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Sexual identity and heterosexual male students' usage of homosexual insults: an exploratory study.

Abstract: The use of different homosexual insults by heterosexual male students at a mid-sized Canadian university was studied. The types of insults included both those directed at sexuality and sexual orientation ("sexualized homosexual insults") and those related more to gender role behaviour and masculinity ("nonsexual homosexual insults"). Comparison groups for the type of insults used by participants were based on their heterosexual male sexual identity as reflected in scores for opposite-sex sexual orientation, masculine gender role, and adherence to traditional gender ideologies. The key measures employed were The Sexuality Questionnaire (Alderson, Orzeck, Davis, & Boyes, 2010) and a homosexual insult questionnaire developed specifically for this study. Participants varied in insult usage in relation to their scores on the sexual identity measures although some insults were used with similar frequency among men despite variations in these measures. The findings are discussed in relation to the issues of opposite sex sexual orientation, gender role, and gender ideology as well as age, education, religion, and ethnic background.

Acknowledgements: The research for this article was done by the first author in a year-long honours thesis project. The authors thank Dr. Tak S. Fung for assistance with statistical analysis.

Introduction

Heterosexual men relative to heterosexual women have more hostile attitudes toward gay men (Kite & Whitely, 2003) and they often use homosexual insults to deride one another (Burn, 2000). However, only about half of the men who use homosexual insults feel strongly negative toward homosexuality (Burn, 2000). Homosexual individuals are often seen as violating gender role norms (Eliason, Donelan, & Randall, 1992), resulting in disapproval by others (Rudman & Fairchild, 2004). Perhaps because of this social stigma against gender role violation, heterosexual men respond with more hostility toward feminine gay men than they do toward masculine gay men following a threat to their own masculinity (Glick, Gangl, Gibb, Klumpner, & Weinberg, 2007). The excessive regularity of homosexual insults by heterosexual men may signify a reaction to culturally-shaped pressures, internalized by heterosexual men, to demonstrate heterosexual masculinity (Theodore & Basow, 2000). The aim of the present study was to determine whether differences in heterosexual male sexual identity (HMSI) would influence the likelihood of heterosexual men using homosexual insults. If such differences in sexual identity are influential, certain forms of HMSI may be more reliant on homosexual insults to manage perceived threats against gender identity, suggesting a social significance for homosexual insults beyond homophobia. For this reason, we use here the term "homosexual insult", rather than "homophobic insult", to characterize both gendered and homosexual putdowns. This terminology avoids characterizing all such putdowns in advance as having an exclusively homophobic purpose.

Masculine identity and the struggle for status

The problem with heterosexual men and homosexual insults

Insults that imply homosexuality are perceived by some men as the worst type of insult (Preston & Stanley, 1987). Homosexual insults are often used to express sexual prejudice (D'Augelli, 1992) and serve to designate targets as outcasts (Dafnos, 2007). Possibly due to their connection with gender-role failure, homosexual insults play a pivotal role in the school bullying and victimization of both gay and heterosexual males (Kimmel & Mahler, 2003). Nevertheless, many homosexual insults within male discourse appear jovial and seem to facilitate "male bonding" (Silverschanz, Cortina, Konik, & Magley, 2008, p. 187). Armstrong (2006) proposes that certain insults, including homosexual terms, are only possible between equals, signifying inclusion. The interpretation of homosexual insults is complex in that such insults can be associated with both inclusion and exclusion, i.e., they can signify both acceptance and rejection depending on the context of use and the sexual identity of the user and target.

Heterosexual men and sexual identity

Sexual identity represents the sense of self a person establishes through giving meaning to their sexual lives in relation to the culturally available categories of self-identification (Frankel, 2004). One conceptualization of sexual identity encompasses four components: (a) biological sex: as reflected in physical anatomy; (b) gender identity: the conviction of being male or female (or ambivalent); (c) sexual orientation: degree of physical and affectional attraction to opposite-sex or same-sex partners, and (d) gender ideology: cultural expectation for masculine or feminine behaviour based on biological sex (Shively & De Cecco, 1977).

If asked to state when they first began to identify as heterosexual, adolescent heterosexual men generally cannot provide a response (Wilkerson, 2007). This may be attributed to what Katz (1995) calls heteronormativity, the assumed "natural" development of heterosexual identity. Although many heterosexual men are unaware of themselves as possessors of a sexual identity, they are not unaware of the cultural pressures placed on them to demonstrate that identity. Here exists an interesting paradox within heteronormativity. One the one hand, HMSI is believed to develop naturally, while at the same time heterosexual men feel compelled to prove that this so-called "natural" development (i.e., HMSI) has taken place.

Hegemonic masculinity and identity-motivated behaviour

If heteronormativity does develop naturally, it should be unnecessary for heterosexual men to prove their HMSI because its appearance would be inevitable and effortless. If one considers the fourth component of sexual identity in Shively and De Cecco's (1977) conceptualization, i.e., gender ideology, it seems plausible that it may not be heterosexual men that are believed to develop naturally but rather "good" men developing naturally into what our culture wants them to be: masculine. If a man views himself as being less masculine than his culturally-shaped understanding of gender ideology says he ought to be, he must work hard to cultivate the appropriate gender-role in order to confirm his HMSI (Kimmel, 1997). This introduction of a value judgment into sexual identity, through gender ideology, illustrates how sexual identity interacts with cultural pressures to produce stress over a gendered self. Consequently, men's response to this stress may perpetuate the problem of "hegemonic masculinity".

"Hegemony" is a sociological term used to describe the dominance of one group over another. In the case of hegemonic masculinity, traditional masculine qualities are given a place of honour while traditional feminine qualities are devalued (Connell, 1995). Masculine over-conformity occurs when men look to rigidly oversubscribe to masculine qualities with the aim of proving their manhood. Such a burden of proof leads men into a never-ending cycle of masculine testimony that is experienced indefinably as a relentless and debilitating trial (Kimmel, 1997).

