Straight Guys More Depressed and Stressed Than Out Gay and Bi Guys

Comments

1
Might a simpler explanation be that gay and bi guys just get laid more (in the aggregate)?
2
Oh, the humanity.
3
As one of my friends (who is gay, poly, & married to a woman--yep, those aren't mutually exclusive) put it, "Once you're settled in a vanilla hetero marriage, your choices are now down to cream or no cream in your coffee. Freaks (sexual freaks) have to work out everything as we go along, and if it's not working, we change it." I believe that's when his wife commented, "That's why I finally married a gay man. The straight ones never worked out."
Gender policing hurts everyone.
4
Finally, someone is focusing on the gender issues faced by heterosexual men. Women can be somewhat manly and be heterosexual, but heterosexual men wear pink, and we question it. Its sad, I am sure there are plenty of straight men who wanted a Barbie while growing up.
5
@1 Nope, although based on my recent observations, gay men primarily view sex as recreational. Straight men view sex as a competition (who can get the most notches on their bedpost). Which sounds like more fun?
6
I know a few folk who concern about being read as queer. Nobody wants to be the only faggot in the room.
7
gay men bang shitloads more than straight men. ask me, i KNOW.
8
who gives a fuck dan stop being a stressed out gay republican. ok. thats the real issue here. your a rob mckenna supporter, i sleep great..
9
Dan, the mail you get is hardly a representative sample of the straight guys in the world. Not to downplay the problems of the straight guys you're talking about, but lots of straight guys go through life without questioning their straightness, or having it questioned by other guys or girls or anybody (at least, not after adolescence -- and adolescence, let's face it, is horrible and stressful for everybody). And yet some of those guys may be depressed and/or stressed, for other reasons altogether. Not everything is about sex or gender identity.

Though sex certainly can reduce stress and depression, and I think @1 may be on to something. I know when I was in my 20s, as a straight guy going home from a club depressed and alone, I envied my gay guy friends who rarely had that problem. Of course I could usually cure that by listening to Morrisey, who reminded me that no matter how I felt, there was a gay guy who apparently had it worse than I did.
10
I'm straight, and honestly, I don't really give a shit whether someone mistakes me for gay. Who might worry about that: homophobes, closet-cases, and homophobe-closet-cases.

Except for homophobes, I don't think people who are 100% straight really stress about being mistaken for gay too much. It doesn't even occur to a 100% straight dude that anyone would think any different. Plus, if Lindsey Graham and the Pope can live as presumptively straight, then anyone can.

My explanation? Some of the "straights" sampled in the study are really closet-cases which skews the average stress levels of the straight group off. I think what is really stressful is being in the closet.

If that explanation isn't right, then I think @1 might be right. Queer people have multiple partners more often and get laid more, both of which conceivably relieve stress. I know I feel more relaxed about my life since my wife and I opened up our relationship 5 years ago.
11
as a straight man, whether or not i pass for straight never crosses my mind. and i'm pretty femme for a straight guy - as in, i actually think about grooming and clothes. i'm too busy trying not to stare at women's breasts.

you get letters from a small segment of the straight male populace.
12
Great post. I'd link to it on my facebook page, but I don't want anyone to think I'm gay . . .
13
We have more sex & fewer children. That pretty much explains it.
15
Gender role issues may be stressful for some straight guys, but I think it's more a case of self-help. Gay men learn fairly early that they need to define happiness for themselves and that they must do the painful scary thing to achieve it. Straight guys might not face that until they're middle-aged or later, when the consequences of the painful self-identification are divorce or career change.
16
It could be that straight men are stressed out because they have to date women, who are usually fucking crazy. I know, that sounds kind of sexist. I don't think much of men either, but at least I don't feel the urge to have sex with them.
17
The reason: Women! Gay and bi dudes don't have to deal with relationships with women. Can I get a what-what?!
18
Interesting, and enjoyed reading the personal aspect of the story, but there is more to it than this. Straight guys' identity is often tied to external things, such as work and relationships (ability to attract women - often not just one, but many). On some level straight guys are expected to be players (by men and women, the former for peer approval, the latter b/c most women don't want to be with a guy that can't get another woman), and are also judged for wanting sex - by others, and/or by themselves (due to hangups, sexual guilt, or Madonna/whore complex nonsense)
19
Thanks, Dan. One of my favorite things you've written.
Would be interesting to look at cortisol levels in cultures where men have more freedom within the stereotypical hetero male identity (e.g., Europe). God forbid an American straight guy wear colored jeans. Or hug a friend in public without a firm pat on the back.
20
Colbert's answer is the right one
21
"a sense of security in our sexual identities and the sense of freedom that comes along with it."

THIS. THIS. FUCKING THIS.
22
@1 has it.

Maybe you just caught me - Mr. Typical Straight Guy married to a low-sex drive housewife - in the middle of a sexless rut. But this lack of sex seriously causes stress. If you drank my cortisol right now you could fight Mike Tyson.

I have never heard of Gay bed death.
23
This study was made in Montreal, and having lived there for a number of years, I'd say it might have a lot to do with Quebec culture.

In the 90s, the term "homme rose" (literally: pink men) was coined to describe the (supposedly) typical Quebec male: sensitive, caring, who did his share of the housework and who took care of the kids, etc. Unfortunately, women had begun complaining, that seemingly-perfect man wasn't much of a stud in the bedroom. After decades of clamouring for less stereotypical gender roles, the women of Quebec apparently (and ironically) found themselves yearning for more macho types.

