clubs i want to find a female to get friendly with because i like them; not because i want attention. it does seem that younger girls pretend to be bisexual just for the attention they get from guys.

    sometimes i feel being bisexual is a curse.


  7. @Rachel, there is a sense of humor/irony in my post. I didn’t take anything personally and I am very un PC when it comes to so many things. Inherent in my post was a sense of dispelling what a stereotype is. We have all perceptions, stereotypes and assumptions about people including straight White Christian males , the group to which I belong. I still find the fact that Sportscenter was mentioned was quite funny, because that seems to be a centerpoint for so many straight males. I know so many people(straight,gay, bi, male or female) who have some of the attributes listed and many who most certainly defy them. Ultimately,the world would be a boring place ,if we were all the same. Vive La Difference! BTW, Rachel what type of troll did you mean? There are different types in the world….

    @ C, very interesting interpretation of my comment. I knew that someone would latch onto that one! Let me be more blunt: I never secretly (or in any other way ) wanted to be ass fucked. Good enough for you?

    @ Switch Me, you are right “trans’ were left out. That would be yet another type of person that could be examined this way. But does that also include drag queens mixed in with people really who are either living transgendered lives and/or are transsexuals?

  8. What GREAT exercise! Should be required in some of the classes that young adults and younger kids take! I suspect that one of the outcomes might be that the audience leaves with a deeper sense of their own stereotyping “practices”. It’s always interested me that when an individual confronts within themselves some aspect or behavior that makes others uncomfortable or unhappy, they tend to ruminate on it is sometimes productive ways. Thank you for this posting and the photos.

  9. This is such a gorgeous treasure trove of stereotypes. Fascinating, I think all the more so because most of us are going to embody at least some of them. Also, as is clear here, not all “stereotypes” are negative traits, but they are still stereotypes, meaning that they will not apply to everyone within that group. Thanks, Violet, this is such great insight.

    I think my favorites are “vegan pagan” (bi male) and “gardening” (lesbian). Who knew?

    I think Butch is either a troll or took this way too personally. It’s not a personal attack.

  10. Wow, now I’m really confused as I don’t recognize some of these stereotypes. In fact, some of the terms I simply don’t recognize. What’s a “purse puppy” or “shirt cock” or “manties”? I think these lists must have been created by a non-representative part of the population.

    What would be really interesting is to do this and have the representatives in the group do it separately. For example, split off the self-identifying straight men and have them make up a list of terms stereotyping straight men while the rest of the group makes up their own list of terms stereotyping straight men.

    “Just for the record, I never wanted to be penetrated anally.”
    Butch, just for the record, this is a pretty ambiguous grammatical construction.

    BTW, is it a coincidence that Burning Man shows up on both the lesbian and bi-male sheets?

  11. Personally I kind of like stereotypes. I get a lot of satisfaction out of being underestimated, and I really enjoy the look on a person’s face when they realize that everything they’d assumed about me is dead wrong.

  12. That’s the thing about stereotypes, Butch. They’re perceptions, regardless of the actuality, and we all have to deal with them. Whether you’re a heterosexual straight white Christian male or an asexual genderqueer pantheist Sino-polynesian. Someone out there is bound to have a preconceived idea of who you are, without ever having met you.

  13. I am a heterosexual male and I beg to differ with some of the straight male stereotypes. Just for the record,I never wanted to be penetrated anally. I also am not a womanizer and I am not boring. I’ve never never had sex with socks on. Or even wanted a woman to wear socks when we were making love….high heels are completely different story though! On the other side, I love Sportscenter,though. I can’t help it, no matter how on the edge and how avant garde I have been my entire life ,I can’t get away from sports. I am definitely non yogurt making as well,though my mother used to make yogurt for us when I was younger and despite the fact that I’m a pretty good cook,too. I don’t drink beer, I drink wine and spirits. Some straight people have mistaken me for gay and a gay friend once called me a he-man! To some people, I’m a real Butch and to others I appear metro. Stereotypes and assumptions might sometimes be true, but sometimes judging a book from its cover is patently unfair. And one more thing…what red blooded steak eating,beer drinking , former frat boy secretly watches gay porn?!!! If you mean two girls like Laurie Wallace and Rebecca Lord going at it, hell yeah. Lipstick lesbian porn for sure BUT two guys having fun,nah.

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