To prove masculinity this way is to collapse the distinction between "sufficiently" masculine and "absolutely" masculine, setting the stage for what Eisler and Skidmore (1987) call "masculine gender role stress". According to Eisler and Skidmore, masculine gender role stress may occur if a man judges himself unable to cope with the traditional demands of the male role or if a man is required to act in a traditionally feminine way.

Homosexual insults may act as a quick way to alleviate this stress by both verbally demonstrating the speaker's personal allegiance to a gender ideology that supports hegemonic masculinity and by defending sexual identity. According to Plummer (1999), this method of stress reduction and identity defence is first taken up in boyhood and adolescence.

Boyhood and adolescent homosexual insults

Rather than referring to sexuality, boyhood homosexual insults refer to boys who fail to meet the gendered demands of the male peer group (Plummer, 1999). Boys become fearful of these terms because of their status-discrediting potential. During the teenage years, homosexual insults take on a sexual nuance, however, the original meaning associated with gender-role failure and the fear related to it remain active within an adolescent's pattern of awareness (Plummer, 1999).

Boyhood homosexual insults place all men at risk of being positioned outside of the male peer group and thus receiving an outcaste identity. This outcast identity may best be illustrated through the "spectre of the faggot" (Pascoe, 2005, p. 329) which occupies a symbolic space outside the boundaries of heterosexual masculinity and serves to shape and discipline adolescent men. The "faggot" is not simply a man who is gay but instead a man removed from his masculinity and left defenceless in a world of more powerful men who are at liberty to dominate him. Men painstaking strive to avoid this fluid identity by theoretically transferring it to other men via homosexual insults (Pascoe, 2005).

Antecedents to "faggot" identity avoidance

According to Lock and Kleis (1998), men, in contrast to women, are more vulnerable to gender-role anxiety, which may lead to an increased need to defend against threats to gender identity (Burke, 1996). Childhood violation of traditional gender-roles has been linked with self-reported anxiety for both gay and heterosexual men but not for women (Lippa, 2008). This leaves us to ask, "What is it about the male experience that makes gender-role violation so much more agonizing for men than it is for women?" Miller, Bilimoria, and Pattni (2000) reported that femininity in males is considered sexually undesirable by both conservative and liberal heterosexual women, while masculinity is considered sexually desirable. Gender identity as a possible means to sexual opportunity gives heterosexual men a strong reason to feel anxious about their masculinity. In light of this report, some homosexual insults may be interpreted as a reaction to culturally-shaped pressures placed on heterosexual men, and internalized through gender ideology, to demonstrate heterosexual masculinity with the aim of being sexually desirable to heterosexual women. To compete with other men who share the same opposite-sex sexual interest, men must evoke as many masculine qualities as possible, leaving them pressured toward masculine absolutism in order to achieve sexual ends (Dupre, 2001).

The present study

The purpose of the present study was to determine whether differences in HMSI (as measured by magnitude of sexual orientation, masculine gender role, and gender ideology) would influence the likelihood of heterosexual men to use homosexual insults. Specifically, this study aimed to establish whether men who are higher in the different components of HMSI would be more likely to use homosexual insults than men who are lower or moderate in these same components.

The ten hypotheses for this study (Table I) reflect two categories of homosexual insults: "non-sexual homosexual insults" (relating to gender and independent of sexual orientation) and "sexualized homosexual insults" (relating to and dependent on sexual orientation)

Hypotheses 1-6 represent primary hypotheses in line with the literature discussed above while hypotheses 7-10 represent secondary hypotheses of interest related to demographic variables.

Hypothesis 1-2 both assume that using non-sexual homosexual insults produce a "one of the guy's quality" in men (Armstrong, 2006), signifying increased masculinity. More masculine men are perceived as more attractive by heterosexual women (Miller et al., 2000), thus motivating heterosexual men with higher opposite-sex sexual orientation scores to be more likely to use nonsexual homosexual insults to create this effect for heterosexual women. However, sexualized homosexual insults may be interpreted differently by heterosexual women. Their discriminatory nature may have the effect of characterizing a man as hostile. Men with high opposite-sex sexual orientation scores will not be more likely to use more sexualized homosexual insults because their usage may be viewed as unattractive by heterosexual women.

Hypotheses 3-6 all assume that men high in masculine gender-role and gender ideology are more likely to use both forms of homosexual insult (non-sexual and sexualized). This is because both forms will assist men in demonstrating heterosexual masculinity to their male peer groups (Armstrong, 2006; Burn, 2000; Kimmel, 1997; Pascoe, 2005). Hypotheses 7-10 address a few factors that extend beyond sexuality and gender (i.e., age, education, religion, and ethnicity).

We expect that men higher in sexual identity components will be more reliant on homosexual insults to comply with cultural pressures to be masculine and defend against stress. This is because such men are more representative of hegemonic masculinity and can therefore use homosexual insults to make their representativeness more salient. In contrast, men who are low and moderate in sexual identity components are less representative of hegemonic masculinity and are therefore less likely to gain validation from it. Instead, these men may look for alternative ways to manage role pressures (e.g., by promoting diversity).

Methods

Participants

In total, 111 male undergraduate students at the University of Calgary participated in the study. Each received half a bonus credit that could be applied to any psychology course in which they were currently registered. Participants read and signed a consent form before filling out the research instruments and all were debriefed after completing the questionnaires. Data from 11 participants were not included in the analyses either because of missing responses or because, given the focus of the study on heterosexual males, their replies to the question on sexual orientation identified them as other than "predominantly" or "exclusively heterosexual" (i.e., bisexual or homosexual). All participants were required to be at least 18 years of age due to the sexual nature of the study. The total sample for the purposes of the statistical analyses was thus 100 heterosexual male undergraduates (mean age 20.8 years) from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds (Table 2).

