October 8, 2013

"New Study Says That Lesbians Hold Hands Better."

A headline at Slate marks the emergence of a new rule in reporting on scientific studies: Where a difference is shown between gay and straight people, portray what is true of gay people to be better.

What's bad about the way heterosexual people hold hands? There's a "dominant" position, and the man takes it. That's funny. I always thought there's a more comfortable position and the man lets me take it. Am I supposed to feel all subordinated retrospectively?
In 1971, the sociologist Erving Goffman wrote that while handholding appears egalitarian, “the details neatly allow an expression of the traditional [heteronormative] ideal.”
What word got replaced by that distinctively un-1971 word "heteronormative"? Here's the context, in Goffman's "Relations in Public," and it turns out he just said "the traditional ideal." Slate's Katy Waldman barged in there with "heteronormative." Why? To keep us from thinking too positively about heterosexual couples for a second there? In case we're unable to realize that "traditional" in 1971 is a reference to heterosexual couples?
[Goffman] continues: “The insides of the two hands are pressed together, in mutual embrace as it were, but the outside of the male's hand typically faces the oncoming world, whereas the outside of the female's hand merely follows in the wake of projection." Goffman believes that the man can "let go at will, since he is the grasper, allowing him to deal with the enemy; she, however, must wriggle out to be free." But, he asks, "For what reason could she have for needing to free her hand?”
Did you ever perceive that it was harder for one of 2 handholders to break loose? This gives new insight into the old Beatles song "I Want to Hold Your Hand." It meant: I want to dominate and control you.

In the new study, by Alison Che and Richard Wassersug in the Journal of Homosexuality, 340 women in same-sex relationships were asked to report on their handholding positions:
Out of that overwhelming stream of variables, exactly two made a difference: height (the taller partner was more likely to lead) and relationship history with a man (the partner who’d dated a guy was more likely to trail). “Our results suggest that handholding position does not reflect a dominance or power differential between partners, at least within a female-female relationship,” the researchers write. Instead, it is matter of anatomical expedience. Straight women should be so rational.
Where is the evidence that straight women aren't going mainly on physical comfort? All I see here is the correlation to having previously been in a relationship with a man, but that seems to suggest that within some same-sex couples, one woman takes what we call the feminine role. And that raises a deeper issue in Waldman's concept of what is "better." Within a couple's physical relationship, do we know that it is "better" for neither to dominant? Waldman wields the pejorative "heteronormative" — the oppressive assumption that what heterosexuals do is the norm — but she's insensitive about insinuating that there's something bad about couples whose erotic feelings arise out of domination and submission.
Che and Wassersug take things a little further by theorizing a link between heights and dating history, suggesting that shorter (smaller) women may feel more “femme” relative to other ladies, which could lead them to adopt traditionally feminine gender roles. Those same roles would also dispose them to dating guys. So the same variable— shortness — that leads gay women to experiment with men might independently steer them toward taking the lower hand position in their same sex partnerships.
Can we take things a little further by theorizing other explanations?! These researchers (and Waldman) are trying so hard to put some formal idea of equality first that they're loading bizarre meaning onto the phenomenon of being short. It would make much more sense to acknowledge that sexual feeling isn't about abstract concepts of equity. A man and a woman — or 2 women or 2 men — can have completely equal respect for each other's worth and still have a sexual relationship with elements of domination and submission. That could even be better. What do these people really know about what is better?

Waldman ends like this:
The life-altering effects of a few inches aside...
Do you find it amusing — that idea that height affects your sexual orientation?
... what difference does it make how we entwine our extremities while meandering through the park? I guess it’s nice to be aware of when your expressions of affection are doubling as power displays. 
Why is that nice? So you can back off from enjoying what naturally felt good to you and align your behavior more with abstract ideals?
Same-sex couples have been held up before as examples of healthy egalitarianism. This study speaks, in one small, specific way, to lesbians’ ability to discard gender scripts that don’t suit them. If only their hetero counterparts were so good at knowing when to tighten a grip — and when to let go.
Learn from lesbians, you hetero counterparts. The press will be leading the way, reporting studies that can be presented as showing that lesbians are teaching us as we progress along the historical arc toward equality.

ADDED: Helping me proofread, Meade read this out loud. At the Beatles reference he sang — "I wanna dominate and contro-o-o-ol you, I wanna dominate and control" — when he got to the end — he was all: "'Equality,' I spoke the word/As if a lesbian wedding vow/Ah, but I was so much taller then/I'm shorter than that now."

73 comments:

TosaGuy said...

I had several riffs on this study, but it's not healthy being this cynical this early in the day.