Now, If I were straight, I might find it stressful to have to go from one end of the spectrum to the other every day.
24
I think its a bunch of factors.

While certainly not every straight guy worried about being perceived as gay, I have known a lot of straight guys who do.

But...

That doesn't account for all of it.

I think @1 may be onto something, but I don't think it is just the amount of sex. Even those of us who are monogamous and not going out and having purely recreational sex with multiple partners seem a bit more satisfied with our sex lives than it seems many straight guys are.

I think it is more about how we have sex, rather than how many people we have sex with or how often we have sex.

For one thing, while there is variation in every population, men and women tend to approach sex differently, and two guys are generally going to be more on the same page about it. Not always, but I think far more often.

But I think the biggie is something that Dan has mentioned before. It's that because gay people don't have automatic sex roles we do, or can, fall into we typically get into the habit of starting off sexual encounters with new people with those magic words, "What are you into?"

We negotiate sex. It's kind of inherent to the process when you are gay. Straight people, while they can negotiate, they have some pretty strong cultural sex roles they can fall into without a need to negotiate, and so a lot of straight guys probably do fall into them without feeling they can express their specific needs or wants.

Gay guys pretty much have to at some point. And I think that even when we settle down, and even if we choose to be monogamous, it just become habit. After years with the same person you certainly don't really have to ask "what are you into?", but there is always room for negotiating. This time person A may want to be the top. Next time person B may want to be the top. The time after that one may decide they just want to hold close and jerk off. Another time they may want to switch off, or opt for sticking with oral, or whatever.

It just seems to me that gay people simply have more opportunity to do this kind of negotiating because it is sort of built into the system for us, and becomes habit.

And on top of it, as someone else mentioned, we are less likely to have kids. I don't have anything against kids, but not having them, and having lots of siblings, relatives, and friends with kids it's easy to see that they are like constant stress creation machines.

I think it all works together.

We gay people have our own stressors. Legal issues due to not being able to marry. Social pressure in some parts of the country. More threats of violence and discrimination.

But I think that while these kinds of things actually have potentially greater risks to us in terms of how they effect our lives, the stress from them doesn't effect us as the kinds of stress that can be produced by more intimate interactions and relationships.

25
Cry me a river. Straight guys do this to themselves, and then take it out on everyone else. Depression and heart disease doesn't begin to make up for the grief they inflict on others.
26
Well if we're going on personal anecdotal experience, most of the gay dudes I see on TV shows like project runway and some of other reality shows are all bitchy, neurotic, self interested, mean dick bags. Don't seem that happy at all.
Except Tim Gunn, he is awesome!
27
Great post - deserves wider distribution. Put your people on it!
28
@23 - Like @11 said, I have never given a thought as to whether someone thought I was gay. Granted, I don't have some marginalized kink, like cross-dressing, that was essential to my personal happiness. And while I don't want to minimize the experiences of cross-dressers or other men who have problems coming to terms versus gender expectations, I don't think that accounts for the majority.

Interestingly, Ricardo @23, what you describe - men trying to fit women's expectations - is done by men precisely because they are trying to impress women which we do because IT IS HARD TO GET LAID IF YOU ARE STRAIGHT.

I hate to typecast men as simple, but really - show me a man who has busted a good load and I will show you a stress free man.
29
@23 I would say that has less to do with anything gender related and more to do with wanting what people don't have right now.

Or, to use a cliche, "the grass is always greener".
30
@ 28 - I agree with you on that - it is very hard to get laid for straight guys compared to gay guys, at least according to my straight friends' experience. And that would explain in great part the lower level of stress in out gay men in general (at least in countries where that's not punishable by death).

Obviously, straight guys will try to fit women's expectations because that's the key to getting laid. But what I'm describing goes deeper than that: it's the way Quebec men are brought up. And if you have been socialized one way, i.e. as a "pink man" - because anything else is frowned upon in your society - and you suddenly have to transform yourself into a man's man at your partner's whim, I'm quite convinced that this dichotomy is also a great source of stress for the heterosexual male.
31
@ 29 - My point is not really about "anything gender related", but about the stress of having to respond to rather contradictory expectations.
32
So explain all the bitchy queers I know?
33
"gay men bang shitloads more than straight men"

And how did that turn out?
34
@ 32 - Bitching is an excellent stress-reliever.
35
Perhaps I wouldn't go so far as to worry over being mislabeled, but I'm always interested on those rare occasions when I'm mistaken for straight why the person thinking so thought so. It's a good chance to learn what I'm doing wrong and correct it.

[But straight guys know they're constantly being scrutinized for evidence of gayness or not-real-man-ness—by themselves, by each other, by their girlfriends and wives—and that scrutiny can make a guy paranoid and insecure.]

Operative words - by each other. He who casts no stones himself shall be the first I declare as deserving no stones cast at him.