Measures

The research instruments used in the study were as follows:

The Kinsey Scale (Kinsey et al., 1948): This Likert scale offers seven distinct categories of sexual orientation, ranging from 0 ("exclusively heterosexual") to 6 ("exclusively homosexual") with varying degrees of bisexuality in between. Since the present study focused on heterosexual males, this scale was used for screening purposes only. The Sexuality Questionnaire (Alderson, Orzeck, Davis, and Boyes, 2010): This questionnaire sought to represent the six components of sexual orientation previously identified by Alderson et al. as: (a) sexual attraction, (b) sexual fantasies, (c) sexual preferences, (d) propensity to fall in love, (e) being in love romantically, and (f) sexual partners. Participants in the present study were assessed separately on opposite-sex and same-sex interest for each of the six components using a Likert scale that ranged from 0 (no interest), 1(unsure), 2 (low), 3 (moderate), to 4 (high interest). The possible score range was 0-24 for opposite-sex interests and 0-24 for same-sex interests (coding of the responses for statistical analyses is described below). Gender role, defined as the "extent to which you see yourself as behaving in traditionally masculine and/or feminine ways" (Alderson et al., 2010, p. 1) was measured using this single statement, addressed separately based on masculine and feminine gender role interests. The possible score range was from 0 (zero or no interest) to 4 (high interest) (coding of the responses for statistical analyses is described below). Overall, the Sexuality Questionnaire offers high internal consistency, with a reliability of alpha =.85 for the complete scale, alpha = .94 for same-sex items, and alpha = .84 for opposite-sex items.

Demographic questionnaire: In addition to the previously presented information on age and ethnic and religious background (Table 2), this questionnaire included two items that measured masculine and feminine gender-role in a slightly different way than in the Sexuality Questionnaire above. Responses were gathered using a Likert scale ranging from 0 ("no traditional masculine/ feminine behaviour") to 4 ("high traditional masculine/feminine behaviour") with interval values of 1 ("unsure"), 2 ("low"), and 3 ("moderate").

Non-Standardized Homosexual Insult Usage Questionnaire: This 22-item questionnaire (Table 3) was developed by the first author to represent participants' usages of homosexual insults. The questionnaire sought to represent "non-sexual homosexual insults" (i.e., insults directed at male gender role behaviour that does not meet traditionally masculine standards, including the presumed gender role behaviour of gay men but not their sexuality) and "sexualized homosexual insults" (i.e., insults that are directed at gay mens' sexuality). The Homosexual Insult Usage Questionnaire offers high internal consistency, with a reliability of alpha = .95 for the nonsexual joking homosexual insult items, alpha = .87 for the non-sexual pressuring homosexual insult items, and alpha = .87 for the sexualized homosexual insults.

Procedures

Participants were provided with a stapled questionnaire that included all of the instruments mentioned above. The first page consisted of the Kinsey Scale, followed by the Sexuality Questionnaire and demographic questionnaire, followed by the Non-Standardized Homosexual Insult Usage Questionnaire. All participants received the same questionnaire package with the same questions in exactly the same order.

After being seated in a large room with space for privacy, participants were provided with a consent form and a copy of the questionnaire. They were told to read and sign the consent form before moving on to the questionnaire. It was made clear that they had 30 minutes to complete both the consent form and the questionnaire. This time restriction was estimated based on the time it took ten volunteer mock participants (approximately 20 minutes) to complete the measures. Participants were made aware that they could choose to withdraw from the study at any time without loss of their half bonus credit. However, they were also told that all material collected up to the point of their withdrawing would be retained by the experimenter and could possibly be used in data analysis. Participants were informed that if they felt uncomfortable answering any of the questions they could leave them blank.

Upon completion, participants were asked to submit their consent form and questionnaire face down to the first author and to give their name for the purpose of assigning the half bonus credit. A debriefing form outlining the purpose of the study was provided and participants were invited to email the first author if they were interested in receiving the final results of the study.

Statistical Analyses

Responses on the questionnaire were entered into the SPSS version 16 computer software program. A formula in SPSS was written to compute the sexual orientation scores based on the data collected by the sexuality questionnaire, the gender-role scores, and the gender ideology scores.

Sexual orientation scores were calculated by adding up the opposite-sex scores and then subtracting the same-sex scores on all six factors, thereby creating a range of scores from -24 to +24. To ensure that all of the numbers had a positive valence, 24 was added to each sexual orientation score. The resulting possible score range was 0 (representing the highest level of same-sex interest) to 48 (representing the highest level of opposite-sex interest). Participants with a sexual orientation score between 42 and 48 were coded as being high in opposite-sex interest while sexual orientation scores between 0 and 41 were coded low to moderate in opposite-sex interest.

Gender-role scores were calculated by subtracting the participants self-reported feminine gender- role score from their self-reported masculine gender-role score. Six was then added to this number to create a possible range of 1-10. This provided a gender-role difference score with 1 being the most feminine and 10 being the most masculine. Men who scored between 9 and 10 were considered high in masculine gender-role, while men who scored between 1 and 8 were considered low and moderate in masculine gender-role.

Gender ideology scores were calculated based on item 13 in the homosexual insult questionnaire that asked, "Do you consider male homosexuality 'unmanly' or otherwise counter to masculinity?" Men who replied "yes" (3) were coded as having a high adherence to traditional gender ideologies and those who replied "neutral" (2) or "no"(l) were coded as having moderate or low adherence to traditional gender ideologies, respectively. High gender ideology in this sense means having a high adherence to a traditional understanding of what makes a suitably masculine man and where homosexuality fits in relation to this expectation.

From the original 22 items of the homosexual insults questionnaire, three items were dropped because their response options were not comparable to the Likert scales of the other items. These were items 15, 16, and 22 (see Table 3). Thirteen items that originally ranged from 0 to 6 were altered to be consistent with the five items ranging from 0 to 5. This was accomplished by accepting all score of 6 as if they were scores of 5. This was done for items 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 17, 18, and 19. Item 13 was not included in the factor analysis because it was to serve as a predictor variable, namely "gender ideology". Statistical analysis was then performed using the SPSS version 16 computer software program.

Results

Factor analysis for the homosexual insult usage questionnaire

Factor analysis was done on responses to the 19 questions retained in the homosexual insult usage questionnaire in order to identify and group items that were measuring the same construct. We were aware at the outset that a sample of 100 was less than desirable for such an analysis (see Discussion) but chose to do so because of the exploratory nature of the study and the novel items in the questionnaire. Inter-item correlations were computed (Pearson product moment correlation) and the resulting correlation matrix was subjected to a factor analysis with varimax rotation of all the variables in the homosexual insult questionnaire. Principal component analysis appeared to be an appropriate way to describe structure, giving unit weight to each variable. Initially, the distributions were examined for each variable to ensure that the particular data set was suitable for factor analysis.