Matthew Sablan said...

The recent cover of "I want to hold your hand (in a scientifically superior manner)" is off the charts.

Henry said...

No mention of handedness?

Clearly to meet the mark of dominance parlance the dominate partner will want to keep her dominate hand free for pistol handling and hammer throwing and whatnot.

Did the study not compare left-handed and right-handed couples vs. the all important left-right and right-left? It's worthless, then.

Moose said...

I just thank god for pieces like this putting straight men in their place. We need to be dominated!
Wait - did that come out wrong?

EDH said...

These researchers (and Waldman) are trying so hard to put some formal idea of equality first that they're loading bizarre meaning onto the phenomenon of being short.

How dare you suggest that politically correct motivations would drive the results of research. You must be anti-science!

Jess said...

I'll sleep much better tonight.

For years, I've wondered if lesbians held hands better, with the hope someone would spend money on that research, instead of cancer, or one of those other inconsequential maladies that plague our society.

Skipper said...

No doubt this hand holding behavior is the result of global warming.

Michael K said...

Is there really a "Journal of Homosexuality?"

madAsHell said...

The authors are all Canucks. So, thankfully, it wasn't my tax dollars.

Jenny said...

So they found that the taller lesbian was more likely to take the 'dominant' position and this is proof of egalitarianism? Did they not notice that usually men are taller than women in many relationships? Perhaps it is more comfortable for the taller person to take the leading position. No other explanations necessary.

Bruce Hayden said...

I think that the part of the dynamic that may being ignored is the question of whether the lesbians are bi-sexual or homosexual. This appears to be a distinction that is maybe glossed over a lot, esp here, in gay discussions, where they mostly involve gay males. But, I think that there is a fundamental difference here between the two sexes when it comes to those caught in the middle (or, alternatively, able to appreciate the best of both worlds).

My experience is that there are a lot of bi-sexual lesbians out there - a much higher percentage than for their male counterparts. Partly, this is from personal experience - worked next door for awhile to a Lesbian, and met a number of her friends. You could pick out which were which fairly easily - there was the male/female tension with the bi-sexual lesbians, and none with the others. And, given the ages, I was not the least bit surprised that most of the bi-sexual lesbians had been married and had children. Another place where you see this is when you try to dance with a woman, and her partner is much more likely to get into your face about if the one you are interested in is bi-sexual. When I was meeting a lot of lesbians, it sure seemed like a distinct majority were of the bi-sexual variant, but that could have been a result of time and place.

Coming full circle, the previously married lesbians are probably far more likely to be bi-sexual than the never married, and that may be why they fall into the typical feminine role here in regards to holding of hands.

What would be interesting to me though, if we can get any of our previously fairly vocal gay participants here to chime in, is the question of holding hands with gay males. How often is it done? (I suspect less than when women are involved). And, do they think that there is a way to predict which will be dominant, or assume the "male" role here. (And, one reason that there might not be as much hand holding is this very issue of dominance). Just a thought.

YoungHegelian said...

Anyone who edits a quotation and inserts the word "heteronormative" in place of any other word instantly loses all trust.

I mean, jeez, how judgmental can one be? There's a problem with being a top or a bottom? Did the dyke-editor check this out with the gay editor before it went to press?

jr565 said...

Hey do they hold hands better? Do they hae a special grip? Less sweaty palms?

Bob Boyd said...

How did Sonny and Cher do it? Hold hands, I mean.

Civil Sense said...

Meade's "My (Lesbian) Back Pages" parody for the win!

jr565 said...

I think I know the answer to this. As a guy, I'll hold a woman's hand. But it always seems kind of silly, like you're walking with a child. Plus, It just seems awkward. Plus you have to slow down your walking to accomodate the other person and they always Walk so slowly.
So, I think the hand holding is a woman's thing that guys accomodate women on, but if they had their way they'd prefer to not do it.
Hand holding then is probably worse in gays, because its two guys doing what neither has a natural inclination for.
And its probably best with lesbians, since its two women.

El Pollo Raylan said...

This gives new insight into the old Beatles song "I Want to Hold Your Hand." It meant: I want to dominate and control you.

In their earliest days on stage as the Beatles, they played and recorded translated versions of their own songs -- especially in Hamburg clubs. Exhibit A: Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand.

It's entirely possible that John Lennon meant "I want to dominate and control you"; but it's also possible that he meant to extend a hand in the give and take of friendship.

jr565 said...

Then again, maybe I'm not the norm when it comes to hand holding. I think its dumb, but maybe I'm basing my argument on how men are with hand holding on my own reluctance to do it. And my experience is actually not the norm.
Maybe I've been dating women who've been too tall. Maybe I have the grip wrong.
If only I were a lesbian!