This post reads quite a bit like feminist posts defending Bridezillas on the grounds that women are conditioned in that direction from the cradle and before. This is true enough, I suppose, and I would sign on to help solve such a problem, but only once the First Do No Harm mechanism is securely in place. Otherwise, we end up inviting our homophobic uncles in the state legislature to our weddings.
36
As a bi man who is finally completely comfortable with my sexuality, Dan's comments ring true. And in terms of how we address the public health issue for straight men, the answer is right in front of us: as the general public gains GLBT,etc awareness and acceptance, straight men won't be forced to fret about and police their own behavior to the same extent. More and more stuff will become the norm, and a wider range of sexual and gender identity will simple be a non-issue.
Hallelujah.
37
This study's results don't surprise me in the least, and anxiety over sexual identity is not something I'd ever have thought of. I've been mistaken for gay, and while that was annoying to my vanity (because I was trying to project as straight), it wasn't a big deal. It may be an issue for a few guys, but it really seems to me like something gays and bis (e.g. #36) are projecting.

At least for me, the stress is about not getting laid. Getting laid reduces your stress, but NOT getting laid turns the stress up quite a few notches. It's not about women, per se, either. Women are fine when sex isn't in the picture. But women + sex = oy vey. As a bonus, I'll take much more stressful jobs if I think that'll increase my chances of getting laid (read: the stressful job pays better.)

If I were gay, I wouldn't have to worry about whether I was going to get laid or not, and that would make life a bunch less stressful.
39
Well that's changing. The absolutely spectacular and apparently straight UK diver twin Chris Mears appears naked (but showing no genitals) on the cover of the Brit Gay Times, and then put the pic on his twitter photo. He's not worried. It's symptomatic of a lot less gay panic generally among young straight guys.
40
I'll believe it when I see the study. From the article, 87 people around the age of 25 were tested. I'd be curious to see how many people from each group (straight, closeted, and out) were sampled. I'd also like to see if they made any of the classical psychological study errors like studying only college students or studying people in only one specific area that has a less toxic culture. With such a small sample size, I'd be surprised if they got a decent cross section of society, including bigoted and less bigoted areas. And since this was a Canadian study, if it only studied Canadians, a country that has the same civil rights for gays and straights, I'd be surprised if it would be applicable to Americans.

I haven't been able to find an abstract. Does anyone have a link?
41
@40

abstract: http://tinyurl.com/aeh4a9b
pdf: http://tinyurl.com/b6fa69z

Figure 1B shows gay & bi men and straight women have fewer depression symptoms than gay & bi women and straight men. The authors speculate this might be due to more exercise and better diet, since they have a lower body mass index and lower triglycerides.

The groups didn't differ much on having children.

The authors also note an Arizona study in 2005 that showed being out at work leading to more stress (reference 88).
42
I think a big contributor to stress is kids and straight men have more of those than gay men. They also tend to have to worry about supporting a family while a lot of gay men only have to worry about supporting themselves because even when partnered they usually both have jobs. With gay people now having kids more and more, I have a feeling we'll see the stress levels in gay men starting to equal straight men.
43
@41: Thanks a lot for the links!

I think my concerns were valid after reading through the abstract and selection criteria. They only selected people from the greater Montreal area, one of the most gay friendly places in the world. They advertised among university groups, which is a classical psychological study error (77% of gay men were students in this study). But that is even worse in this case because universities are one of the most gay friendly and supportive organizations in society. And they excluded anyone with a severe mental illness. This would apply to heterosexuals as well as gays, lesbians, and bis, but it is also a pretty big issue with the study. The suicide rate of young gay men is five times that of young straight men. Biasing out anyone with a severe mental illness is going to have a disproportionate impact on a measure of mental well-being of gays (I'm not sure what the stats are for lesbians). Finally, add in the small sample size, and I think it is obvious that the only real conclusion that can be found from this study is that if you come out of the closet, your mental health will generally improve. I don't think it supports the conclusion that straights are more depressed than gays and bi guys.

If they did the same study among blue collar workers in Montana which included people with severe mental illness, I'm sure they would get a different result. This study stands in contrast with our understanding of the suicide crisis that exists within the gay community. I'm convinced that the bigotry of society is still killing gays of all ages, especially kids. This study does nothing to dispel that.
44
Sure. It could be any of these psychological explanations. It could also be that the heterosexual men were a little bit older, more likely to be workers than students, more likely to be in a relationship, or any number of other characteristics. Further research required.
45
Colbert is closer than Savage.
It's not gay anxiety.
It is women, but only indirectly.

Straight men spend their lives in dominance hierarchies,
trying to claw their way far enough up the ladder to get laid.
These hierarchies are pyramid-shaped, so most men are towards the bottom,
and being on the bottom is stressful. This comes straight out of the chip studies:
stress hormones correlate directly with social status.

Gay men don't compete for women, so they can mostly opt out of this.
46
OF COURSE GAY GUYS ARE LESS STRESSED!! They don't have to deal with pleasing a woman in their life!

JOKE ALERT! ;)
47
Personally I think its more about straight guys not knowing who they really are an choosing the wrong females. I don't find it too hard to hard to find women to have good wild freaky fun nasty sex with. But then I don't go to typical tight collared straight bars either. Wanna have less stress have fun. Go to renfests an dress up, go to music fests go on a weekend long acid trip. An let the hell loose. Experience life to the fullest if your partner does not want to play dress up get a better partner. Duh. Get away from sterotypes people. Express yourself.
48
Everyone who says that this is about the stress of trying to attract women is right.

I am a perfectly normally intelligent, hard-working, middle class straight man, but if you asked me what the number 1 most difficult, painful, depressing, and infuriating problem in my life is, it is how the heck do I be the kind of man that women like. Be macho? Maybe, but they might be able to tell you're fake. Just be yourself and be confident? Maybe, but what if you're like me and you like reading romance novels and watching 'Girls'? Women assume you're gay and lose any attraction to you instantly. You have to tread a very fine line, especially on first dates.