The analysis determined that three factors provided the best fit out of the remaining items and accounted for 71.23% of the variance. The three factors and their Coefficient alpha estimates of internal reliability were: Factor A, non-sexual joking homosexual insult items (alpha =.95); Factor B, non-sexual pressuring homosexual insult items (alpha = .87); and Factor C, sexualized homophobic insult items (alpha = .87) (Table 4).

Factor A included items that assessed the use of homosexual insults around friends and towards friends in a non-sexual jovial manner, hence the label "non-sexual joking homosexual insults." The item numbers that made up this factor were: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, and 14.

Factor B included the items using homosexual insults in a more aggressive way to pressure another man into accepting one's own way of thinking about the world. Like non-sexual joking homosexual insults, this use was also independent of sexual orientation, and was therefore labelled "non-sexual pressuring homosexual insults." The item numbers that made up this factor were: 11, 12, 17, 18, 19, and 20.

Factor C included the items that focused on homosexual insults directed toward the sexuality of gay men with an intent to express contempt and rebuke intimacy between men, hence the label "sexualized homosexual insults." The items that made up this factor include: 6, 8, and 21.

Participants" perceptions of male homosexuality and insults and their scores on related measures of sexual orientation, gender role and gender ideology

Perceptions

Participants' responses to two questions intentionally excluded from the foregoing factor analysis provide insights into their perceptions of male homosexuality and the nature of homosexual insults. Item 13 in Table 3 asked: "Do you consider male homosexuality "unmanly" or otherwise counter to masculinity?" The responses were: "yes" (33%), "'no" (44%), and "undecided" (23%); over half either considered male homosexuality counter to masculinity or were at least undecided about its relation to masculinity. Item 22 in Table 3 asked: "If you were to call a straight man a 'fag' or 'faggot' would you seriously be suggesting that you really and truly believe the man is gay?" The responses were: "yes" (0%), "no" (77%), and "undecided" (2%) with 21% choosing the fourth option "I would not call another man a 'fag' or 'faggot.'" This finding is consistent with the factor analysis in that participants clearly recognized gendered insults (nonsexual homosexual insults) as distinct from insults about sexuality (sexualized homosexual insults).

Related measures

Participants' sexual orientation scores, reflecting their same-sex versus opposite sex sexual interest, ranged from 31-48 with a mean of 43.9, a median of 44.5 and a mode of 48.0 on a scale of 0-48 where higher score indicated greater opposite-sex sexual interest (scores of 42-48 were coded as high and 0-41 as low to moderate).

Gender role scores, reflecting the extent to which participants' saw themselves behaving in traditionally masculine and/or feminine ways, ranged from 5-10 with a mean of 8.5, a median of 9.0, and a mode of 10 on a scale of 1-10. Higher scores indicated higher self-reported masculine gender role.

Gender ideology scores, reflecting perception of whether male homosexuality was unmanly or counter to masculinity, ranged from 1-3 with a mean of 1.9, a median of 2.0, and a mode of 2.0 on a scale of 1-3. Higher scores indicate greater adherence to traditional expectations of masculinity.

Likelihood of heterosexual male participants using homosexual insults: analysis and statistics

In order to determine whether differences in heterosexual male sexual identity (HMSI) influenced the likelihood of heterosexual men using homosexual insults, nine one-way ANOVAs were performed with "low/moderate" and" high" scores for sexual orientation, masculine gender-role, and gender ideology as predictor variables and non-sexual joking insults, non-sexual pressuring insults, and sexualized homosexual insults as criterion variables (i.e. Factors A-C in Table 4). The findings reported in Table 5 provide a basis for the hypothesis testing that follows.

A brief example will serve here as an introduction to Table 5. The first row of the table shows that men with low/moderate opposite-sex sexual interest had lower mean scores (M = 1.26) for likelihood of non-sexual joking homosexual insults (Factor A) than did participants with higher opposite-sex sexual interest (M = 2.10). This difference was significant, F (1, 98) = 6.765, p = .011. Significant differences in this respect were not found for use of non-sexual pressuring homosexual insults (Factor B) or use of sexualized homosexual insults (Factor C).

Another point to be noted in Table 5 is that the 24 mean scores for likelihood of homosexual insult usage ranged from 0.53 to 2.29, all well below the mid-point for the adjusted six-point scale. Despite the strong skewing of the scores to the lower end of the scale, the findings below document numerous important and statistically-significant differences at those levels of insult usage.

Testing of primary hypotheses

Opposite sex sexual interest

Hypothesis 1 proposed that higher opposite-sex sexual interest would correlate with a greater likelihood of non-sexual homosexual insult usage. As noted above, this hypothesis was supported for non-sexual joking homosexual insults (Factor A) in that men with higher opposite-sex sexual interest scores were significantly more likely to use such insults (M = 2.10) compared to men with low/moderate opposite-sex sexual interest scores (M = 1.26) (Table 5; Figure 1). However no such difference was found for non-sexual pressuring homosexual insults (Factor B) (p = .423).

Hypothesis 2 proposed that higher opposite-sex interest would not correlate with a higher likelihood of sexualized homosexual insult usage. This hypothesis was supported (Table 5; Figure 1). Men with high opposite-sex sexual orientation scores were not significantly more likely to use sexualized homosexual insults (Factor C) (M = .97) than were men with low/moderate opposite sex sexual interest (M=.58) (p =.119).

Masculine gender role

Hypothesis 3 proposed that higher masculine gender-role would correlate with higher likelihood of non-sexual homosexual insult usage. This hypothesis was supported (Table 5; Figure 2). Men with high masculine gender-role were significantly more likely to use nonsexual joking homosexual insults (M = 2.29) than men with low/moderate masculine gender role scores (M = 1.53 (p = .006) and that was also the case for non-sexual pressuring homosexual insults (p = .010).

