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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » So She Must Be The Man In The Relationship ...

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Author Topic: So She Must Be The Man In The Relationship ...
Scarleteen Volunteer
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I was having a conversation with a friend today, about a mutual acquaintance who's openly lesbian. She's a fairly butch lesbian, and at one point my friend said "Well, she's the one who's the man in a relationship, then".

That reminded me of a conversation I had something over three years ago, when I was discussing my own same-sex relationship with a different friend. He wanted to know who was 'the man' in the relationship, and I was at a complete loss as to what to answer. I'd felt like my same-sex relationship was beyond the bounds of heteronormative relationships and gender norms. We were both female - neither of us was 'the man'!

So. How do you feel about applying heteronormative structures to non-heterosexual relationships? Or if you're in a heterosexual relationship, do you feel pressured to enact the prescribed gender dynamics?


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"The question is not who will let me, but who is going to stop me." -Ayn Rand

Posts: 9192 | From: Cologne, Germany | Registered: Sep 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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i think its rediculous to say who is the man in a same sex relationship. for instance a butch female may like other butch females doesnt mean one of them has to be the man. I thin strait people dont reall understand, perhaps they should think about wipped men by women or visa versa

stephanie june

Posts: 2 | From: Las Vegas | Registered: Sep 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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When I think of same-sex relationships, I don't necessarily think "butch/femme." But it could be. There could be a more traditionally masculine or feminine partner. Or both could be masculine, or both feminine. Or both completely genderqueer. Or androgynous. Or something else. It's funny, because everyone has a different expectation. Loads of people would ask, "So, who's the man?" but some will frown at a butch and ask "what's the point of being a lesbian if you're going to look and act like an imitation man?" (Can't remember where that quote's from.)

I recall an episode of Seinfeld where George confronts his ex that he "turned gay" to ask her: "When you two dance...who leads? Do you switch off?"

I think perhaps heterosexual relationships are a lot more variable in gender and structure than they get credit for, too. Besides the saying "We know who wears the pants in that house," there are more indications that gender barriers are breaking down. My uncle and aunt, for instance, have a completely conventional relationship, except that my aunt works, cooks, and gardens while my uncle stays at home, cooks, and cleans. They reverse most things (even parenting roles, generally) from the "norm," but it works fine for them.

What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it's curved like a road through mountains.

~Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire, 1947

Posts: 18 | From: California | Registered: Aug 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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the "who's the man in the relationship?" question really bothers me (i've heard people talk that way a lot too) Of course, there are same-sex couples where the butch/femme thing applies and I definitely think that people should do whatever floats their boat, in this case, apply heteronormative structures to non-heterosexual relationships. but i think that it should be the couple that applies these structures, not people outside of the relationship guessing how things work. but to me, to have someone assume that if I'm in a relationship with a girl, one of us is being "the guy" just kind of bothers me.

also, i totally agree with snail about heterosexual relationships having a lot more variety in structure than they get credit for. this makes the whole "who's the man in the relationship?" question even more ridiculous, since there is no ONE way that a man in a heterosexual relationship acts anyway.

Posts: 21 | From: Chicago | Registered: Feb 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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It's also worth pointing out that butch/femme isn't just male/female, nor is it necessarily (or even very often) a set of heterosexual or opposite-sex roles being applied to homosexual/same-sex relationships. Most women who do butch/femme will tell you that a) it's not about someone being "the men" at all and b) it's a lot more complex than that.

That said, for sure: even when a couple IS trying to enact male/female roles, that shouldn't be up to a third party to define or apply, and I realy liked what you said about masculinity here.

Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Windy-La Raindrop
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Hear hear!

Any outsider looking at my girlfriend and I would instantly say that I am the "woman" of the relationship and she is the "man;" by all clothing, behavior, mannerisms, etc, we fit into theose categories. But people who actually know us just laugh, because, yeah, she may be the one who wears a t-shirt and jeans every day to school, but I'm the one always stealing my brothers' clothes. I may be the one rather obsessed with cooking, but she's the one who's had functional, real-world practice in running a household. I remember when someone told me once that most girl-girl relationships polarize into butch and femme roles, I was so confused... what? But we weren't like that... She's not the man. Neither am I. We're both girls, thank you very much (and happy about that... :-P) so that's what we say to everyone. Forget roles. We're just us.

I'm not as random as you think I salad.

Posts: 23 | From: On the third shelf, right next to the ketchup. | Registered: Oct 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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Gender roles (especially in relationships) in general have always bothered me. The roles people take in relationships are to be defined by the people in the relationship...not by society, random people on the street, how you dress, or what's between your legs. I don't understand why many people seem to assume that every relationship has to have someone playing a more masculine role and someone playing a more feminine role, even when the people involved are of the same sex.

"America is the only country that went from barbarism to decadence without civilization in between."
-Oscar Wilde

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plain milyeh
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the only time i've ever been asked this question myself was by an eleven-year-old snotrag who was harassing me and a female friend (platonic, by the way) because we were (gasp!) holding hands in the park.

if anybody who is over the age of eleven ever asks me this question, they *will* get smacked. it's just what's going to happen.

Posts: 108 | From: caaaaanada. ('cause we've got rocks and trees and trees and rocks...) | Registered: Jan 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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I'm heterosexual, and I've playfully asked myself the same question regarding me and my boyfriend, ahaha. Just to highlight the ridiculousness of the question, I jokingly think; "Oh, I guess I'm definitely the guy, I'm the aggressive one in bed, and he's the one always sobbing over our love life drama." Of course gender roles are just ridiculous when you strip down the trappings of society.

He's my lover, and he's who he is, both of us having a zillion different attributes that are typically scored male or female by society. Should we all take talley's and percentage our femininity and masculinity, and whoever scores more is the "man" and the "woman"? Ahah, thinking about it like that is silly for sure.

Posts: 15 | From: Canada | Registered: Nov 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator

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