I'm not saying it's impossible to attract women--it's definitely doable--mostly through economies of scale via online dating--but it's really, really difficult and takes a ton of thought, work, preparation, time, and energy.

Gay men really have it easier. They are all men, and they all know what they like, and generally speaking, they can be themselves
49
...Unfortunately, women had begun complaining, that seemingly-perfect man wasn't much of a stud in the bedroom. After decades of clamouring for less stereotypical gender roles, the women of Quebec apparently (and ironically) found themselves yearning for more macho types.
Helen Gurley Brown nailed it. She took her fellow straight women to task once, commenting [and I work from memory] "We women have finally crafted the sensitive, caring, contributing male. And now that we have them we're calling them wimps." This is why frankdawg @46 may be kidding, but he's kidding on the square. I've yet to meet a gay guy or a lesbian who is oblique about WTF they want out of their relationships, but trying to figure out when the average straight women wants what she says she wants and when she wants the dead opposite of what she says she wants is often an exercise that careens crazily from science to art to craft within a very short amount of time. And that's the average normal ones. ;) Wish it weren't so, but it is.
50
I'm just happy that someone out there sorta kinda gives a shit about straight guys.
51
The unregistered comment @42 also adds another important layer.

Looking around at the white collar world I live in, most of the straight men are sole providers for their families. Combine the stress of the job with the financial strain of providing for several mouths. And, most complain of a lack of sex. Some of the rest are having affairs which adds another layer of stress.

I refuse to believe Grindr exists. It can't be that easy for gay men to find partners, is it?

52
@50: Agreed. It's rather nice to see anything about straight guys that doesn't expressly or impliedly see us as a problem (indeed, often the problem) to be solved.
53
This is not surprising in the least.

Feminist theory has always said patriarchy hurts the very men it privileges. This is why that backlash bs saying feminism=hating men is ignorant sometimes and other times calculated. Masculinity is defined mosly by what is not: feminine, vulnerable, sensitive, submissive (sexually, & otherwise) etc--basically, anything to do with women or girls, of which in patriarchy=weak.

Out gay and bi men subvert patriarchal norms and are therefore free to define themselves (or not, they don't necessarily need to) only by who and what they are, whether or not that involves traits and behaviors patriarchal norms dictate as "feminine". Gender play does not threaten these men's sense of identity.

Of course straight men, the ones invested heavily in traditional masculinity consciously or because they don't know they can do otherwise, are, what's the buzzword? 'Anxious,' I think. They can get off the ride, some don't want to, others don't think to get off. The answer, as progressive glbt and feminist minded people demonstrate, is more education about institutional societal systems and hierarchies and tolerance of differences. The non-anxious (straight) men are hip to these a-changin' times.

All of this is why misogyny I witness from gay men really pisses me off. Glbt issues are inexplicably linked to women's issues, all of which are human issues v the patriarchy (well, kyriarchy, actually, as race, class and even geographic location all tie in, but that's a bit broader than I'll go here).

Anyway, the answer to "what's going on with men" is never "women."
54
'Inexplicably?' I meant 'inextricably linked.' Phew, that was a good joint.
55
Feminist theory has always said patriarchy hurts the very men it privileges.
Which is one of the biggest flaws in feminist theory, because a patriarchy privileges its apex predators (as it were) not the vast bulk of the rest of the male food chain. If you're a working or middle class male then feminism often seems to be more about getting an advantage over you, rather than over the men who really benefit. A good example? Canada's civil service. Women receive hiring preferences (even though they're represented at a rate above their percentage of the population), which means that a man is disadvantaged trying to get in. However, the top ranks of the civil service are disproportionately male. Why? Because the patriarchy ensures that the benefit of the patriarchy doesn't go to men per se, but the tiny group of men at the top. They're quite content to watch women eat the men of their own or lower classes ... it keeps them away from where the real problems lie.
56
All of this is why misogyny I witness from gay men really pisses me off.
I have seen two things related to this statement: (1) Gay men can often be misogynist. Sad, but true. (2) Gay men often get called misogynist (when they're not) by ideological feminists because gay men often love to call BS on some female or feminist realities that straight men are too afraid to say.
57
@52 it's not personal.

It can be uncomfortable to recognize one's privilege, but understanding that the privileges one is institutionally bestowed based on appearance, race, socio-economic status, gender, etc, are bestowed unasked-for can give a bit of perspective. Basically, unless you are actively participating in discrimination, it's not about you: it's about the system.
58
@57. Ah, but feminism correctly noted that the personal IS political, and therefore the political can be intensely personal. When a man loses a civil service job to a woman of equal qualifications because of gender preferences it is deeply personal to him, as it was personal to the woman in, say, 1970 who wouldn't get the job because she was a woman. The simple reality that most progressives I've ever met seem to fail to grasp is that you can't seek an egalitarian society by doing inegalitarian and prejudicial things, and then pat your own ass and say that you're fighting "privilege". "Privilege" is the new go-to word for progressives. It's a valuable concept, and should never be forgotten, but it's also a goddamned club is often used as such and grossly unfairly against people who can be designated (through group identity) as having privilege, but who actually, in their individual reality, have none. I don't want the bad old days of race and gender bias back. I don't think that we're any better off making the same mistakes with a different cast of characters who get fucked over. I think that's where progressives often fall down, truth be told: they talk an egalitarian game, but they're often more about replacing one privileged group with another that they feel is more deserving.
59
@femwanderluster: Feminist theory has always said patriarchy hurts the very men it privileges.