Hypothesis 4 proposed that higher masculine gender-role would correlate with higher likelihood of sexualized homosexual insult usage. This hypothesis was supported (Table 5; Figure 2). Men higher in masculine gender-role were significantly more likely to use sexualized homosexual insults (M = 1.15) than men low/ moderate in masculine gender role scores (M = 0.60) (p = .007).

Gender role ideology

Hypothesis 5 proposed that higher adherence to traditional gender ideologies would correlate with higher likelihood of non-sexual homosexual insult usage. This hypothesis was partially supported. It was not supported for non-sexual joking homosexual insults (p = .086) but it was supported for non-sexual pressuring homosexual insults (Table 5; Figure 3) in that men with high gender ideology scores were significantly more likely to use non-sexual pressuring insults (M = 1.32) compared to men with low/moderate in gender ideology (M = 0.62), SD = 0.80) (p = .001).

Hypothesis 6 proposed that higher adherence to traditional gender ideologies would correlate with higher likelihood of sexualized homosexual insult usage. This hypothesis was supported (Table 5; Figure 3). Men high in gender ideology were significantly more likely to use sexualized homosexual insults (M = 1.60) compared to men with low/moderate gender ideology (M = 0.53) (p < .000).

Testing of secondary hypotheses

Effects of age

Hypothesis 7 proposed that younger age would correlate with greater likelihood of both nonsexualized and sexualized homosexual insult usage. This hypothesis was not supported. Men who were younger than 21 were not significantly more likely to use non-sexual joking homosexual insults (M = 1.97, SD = 1.50) than men who were older than 21 (M = 1.82, SD = 1.19), F (1, 98) = 0.326, p = .569. Men younger than 21 were also not significantly more likely to use non-sexual pressuring homosexual insults (M = 0.95, SD = 1.12) than men who were older than 21 (M = 0.69, SD = 0.75), F (1, 98) = 1.624, p = .206 nor were they significantly more likely to use sexualized homosexual insults (M = 0.94, SD = 1.14) than men who are older than 21 (M = 0.79, SD = 0.86), F (1, 98) = 0.516, p = .474.

Post-secondary education

Hypothesis 8 proposed that less post-secondary education would correlate with increased likelihood of both non-sexualized and sexualized homosexual insult usage. This hypothesis was not supported. Men with one year of full-time post-secondary education or less were not significantly more likely to use more non-sexual joking insults (M = 2.00, SD = 1.52) than men with two years or more of full-time post-secondary education (M = 1.85, SD = 1.28), F (1, 98) = 0.294, p =.589. Similarly, men with one year of full-time post-secondary education or less were not significantly more likely to use non-sexual pressuring homosexual insults (M = 1.02, SD = 1.22) than men with two years or more of full-time post-secondary education (M = 0.72, SD = 0.79), F (1, 98) = 2.189, p =. 142 nor were they significantly more likely to use sexualized homosexual insults (M = 1.00, SD = 1.16) than men with two years or more of full-time post-secondary education (M = 0.79, SD = 0.94), F (1, 98) = 0.963, p = .329.

Religious affiliation

Hypothesis 9 proposed that Abrahamic religious affiliation would correlate with increased likelihood of both non-sexualized and sexualized homosexual insult usage. This hypothesis was not supported. Men from religions that are part of the Abrahamic tradition were not significantly more likely to use non-sexual joking homosexual insults (M = 2.01, SD = 1.49) than men who were not from religions that are part of the Abrahamic tradition (M = 1.85, SD = 1.27), F (1, 97) = 0.376, p = .541. Similarly, men from religions that are part of the Abrahamic tradition were not significantly more likely to use non-sexual pressuring insults (M = 0.94, SD = 1.09) than men who were not from religions that are part of the Abrahamic tradition (M = 0.77, SD = 0.89), F (1, 97) = 0.775, p = .381 nor were they significantly more likely to use sexualized homosexual insults (M = 1.02, SD = 1.19) than men who were not from religions that are part of the Abrahamic tradition (M = 0.75, SD = 0.82), F(1, 97) = 1.657, p = .201.

Caucasian versus non-Caucasian ethnicity

Hypothesis 10 proposed that Caucasian ethnicity would correlate with increased likelihood of both non-sexualized and sexualized homosexual insult usage. This hypothesis was not supported. In contrast, a significant finding was found in regards to ethnicity and non-sexual joking homosexual insults. Non-Caucasian men were significantly more likely to use non-sexual homosexual joking insults (M = 2.22, SD = 1.30) than Caucasian men (M = 1.64, SD = 1.42), F (1, 98) = 4.57, p = .035. Caucasian men were not significantly more likely to use non-sexual pressuring homosexual insults (M = 0.67, SD = 0.98) than non-Caucasian men (M = 1.05, SD = 1.00), F (1, 98) = 3.705, p = .57 nor were they significantly more likely to use sexualized homosexual insults (M = 0.76, SD = 1.02) than non-Caucasian men (M = 1.02, SD = 1.06), F (1, 98) = 1.456, p = .229.

Discussion

A scale newly-designed to assess the usage of homosexual insults by heterosexual men was employed on university students to test ten hypotheses about the relationship of such usage to participants' scores on opposite-sex sexual orientation, masculine gender-role, and adherence to traditional gender ideologies, and to other demographic variables. The hypotheses were predicated on two categories of insult: non-sexual homosexual insults (i.e., insults directed at male gender role behaviour that does not meet stereotypical expectations, including the presumed gender role behaviour of gay men), and sexualized homosexual insults (i.e., insults directed at gay men's sexuality). Factor analysis yielded three categories consistent with these conceptualizations: (a) non-sexual joking homosexual insults, (b) non-sexual pressuring homosexual insults, and (c) sexualized homosexual insults. The relationship between different aspects of male heterosexual sexual identity (HMSI) and usage of such insults is a primary focus of this discussion.

