Pride Fun: The Psychology of Fag Hags

Another installment in Pride weekend fun: the psychology of fag hags.

I’m a girl with a lot of gay male friends, yet I’ve managed to not get painted with the “fag hag” brush. To my face, anyway. I don’t know why it feels this way, but I’ve been relieved on occasion to have more than one gay friend tell me he’s glad I’m not a fag hag (and yet I hang out with, flirt with and crew up with gay friends — sometimes in groups where I’m the only girl). Living in the Castro, I see a lot of women that can definitely be labeled “fag hag” and I don’t know what it is that makes it such a clear thing. I’ll admit to choosing my gay male friends over straight guys on more than one social occasion, but not necessarily because I feel “safer” or because I want to be surrounded by hot guys. (Uh, okay. But still.) It’s often my choice because I love men, and gay men are guys I can hang with who see the *whole* world, not just the straight and narrow slice of it that typically comprises the straight guy point of view. And it sounds cliche, but gay guys tend to have more of a sense of humor about the world. Like I said before, this can be isolating sometimes, too. So in understanding why some women like the company of gay men more than others, it’s very interesting to see this article on Scientific American, Studying the Elusive Fag Hag. Timely! In it, we see the conventional wisdom of fruit fly motivation unpacked via an internet survey on fag haggery:

(…) But it’s “fag hag” that resonates in the public consciousness. The researchers note that both in popular media and everyday expression, the term conjures up the image of an unattractive, overweight, desperate woman who seeks out the company of gay men to compensate for her lack of romantic attention from straight guys. Sorting through anecdotes from previous interview studies, television depictions and cheap romance novels, the authors find that other common stereotypes paint the fag hag as being notoriously camp, overly emotional, unstable and as craving attention (e.g., Megan Mullally’s character Karen Walker from Will & Grace). What’s especially fascinating is the authors’ observation that this social category of women who like men who like men may be “cross-culturally robust.” The French refer to such women as soeurettes (“Little Sisters”), the German brand them as Schwulen-Muttis (“Gay Moms”), and the Mexicans know them as joteras (“jota” is commonly used for “fag”). In Japan, these women are called okoge, translated literally as “the burnt rice that sticks to the bottom of the pot.”

According to the investigators, the “hag” component is essentially the common belief that these women “do not feel good about their bodies, and as a result, take refuge in the ‘gay world’ to avoid the harsher judgment and emphasis on female physical attractiveness inherent in the heterosexual social scene.” (…read more,

He also asks the perennial question about the male counterpart in the lesbian scene: I’ve personally heard them called “dyke tykes” and “dyke Mikes.” Anyone else?

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  1. I wonder if there’s a resentful element in terming women fag hags, either from straight men (why are those girls not paying ME any attention?) or from women who lack gay men to bond with. So any woman who does is shoehorned into a stereotype that defines her as ugly and needy, when really the opposite is true. There’s nothing as liberating as being surrounded by hot men and having no self conscious anxiety, since you’re not their cup of tea sexually AND that has nothing to do with who YOU are. It puts a sexy shine on ones attitude, which hopefully carries into the rest of ones life.

  2. This comment is based on reading your Alejandro video post as well as this article, btw. :)

    I’ve been unrequitedly in love/lust/horribly sophmoric attraction to unattainable people of all genders and sexual orientation and in some cases it was/is mutual. Being in love with a friend is a very common thing and having it be something unattainable is as well – there are many reasons other than outward sexual orientation to keep two people apart.

    The future I see is one where there is no longer a dividing line between sexual orientations. The youth of today seem to be a population of people open to loving whomever they want to, at least, this is what I’ve gathered from my little bit of exposure to this demographic, and the youth are our future.

    That said, I think the reason I have a handful of gay male friends that I love dearly is because they are very real, very honest people. Come to think of it, all of the people I love dearly are very real, very honest people.
    Titles are for books and labels are for clothes (tho, I usually have to cut them off because they irritate my skin). Let’s cut off the labels and realize that we can’t always get together with those we are attracted to and it isn’t always because of some sexual orientation label. It’s been this way for a long time and will continue, I’m sure, for a long time.

  3. It’s also been my observation over the years that the “fag hag” is the woman who still holds a hope deep in her heart that her gay male friend will switch sides and want to be with her instead. There’s usually at least one, if not more than one, awkward encounter.

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