Do feminists consider competing with other straight men for an under-supply of willing sexual partners to be a privilege of patriarchy?

Do they recognize that masculinity is largely a strategy to attract women?

What do feminists make of the fact that women, by and large, reinforce this strategy when selecting sexual partners?

And finally, is feminism a suitable framework for understanding male psychology?

Whatever your answer to these questions, I guarantee you, if straight guys got laid with the ease that gay men do, you'd see a dramatic drop in the population of douchebags.
60
You occupy a privileged space in our society. As a man. Socio-economically, your status as a man might be different than other men. Your race then comes into play. Where do live? That matters, too. Are you older, younger?

All of that is involved in kyriarchy. Patriarchy is the root and trunk of the kyriarchy tree. The other social systems that privilege some people over other people are the branches of that tree, or the sub-hierarchies of the main patriarchal hierarchy, mainly: race, class, location. That's why I think you may want to do further research, at least based on this:

@55 "Because the patriarchy ensures that the benefit of the patriarchy doesn't go to men per se, but the tiny group of men at the top. They're quite content to watch women eat the men of their own or lower classes ... it keeps them away from where the real problems lie."

It seems that you may be experiencing less privilege based on econmic status.

The term "privilege(s)" sounds great, like it means you are automatically rich. In some ways it does, but that depends on the definition of "rich"--is it strictly re:money or does it mean you have a domicile secure from the elements with electricity, some form of convenient plumbing, easily accessible and abundant food, access to reliable care when sick, injured, pregnant etc. "Privilege(s)" though can be subtle, re: through social interactions with others.

Essentially, it goes as follows:
1. Man or woman? (Or other?)
2. Race?
3. How much money do you make/have/is your occupation respected and valued?
3a. What kind of people (aka where do they fit in the kyriarchy tree?) did you have the luck or misfortune to be born to?
4. Where do you live?
5. Are you differently-abled?
6. Do you fit cultural ideals of beauty?
7. Do you subvert any of the above?

And you can keep getting more specific but it all begins with: men privileged over women. Then race, then money and on.

You also say:

@55: "If you're a working or middle class male then feminism often seems to be more about getting an advantage over you, rather than over the men who really benefit."

I can understand this sense of, well, develocitization. A law professor of an ex of mine told a student in his class who asked a similar question about family law and how it seemed to give women more rights than men: "men are here," he said, holding a hand level with his chin, "and women have been here for all of history," now holding his other hand down by his hip, "and when we change these laws, what we're doing is this," he brings the hand by his hip up to his chin, both hands now level. "It can feel like we're privileging women over men, but we're actually just leveling the playing field. Men aren't being brought down, women are being brought up, to be equal, not better than." This same principle applies to affirmative action re:race, etc.

Not to discount your experience, everyone's is valid. Contextualize, I guess. Don't miss the forest for the trees.
61
@ 58

The personal is political, of course, but the context matters is what I'm saying. See 60.
62
Oh, femwanderluster, I do contextualize, and I'm pleased that you so carefully note a multiplicity of contexts. My problem lies in the fact that "context" seems to disappear entirely when the rubber of a given context hits the road of competing needs. To illustrate: it has been my professional experience that women are, outliers to the contrary, grossly privileged in Ontario's family court system: they retain a lot of their former privileges [eg: automatic favouritism in anything to do with child custody because, you know, mommies, even where mommy is a fucking nut, or near-automatic support rights, because, you know, a man's gotta make sure his woman has a good lifestyle but it's now dressed up in egalitarian language about lifestyles]. Yet there is zero, zero, zero feminist support for making sure that the loss of privilege and the gain of equality is a two-way street. (A good example is Abella JA on Canada's SCC and the recent decision on common-law spouses in Quebec: its essentially a feminist polemic divorced from the facts of the case, from the legislative history of the relevant legislation in Quebec, and from an individual's responsibility for their own life choices.)

So, when folks who understand this start hearing about "privilege" they recognize it for the code language that it so often is: it means that the person using the "privilege" argument wants you to give up your interests (even where you aren't privileged but can be deemed to be privileged) but the person making the argument won't even admit that they possess any privilege, let alone give up some of their own.
63
@61: If you're a troll, then bravo. If you're serious, then wow, you completely missed my, seeker, and seandr's points. It looks like you didn't even read his posts.
64
@58 also, what I mean to say and this all relates back to your comment:

@50: "It's rather nice to see anything about straight guys that doesn't expressly or impliedly see us as a problem (indeed, often the problem) to be solved."

Straight guys themselves are not the problem, it's the system that privileges them over others. They can be a problem if they actively support that system, by which I mean their exercising of their privilege causes problems for other people's rights, ie fighting gay marriage or reproductive rights or employment/pay/flexibility or closer to home, how they treat women.

So feminism isn't fighting YOU, it's fighting the system. Feminist criticism is about making people aware of how these systems play out in everyday, personal ways and in actions and thoughts you might not have been conscious of, but its not about personal attacks on you, specific dude, oh you are the worst feminism hates you castrate and kill castrate and kill!