Opposite-sex sexual orientation

Given the apparent abundance of homosexual insults in heterosexual male discourse, the relationship of participants' scores on an opposite-sex sexual orientation scale to insult usage was of interest. As previously noted, the use of homosexual insults may foster male peer group inclusion (Armstrong, 2006) and such group inclusion may serve as an indicator of greater masculinity to heterosexual women (Miller et al., 2000) which, in turn, could increase mens' chances of sexual experience, a further validation of male group approval (Kimmel, 1997). These kinds of outcomes might well provide an incentive for continued use of homosexual insults, particularly among men with higher opposite-sex sexual orientation. We hypothesized such a relationship for non-sexual homosexual insults but found it only for non-sexual joking homosexual insults but not for nonsexual pressuring homosexual insults. As expected, there was no effect for sexualized homosexual insults.

Men may well learn which types of insults are either unattractive to women (e.g., sexualized homosexual insults) or ineffective in increasing women's perception of their stature within their peer group (e.g., non-sexual pressuring insults) and react accordingly. The way women respond to certain patterns of male discourse may reinforce gendered and sexualized teasing. The present findings should provide a stimulus for future research on women's perceptions of men who use homophobic or gendered insults.

Masculine gender-role

In this study, masculine gender role scores of 9 or 10 on a ten point scale were considered "high", and the remainder moderate to low, in relation to their stereotypical masculine behaviours. As hypothesized, males with high scores were more likely to use all three categories of homosexual insult compared to men with lower scores. In all three cases, their likelihood of using such insults was well below the midpoint of the insult usage scale, but the differences were nevertheless statistically significant and may reflect the rationale for the hypotheses. Perhaps highly masculine men have greater status in their male peer group and/or they are more representative of traditional expectations and hence more comfortable in employing gendered insults to subtly or not so subtly cue a patriarchal power structure that both works to their benefit and is already in place. The resulting gendered power and inequality reflected, in particular, in the use of sexualized homosexual insult may also signal a person's need to distance themselves from stigmatized others based on a fear of receiving similar stigmatization (Sigelman, Howell, Cornell, Cutright, & Dewey, 1991). It has been generally believed that those who violate traditional sexual orientation norms also violate traditional gender-role norms (Schneider, 2004). This leads to the mistaken assumption that all men who are gay are also feminine. Men with high masculine gender role scores may use specific patterns of sexualized discourse (including homosexual insults) to secure the advantages associated with gendered power and to avoid the "stigmatization" of being labelled feminine.

Future research should look at the relationship between masculine gender-role stress and homosexual taunting. It is important to establish empirically whether or not masculine gender role stress influences the likelihood that a man will use a gendered insult. Given the serious and sometimes violent outcomes associated with homosexual taunting, more research is required to understand the deep-seated social significance of these powerfully versatile and potentially volatile forms of homosexual insult.

Adherence to traditional gender ideologies

Consistent with the report by Burns (1996) that males with more traditional gender ideologies are less accepting of homosexuality in general, we found, consistent with our hypotheses that men with higher adherence to traditional gender ideologies were more likely than men with low/moderate adherence to use non-sexual pressuring homosexual insults and sexualized homosexual insults. However, there was no such difference in the use of non-sexual joking insults. One explanation for these findings is that men higher in gender ideology may be more seriously against male homosexuality as a legitimate style of manhood but do not treat non-sexual joking homosexual insults as a joking matter. Pressuring or sexualized homosexual insults might thus be seen as a method of aggressive persuasion or manipulation toward a particular gender ideology.

Ethnic background

Among the demographics factors of age, educational status, religion and ethnicity, only ethnic background showed any relationship to use of homosexual insults and in that case only in the usage of nonsexual joking homosexual insults. Our finding that non-Caucasian men were significantly more likely to use non-sexual joking insults than Caucasian men (but not pressuring or sexualized homosexual insults) is important because it highlights Pascoe's (2005) observation that "researchers who look at the intersection of sexuality and masculinity need to attend to the ways in which racialized identities may affect how 'fag' is deployed and what it means in various social situations" (p. 342).

To the extent that different ethnic groups may hold different ideas about what they consider masculine, it could be that masculinity rather than sexual orientation is the defining feature of most or even all homosexual insults. In that regard, our finding that non-Caucasian men were significantly more likely to use non-sexual joking insults may not necessarily indicate that these men were using insults about sexual orientation, per se, but rather that our homosexual insult questionnaire may have highlight behaviours considered more non-masculine by non-Caucasian than Caucasian men. This is not to imply that such insults do not have an undeniable impact on gay men whose presumed "masculinity" is being questioned. Research on the various ideologies that constitute masculinity for different ethnic groups could inform efforts to develop protective factors for young gay and heterosexual males of various ethnic backgrounds who are regularly victimized by homosexual taunting.

Limitations

Comrey and Lee (1992) have proposed that the recommended sample size for a factor analysis should be a minimum of 200 participants. Due to the difficulty in recruiting a larger sample size within the study's time constraints, statistical analysis was performed on 100 participants. While the three factor solution was informative, future studies on this topic that use factor analysis should incorporate larger numbers. Although our original aim was to compare men's' scores on the predictor variables in three groups, i.e., low, moderate, and high, the low and moderate groups tended to be small making it necessary to combine the low and moderate groups to compare to the high group. This was a particular problem with the sexual orientation score groups. Even after grouping men who were low and moderate on sexual orientation scores, the group was small (n = 22) compared to the high group (n = 78).

The gender ideology predictor variable was based on a single question in the homosexual insult questionnaire. This was item 13 that read as follows: "Do you consider male homosexuality 'unmanly' or otherwise counter to masculinity?" Gender ideology, as a component of sexual identity, is supposed to capture a person's understanding of what a gendered person is to be like (Shively & De Cecco, 1977). Someone high in gender ideology would have highly traditional beliefs concerning gender ideology, while someone low or moderate in gender ideology would have low or moderate traditional beliefs about gender ideology. Item 13 does not fully represent gender ideology as well as it could be represented, as it simply asks about one domain of gender ideology: homosexuality and masculinity. In the future, it would be preferable to capture gender ideology in a more complete way, perhaps by defining gender ideology for participants and then asking them to self-report on their beliefs regarding the way a man or woman should be.