Y'know?
65
Put bluntly, femwanderluster, I believe strongly that considering privilege is immensely important, just as I consider morality and patriotism important. But when somebody starts running "morality" and "patriotism" up front in an argument I know damned well I'm almost always about to be on the receiving end of a conservative con job aimed at leaving me worse off than before. And when somebody starts running "privilege" up front in an argument I know damned well I'm almost always about to be on the receiving end of a progressive con job aimed at leaving me worse off than before. And in both cases I I know that the people screwing me over are oh-so-sure that A Better Society will result.
66
@femwanderluster: You occupy a privileged space in our society. As a man.

The space occupied by men in our society is somewhat more complicated than that. For every statistic showing that men earn more money, there are others that paint a much less rosy picture.

Men are 9 times as likely to be incarcerated as women, they are less likely to finish high school and college, their live-spans are shorter, they are more likely to be the victim of violent crime, suicide rates are much higher, and today we learn that they walk around with more cortisol coursing through their veins. (I should also point out, in case it's not obvious to you, that men are no more likely to be born into wealth than women.)

Things might have been different 60 years ago, but these days, being born male is a mixed bag at best.
67
@65 Ok, wow, not trying to screw you over, just have a discussion.

And "a better society" is always a good aim, in my book.

Then, again, I'm also Norwegian. *Bee boo bop* I come *bop* in peace *bee boo*
68
@66 I hear ya. That's kinda what i was trying to say up thread--yes, man/woman is a dichotomy of privilege, but it's just the first of many. Yes men are privileged over women, but that is then complicated by race and class and a guy won't necessarily FEEL his privilege as a man when his status in other categories is lower, by which lowering his place in the overall hierarchy of the kyriarchy tree.

Phew, sometimes gets a little wordy trying to make a point clearly while also trying not to conflate anything, offend someone, or seem to be condescending.
69
FWIW, @63, thx for the support, but I don't see it as trolling. IMO It's a fairly reasoned advocacy of the parameters of privilege analysis, having only the flaws of not considering its inherent flaws, or the worse flaws in how it is applied. I see it as one of the least club-like uses of it that I've seen in a while.
70
@65 Ok, wow, not trying to screw you over, just have a discussion.
I know. We're having one.
71
Then, again, I'm also Norwegian.
We shall call you "The Swede".
72
@66 - Your stats actually remind me of a good example of the whole "I attack your privilege but I am blind to my own" thing I see so often. When was the last time you heard anybody giving a fuck about the fact that men are killed on the job at a rate about 20 times women's fatalities?
73
@62 as a person who uses the word 'privilege' and discusses kyriarchy, you can rest assured that I recognize my own privileges as a young, blond, blue-eyed, reasonably fit, middle class, white woman. I actively and consciously try to catch moments of privilege, whether its happening socially or in my thoughts or my speech. I fail at times. I will fail again. But I'm open to learning from others' experience and I admit when I'm wrong.

All a part of that A Better Society shit.

Privilege is messy.

You have taken things I've said badly. Perhaps we misunderstand each other. I'm not competing with you or trying to win at SLOG. Jut trying to understand and make myself understood.

Not every discussion is a satisfying one, such is life, huh?
74
@72 no stats here! Totally forgot to staple my bibliography to my paper!

I think that is a fair question and I would support action to change that.
75
@71 my best friend is Swedish and that's what I call her, or, well Svenska, but same thing.
76
@73. So noted. But I stand by my comments on folks asking other folks to be aware of their alleged privilege. Over the years I have noted that progressives often ask folks to consider their own "privilege" the same way that the Catholic Church asks its adherents to consider their own "sin": you are meant to feel shitty about who you are and what you may or may not have done so that the asker can get you to do what they want. I guess that a good way of balancing things would be twofold: (1) be aware of what may be your own privilege; (2) be intensely suspicious of somebody who asks the same of you because they usually have their own agendas and want your help in throwing you under the bus for their own personal or ideological betterment.

Of course, that leaves aside the issue of what we do when we are on the receiving end of privilege. How far must we go in trying to right things? Are we individually obliged to forsake our own advantages trying to make the society better?
77
it'd be interesting to hear from straight guys about their experiences with depression and then later see where those experiences stem from on the kyriarchy tree.
78
Straight guys don't talk about their depression, femW. We try and work it out with sex and when the women say no we just get more depressed. ;)

79
@76 "Of course, that leaves aside the issue of what we do when we are on the receiving end of privilege. How far must we go in trying to right things? Are we individually obliged to forsake our own advantages trying to make the society better?"

These are interesting questions and lead to questions of ethics.

I think to be aware of one's privilege is a start. I don't think one needs to go out of one's way to disadvantage oneself--that would depend on one's sense of charity and one's ability to give. I think that treating others with equality and not purposely trying to disadvantage others or impede on others' rights as human beings--that old stand by 'treat others as you would be treated' is a good standard. I think it's not so difficult or too much to ask of each other.

Then again, I'm a socialist northern european.
80
@76 "you are meant to feel shitty about who you are and what you may or may not have done so that the asker can get you to do what they want."

I do not agree with this.

This is what I meant up thread when I was saying feminist criticism and pointing out privilege is not personal. It's also why I said privilege is messy. Recognizing privilege feels bad at first because it can feel like you, personally, are being held responsible for something you, personally, Mr Seeker6079, did not make happen. This is why it's so hard for the public debate in this country to discuss race--as a white person I feel horrible about slavery, but I was not personally responsible for slavery, nor have I ever nor would I ever 'own' another person. It's not fun and you're right, it makes you feel bad. That's why it's not about YOU but the system that supports race discrimination. Once that focus has switched from you to the system, it doesn't feel bad anymore.

I got my BA in South Africa. Hoo boy, did I ever confront my own privilege in my cultural criticism class as a foreign white girl talking about race and who can be called an 'African' in a class of 200 students, the majority of whom were black and from various African countries. But what was great was that, even as my face burned and I clumsily tried to articulate my point (something about how we say 'African American' in the states), my peers didn't attack me, but countered with their own thoughts. I learned SO MUCH that day. I basically smacked into a wall of glass I thought was open air.
81
Gay males are heterosexual by nature,secretly remain heterosexual throughout their lives
and when around females easily become heterosexual inclined. What gay males fell to say is
as former heterosexual males we didn't reject the female,but they rejected us. Gay males
are always open to pleasure the female,because that's our nature.
Women love homosexuality,when a male turn to homosexuality,he often find success with
the woman. Did you know that gay male couples often invite females into the bedroom...
and they come,often.
Gay males are more heterosexual than the woman gender,that gay male that just like males
does'nt exist...its a myth. If a women want to have sex with us,we will yield,and the more attractive they are,the less we can resist.
Do you know the woman for centuries have been rejecting males,and at the same time would go behind his back and fornicate with her female friendaka"girlfriend". The woman
have been cheating on men with their female friends before the 1700's.
Men walking around everyday with those blindfolders on thinking its cute to not notice stuff.
The woman everyday is moving the government to pass laws & regulations to block males away.

82
@48 it ain't super easy for women either, but I hear you. In your description of yourself, you sound like an average great guy who is hung up on his personal performance of masculinity and whether or not it's the right kind of performance (as in expression of, not sexually) to attract women.

Any woman? Or a specific kind who also likes romance (novels or what have you) and watching 'Girls'?

I have felt similarly in regard to my performance of femininity and dating.

It seems the best idea I've found is to decide to what extent you want to perform masculinity or femininity and think about the kind of person you want to attract and then yourself be a person that kind of person would want to date. Easier said than done, right? .
83
This is a fascinating conversation with seeker and femwanderluster.

But I can't help but back up to fem's orignal post @53. She, Dan Savage (and other feminists) cite the patriarchy and it's supposed enforcement of rigid male constructs as the source of male stress. Yet, every straight guy who has written in has disagreed and cites to more simple explanation that the lack of available sex partners is the cause of stress. (Ever see two rams butt heads for the right to mate with the females?? Something like that).

SeanDr, I would answer your questions in @53 but we would be accused of Mansplaining....
84
Tim, I'm a straight guy and I'd say that I don't assert either/or, but both and more.
85
@81 what the fu--huh?!
86
@84 on this we both agree. Just because A happens doesn't mean B-Z don't also happen. Down with zero-sum! Yes to intersectionality and dualities.
87
Hang in there femwanderluster. Trying to get people to realize who they should really be directing their anger and resentment at has historically been very difficult in this country.

Anyway, I recommend "Self-Made Man" by Norah Vincent for a totally different perspective the pressures men face. It's sort of a "Black Like Me" for gender relations.
88
And even men who engage in homosexual sex are, in many cultures and sub-cultures, defined differently depending on what they do, and where terms equal to 'faggot' are reserved only for those who suck cock or take it in the ass. So there's a tension among straight men to not be the vulnerable partner in any sex act lest they be like a woman (a pussy) or a fag. And that's ultimately what's at the core of homophobia and misogyny: the fear of being sexually vulnerable and by extension, the hatred of those who are sexually vulnerable to men.
89
@ 81 - This is the most stupid thing I've read since... Well, for as long as I can remember.

And not only do you have poor reasoning and ridiculous ideas but your grammar is shit.
90
@ femwanderluster and chi_type too, I suppose. It's disingenuous to say, "We're not attacking you personally, we're criticizing the system."

There is no seperately existing entity called "the system". There are just a whole bunch of men and women who interact. You are criticizing that interaction, particularly and specifically the men who interact; calling it "the system" is just an academic habit to avoid saying plainly what you mean. The problem with patriarchy is male behavior. Period.

That is why men get their backs up. When you say "patriarchy is a problem", if you break it down to day-to-day life, you're basically saying, "Men generally behave badly--but no offense meant."
91
@88 - I think that there is something in what you note there (also noted by DanS), which is the notion of fear of loss. What's that Savage comment? "Suck one cock and you're gay for life", iirc.
I've always found it hilarious listening to some straight girls complain, for example, that they want a MMF and why can't men be comfortable with other men, blah blah, but if there's even a hint of lavender [yes, I am using that dated pejoratively ironically] about a man they book and fast because they, in their turn, are scared. Part of it is, imho, because so many straight women buy into too-traditional notions of what a Man is, and part of it is that our cultural frames still accept (whether we realize it or not) that part of the deal in straight relationships is that the woman controls the sex. A woman with bi male knows that if she sets too thin a ration her man can easily get gay sex somewhere else; a straight woman knows how hard it is for many (most?) men to get laid, and so the control dynamics are very different, very much more in the woman's favour, and therefore very unwelcome. Personally I think that most of this operates at a culturally-programmed subconscious level, but it IS there.
92
@83 yes, it's been fun!

This struck me in your comment:

"Supposed[ly] enforcement of rigid male constructs [is] the source of male stress. Yet, every straight guy who has written in has disagreed and cites to more simple explanation that the lack of available sex partners is the cause of stress."