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Table 1 Primary and secondary hypotheses

Hypothesis           Description

  1   Men with high opposite-sex sexual orientation
      scores will be more likely to use non-sexual
      homosexual insults (i.e., insults relating
      more to gender and independent of a man's
      sexual orientation) than men with low and
      moderate opposite-sex sexual orientation
      scores.

  2   Men with high opposite-sex sexual orientation
      scores will not be more likely to use
      sexualized homosexual insults (i.e., insults
      that are dependent on a man's sexual
      orientation) than men with low and moderate
      opposite-sex sexual orientation scores.

  3   Men high in masculine gender-role will be
      more likely to use non-sexual homosexual
      insults than men low and moderate in
      masculine gender-role.

  4   Men high in masculine gender-role will be
      more likely to use sexualized homosexual
      insults than men low and moderate in
      masculine gender-role.

  5   Men high in gender ideology will be more
      likely to use non-sexual homosexual insults
      than men low and moderate in gender
      ideology.*

  6   Men high in gender ideology will be more
      likely to use sexualized homosexual insults
      than men low and moderate in gender ideology.

  7   Men who are presently younger than 21 will
      use more non-sexual and sexualized homosexual
      insults than men who are presently older than
      21.

  8   Men who have one year or less of full time
      post-secondary education will be more likely
      to use both non-sexual and sexualized
      homosexual insults compared to men who have
      more than two years of full time
      post-secondary education.

  9   Men from religions that are part of the
      Abrahamic traditions (i.e., Judaism,
      Christianity, and Islam) will use more non-
      sexual and sexualized homosexual insults
      compared to men not from those traditions.

 10   Men who are Caucasian will be more likely to
      use non-sexual and sexualized homosexual
      insults than men who are Non-Caucasian.

* High gender ideology refers to a high investment in or
adherence to traditional gender ideologies. Low and moderate
gender ideology refers to a low and moderate investment in or
adherence to traditional gender ideologies.

Table 2
Selected demographic characteristics of participants

Age
Mean                                 20.8
Median                               20.0
Range                                18-38

Ethnicity
White/Caucasian                      52
Aboriginal                            0
Southeast Asian                      25
South Asian (Indian or Pakistani)     9
Arab/Middle Eastern                   3
Hispanic                              1
Black                                 2
Mixed Race                            6
Other (please specify):               2

Education (highest level
  completed)
Masters Degree                        1
Bachelaureate Degree                  3
Three Years Postsecondary            36
Two Years Postsecondary              16
One Year Postsecondary               30
High School Graduate                 14

Religion
Protestant                           11
Catholic                             13
Christian--Unspecified               20
Jewish                                1
Mormon                                2
Muslim                                6
Hindu                                 1
Buddhist                              5
Native                                0
Spiritual, no label                   7
Atheist                              15
Agnostic                             10
Other                                 8

Table 3
Homosexual insult usage questionnaire

#    Question

 1   How often in pre-pubescence (ages 6-12) did
     you use the word(s) "fag" or "faggot" as a
     generic insult (i.e., an insult you would use
     towards any male, regardless of his sexual
     orientation)? *

 2   How often in adolescence (ages 13-17) did you
     use the word(s) "fag" or "faggot" as a
     generic insult? *

 3   How often in the past year did you use the
     word(s) "fag" or "faggot" as a generic
     insult? *

 4   While around friends how often do you use the
     word(s) "fag" or "faggot" as a generic insult
     for males outside of your group of friends? *

 5   How often do you use the word(s) "fag" or
     "faggot" as a generic insult to describe male
     celebrities or famous persons (i.e. actors,
     athletes, or musicians) you otherwise do not
     know personally? *

 6   How likely are you to use the word(s) "fag"
     or "faggot" as a specific insult (i.e. an
     insult dependent on a man's sexual
     orientation) towards a man who is gay, either
     behind his back or to his face? **

 7   How likely are you to use the word(s) "fag"
     or "faggot" as a generic insult towards a
     straight man, either behind his back or to
     his face, who is obviously attempting to
     "show oft" or appear overly-masculine/macho?"

 8   How often do you use the word(s) "rag" or
     "faggot" to express personal contempt or
     disgust for men who are gay? *

 9   How often do you use the word(s) "fag" or
     "faggot" as a generic insult towards another
     man even though, to the best of your
     knowledge, the man is straight? *

10   How likely are you to call another man, with
     whom you are having a serious disagreement, a
     "fag" or "faggot", either behind his back
     later or to his face during the
     disagreement? **

11   How often do you use the word(s) "fag" or
     "faggot" with the aim of implying that the
     man in question is not a "real man" or in
     some way is unmasculine? *

12   How often do you call another man a "fag" or
     "faggot", in the generic sense, with the
     intention of -challenging- him or having him
     "prove" himself? *

13   Do you consider male homosexuality "unmanly"
     or otherwise counter to masculinity? [yes,
     no, or neutral]

14   How often do you use the word(s) "fag" or
     "faggot" as a generic insult, to refer to
     your male friends, in a way that might be
     considered harmless and basically humorous? *

15   Approximately, how many times a day would you
     say you use the words) "fag" or "faggot"? [0,
     1-2, 3-5, 6-10, or more than 10 times/day]

16   When reflecting on the use of the word(s)
     "fag" or "faggot" as a generic insult do you
     consider this [generic] usage homophobic?
     [yes, no, or undecided]

17   How often do you use the word(s) "fag" or
     "faggot" as a generic insult for men who
     exhibit situational weakness or incompetence?
     For example, how often do you call a man
     a-fag" for being unable to operate a
     particular piece of equipment or complete a
     task? *

18   How often do you use the word(s) "fag" or
     "faggot" as a generic insult to pressure
     another man into conforming to your
     expectations? *

19   How often do you generically call another man
     a "fag" or "faggot" for having an opinion
     (i.e. political, Moral, or preferential) that
     differs from your own? *

20   How likely is it that you would call two
     straight men who appear to have a close and
     caring emotional relationship with one
     another "fags" or "faggots", in the generic
     sense, either behind their backs or to their
     faces? **

21   How likely are you to call a straight man a
     "fag" or "faggot", either behind his back or
     to his face, if he were to express emotional
     tenderness or to act otherwise "feminine"? **

22   If you were to call a straight man a "fag" or
     "faggot" would you seriously be suggesting
     that you really and truly believe the man is
     gay? [yes, no, undecided, or I would not call
     another man a 'fag" or "faggot."]