What we are saying is that 'rigid male constructs' don't give men any margin for error, and failing to meet these constructs of 'what makes a man a real man' can lead to internal struggle and depression.

It relates to how a man performs his masculinity--he's been told the privileged story of the tall handsome wealthy guy with a flashy car and, more recently, looking effortlessly groomed with washboard abs gets all the pussy. Well, turns out different pussies like different kinds of dicks or even other pussies and while you can pay for sex, you really can't pay for a woman who meets all your 'datable' criteria, loves you deeply, and likes the same kind and frequency of sex you like. You have to find her, if you can. And there's the rub--no one is entitled to this kind of relationship. Nor is anyone entitled to sex.

And that's where we start to get into the issue of one person's privilege impeding on others' rights when another person is added to the mix. Not that that happens automatically, but it can.

So, I guess that's an issue with male sexuality that is worth exploring: the straight man's perceived lack of available and willing sexual partners, causes, solutions and context.

Someone do that study, please.
93
@87 I agree, that book was awesome!
94
@87 Stiffed by Susan Faludi is also a great look at masculinity.
95
@90 I don't agree.

I think it's disingenuous to say "the problem with patriarchy is men's behavior. Period." That isn't the ONLY problem--not all men consciously discriminate against women, just as not all white people CONSCIOUSLY discriminate against people of other races.

It is a system of IDEAS. Both ideas and behavior can be changed. If you think I've been sweeter than I should be or just less angry than I should be, you haven't read very many of my SLOG comments. Trust, I value feminist rage. I just don't always think throwing fire is best response. And that's the main idea, to change thoughts and behavior through using one if the oldest tools in the feminist toolbox: consciousness raising.
96
Further clarification:
Call someone a racist and see how well they take the rest of that conversation--one more lost opportunity for a constructive discussion.

If you call attention to racist language or racist behavior, that's calling out one instance to someone's attention, not attacking their character. They can correct that and still feel respected. Now they might think about moments of racism they find themselves unconsciously participating in, or evenly consciously, and maybe they'll stop. Better yet, they might recognize it in others and pay it the change forward. That's how you slowly and surely permeate progressive ideas of equality through the general public. It takes fuckin forever! It helps if those ideas permeate mainstream media and entertainment.
97
Even further:

Attack a person's character and you'll keep fighting each other.

When it's the system of ideas you're fighting, you can potentially win that person over and bam! Now you're both fighting the system, not each other.

Phew. Time for another joint.
98
@92 - I appreciate your perspective. Very thought provoking.

Regarding the inherent lack of available sex partners for straight men, I assume that problem is a simple supply/demand imblalance, i.e. men need sex more than women. (not that men want or enjoy sex more, just get need it more, on the aggregate). For some reason that proposition offends feminists, not sure why.

Happy Friday!
99
I think it's disingenuous to say "the problem with patriarchy is men's behavior. Period." That isn't the ONLY problem-
The problem, femW, is that the "Period" view is all men hear. One of the reasons I stopped calling myself a "feminist" and only know call myself an "egalitarian" is that, in the almost thirty years since I went into uni and then law school and then the workplace (both in the public and private sectors), and in the more than thirty years that I have worked in service or blue collar work (on and off) I have NEVER heard or seen a feminist (de jure or de facto) give a flying f* about correcting those parts of the patriarchy that benefit them. Do I see any feminists pissed off because the vast majority of judges automatically assume that the kids are better off with mommy? No. Do I see any feminists outraged that family care agencies will almost always choose the mother over the father, even where the mother is demonstrably mentally unstable and the father is provably fine? [Google "Elaine Campione"]. No. Do I hear any feminists complaining that support laws are very often unfairly applied? [There was a notorious case here in Ontario where the ex-husband fled the country when the courts upped his combined child/spousal support to over 90% of his pre-tax income.] No. Hell, even mention this stuff and out comes the "MRA" pejorative.

It has always been "it's a shared problem ... but all we're going to do is talk about how you have to change". This is where many men who'd otherwise be feminists are wary of "consciousness raising" because it's the same as dealing with a marital counsellor: if all he wants to talk about is how one spouse is wrong, then that spouse is going to -- and should -- walk away from a rigged game.
100
@95: Woah. Bad use of grammar. Let me try again. "Calling it "the system" is just an academic habit to avoid saying plainly what you mean: that the problem with patriarchy is male behavior. Period."

"Disingenuous--Not candid or sincere, typically by pretending that one knows less about something than one really does." I'm saying that when someone criticizes "the patriarchy", all the while protesting that this isn't personally directed at men, they are being disingenuous. I'm not really interested in discussing the merits of feminism, I'm just objecting to your not owning what you say. I find it a common technique in social criticism, and feminist critiques especially, where we get to avoid saying that anyone *specifically* is at fault, and anyone *specifically* needs to change. It's the system. It's society. Not actual people. When really what you're saying, and what feminism has been saying all along, is that men need to change how they behave toward women. Sure, women may need to be part of that process, but only insofar as it helps to change men's behavior. If that weren't the basic, end-result problem, you wouldn't be involved in this discussion.

So yes, feminist critique is personal, and it is directed at men, because its whole purpose is to change ("privileged") male behavior--not some vaguely apprehended "system". Just say that clearly, and honest discussion can ensue. (This all began as a response to your comment @57, btw.)