 * 7 pt. scale reply: "never", "very rarely (once or twice a
year)", "rarely (once or twice every 6 months)", "occasionally
(once or twice a month)", "frequently (once or twice a week)",
"very frequently (almost daily)", or "daily".

** 6 pt. scale reply: "definitely unlikely" (0%), "very unlikely"
(10%), "possible" (50%), "likely" (75%), "very likely" (90%), or
"definitely likely" (100%).

Table 4
Item groupings from factor analysis of homosexual insult
characterizations

Item   Factor A

2      Frequency of using "fag" or "faggot" as a
       generic insult in adolescence

3      Frequency of using "fag" or "faggot" as a
       generic insult over the past year

4      Frequency of using "fag" or "faggot' as a
       generic insult for non-friends around
       friends.

5      Frequency of using "fag" or 'faggot' as a
       generic insult for famous people

7      Frequency of using "fag" or "faggot" as a
       generic insult for men "showing off"

9      Frequency of using "fag" or "faggot" as a
       generic insult for men you know are straight

10     Frequency of calling another man a "fag" or
       "faggot" during a disagreement

14     Frequency of using "fag" or "faggot"
       humorously as a generic insult for male
       friends

Item   Factor B

11     Frequency of using "fag" or "faggot" to imply
       someone else is not really a man

12     Frequency of using "fag" or "faggot"
       generically to challenge another man

17     Frequency of using "fag" or "faggot" to imply
       another man is weak

18     Frequency of using "fag" or "faggot" as a
       generic insult to pressure other men

19     Frequency of using "fag" or "faggot" for men
       who think differently then oneself

20     Frequency of using "fag" or "faggot" for
       straight men who are emotionally close/caring

Item   Factor C

6      Frequency of using "fag" or "faggot"
       specifically to refer to men who are gay

8      Frequency of using "fag" or "faggot" to
       express contempt/disgust for men who are gay

21     Frequency of using "fag" or "faggot" to
       describe a straight man acting feminine

Table 5
Descriptive statistics for the three-factor
homosexual insult characterization

Opposite-Sex Sexual Orientation

                Low/Moderate            High

              M      SD    N     M       SD     N

Factor A *   1.26   1.49   22   2.10    1.31    78
Factor B     0.70   1.24   22   0.89    0.93    78
Factor C     0.58   0.90   22   0.97    1.06    78

Masculine Gender Role

               Low/Moderate            High

              M      SD    N     M       SD     N

Factor A     1.53   1.25   49   2.29    1.43    51
Factor B     0.59   0.80   49   1.10    1.11    51
Factor C     0.60   0.77   49   1.16    1.18    51

Gender Ideology

               Low/Moderate            High

              M      SD    N     M       SD     N

Factor A     1.75   1.34   67   2.26    1.44    33
Factor B     0.62   0.80   67   1.31    1.20    33
Factor C     0.53   0.63   67   1.60    1.31    33

Ethnicity
                 Caucasian         Non-Caucasian

              M      SD    N     M       SD     N

Factor A     1.64   1.42   52   2.22    1.30    48
Factor B     0.67   0.98   52   1.05    1.00    48
Factor C     0.76   1.02   52   1.02    1.06    48

Opposite-Sex Sexual Orientation

               F      df      P

Factor A *   6.765   1,98   0.011
Factor B     0.647   1,98   0.423
Factor C     2.476   1,98   0.119

Masculine Gender Role

               F      df      P

Factor A     7.852   1,98   0.006
Factor B     6.865   1,98   0.010
Factor C     7.606   1,98   0.007

Gender Ideology

               F      df      P

Factor A     3.007   1,98   0.086
Factor B     11.67   1,98   0.001
Factor C     30.91   1,98   0.000

Ethnicity

               F      df      P

Factor A     4.569   1,98   0.035
Factor B     3.705   1,98   0.057
Factor C     1.467   1,98   0.229

* Factor A= non-sexual joking homosexual insults; Factor B =
non-sexual pressuring homosexual insults; Factor C = sexualized
homosexual insults.

Note: To achieve a common insult usage scale for the factor
analysis, thirteen questionnaire items scored as 0 to 6 were
compressed to fit the 0 to 5 format, i.e., scores of 6 were
included with scores of 5 (see Methods).

Figure 1 Likelihood of homosexual insult usage by heterosexual men
with low/moderate and high opposite-sex sexual orientation scores.

Opposite-Sex Sexual Orientation

                       Low/Moderate  High

Non-Sexual Joking      1.26          2.10
Non-Sexual Pressuring  0.70          0.89
Sexualized             0.58          0.97

Note: The group differences for non-sexual joking insults are
statistically significant.

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 2 Likelihood of homosexual insult usage by heterosexual men
with low/moderate and high masculine gender role scores.

Masculine Gender Role

                       Low/Moderate  High

Non-Sexual Joking      1.53          2.29
Non-Sexual Pressuring  0.59          1.10
Sexualized             0.60          1.16

Note: The group differences for non-sexual joking, non-sexual
pressuring, and sexualized insults are statistically significant.

Note: Table made from bar graph.

Figure 3 Likelihood of homosexual insult usage by heterosexual men
with low/moderate and high gender ideology scores.

Gender Ideology

                       Low/Moderate  High

Non-Sexual Joking      1.75          2.26
Non-Sexual Pressuring  0.62          1.32
Sexualized             0.53          1.60

Note: The group differences for non-sexual pressuring and
sexualized insults are statistically significant.

Note: Table made from bar graph.


Tyler L. Brown (1) and Kevin G. Alderson (2)

(1) Department of Psychology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB

(2) Division of Applied Psychology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Kevin Alderson, University of Calgary, Room EdT 302, 2500 University Drive N.W., Calgary, Alberta &2N 1N4. E-mail: alderson@calgary.ca
COPYRIGHT 2010 SIECCAN, The Sex Information and Education Council of Canada
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