Rumpletweezer said...

There's nothing more obscure that they could study? Do lesbians have better teeth, for example. Do lesbians articulate their words more clearly when they speak? Are their whites whiter and their colors brighter?

jr565 said...

In regards to John Lennon, as a young UN he was supposedly not the nicest guy to women. I think the alleGation is he beat some of his girlfriends, maybe even his wife.

The line from getting Better (written by John - the line, not the whole song) "I used to be cruel to my woman, I beat her and kept her apart from the things that she loves. man I was mean but I'm changing my scene and I'm doing the best that I can" may actually be autobiographical.

And so I want to hold Your Hand may actually be about dominance.

jr565 said...

Are the lesbians who hold hands better the bull dykes who dress like lumberjacks? Or lesbians who look and act more feminine. Is there a difference?

Glen Filthie said...

I suppose if some pasty faced liberal idiots want to think queers hold hands better there is no harm in it.

I would suggest, however, that if they are trying to annoy me with the baiting - that they get somebody smarter to do it.

tim maguire said...

I have absolutely no idea "how I hold hands." I just do what feels natural. Next time my wife and I hold hands, I'll have to try and see if I can pay attention and still be natural.

Meanwhile, you raise a good point that, at least in your quoted passages (you read so I don't have to!), is completely ignored--in most gay couples, there is still a husband and a wife, they are just assigned by personality instead of sex.

Which suggests that if two women hold hands differently than one man and one woman, it is for reasons other than dominance.

His conclusion is pure assumption unsupported by any of his cited evidence.

Bendir01c said...

My girlfriend and I have gone over this. She prefers my hand in front of hers (with my palm facing behind me, her palm facing forward).

It has nothing to do with dominance. It's more comfortable for both of us because she's shorter.

surfed said...
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Jim said...

Handholding. You're Doing It Wrong!

surfed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
surfed said...

@Meade - First, he Saw Her Standing There. Then he had to walk over and ask to Hold her Hand. He gave her All of his Loving. If he Fell in Love with her he promises to be true. But really, he really Should Have Known Better about women. Even though he told his friends I Feel Fine because She's a Woman he sometimes feels that I'm a Loser and needs Help! But you know, no matter how bad it gets they can always Work it Out. Because she's just a Girl. Uh, oh...There's a bird that's flown in an apartment paneled with Norwegian Wood. Guys are such dogs... She finds out and he's there alone For No One. It all starts Getting Better between them again. Because you know, All they Need is Love. Eventually though it starts getting boring and the sexual adventure is gone so Why Don't They Do It in the Road (no ones really watching them). Lo and behold they Cum (sic) Together. But things go wrong late in life and they divorce bickering that You Never Give me Your Money (It's the lawyers you know). And, like most good things, everything comes to The End.

Sam L. said...

The writer stretched this past my ability to believe what the writer claims. Not to mention it's in SLATE. She sees what she wants to see, and wants us to believe it. Classic fail.

Moose said...

Just noticed the "heterophobia" tag. I like it...

Mnemosyne's Notebook said...

I'm glad I read the article, since I assumed the headline was "Lesbians Hold Hands Better (Than They Used To Now That They Can Get Married And Practice Hand-Holding Right Out In The Open)."

Mnemosyne's Notebook said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Oso Negro said...

Ugh. Who besides a professor of Gender Studies would give a shit how lesbians hold hands? Props to our professor for noting the gay-must-be-better norm in contemporary gender research. I often fret about the decline of Western Civ, but then other times I just think, fuck it, embrace the decline. Which will include small, enlightened bands of skinny tattoed locavores, scurrying through the dumpsites referring to each other by the gender neutral pronoun "ze".

Inga said...

What's really uncomfortable is if he has big fat bear paw fingers and wants to hold hands in the finger interlock manner. Ouch.

Sigivald said...

Stop reading Slate.

Problem solved.

(Me, I find that the moment I hear talk of "heteronormativity" the heuristic is firmly on the side of "stop listening to this bollocks".

Because it is always bollocks.

This applies equally to every sort of "theory" that uses that variety of babble, be it Gay Theory, Post-Colonial Theory, etc. It's always "Theory", and it's always deeply unconcerned with things like "evidence" and "disprovability".

You know, Science.)

Marty Keller said...

I dunno, perhaps somewhere in the 10,000 unread pages of the Obamacare law is a mandate to lengthen the shorter people and shorten the longer people. This would be the perfect government solution to yet another non-problem addressed by people gripped by narcissism.

Kelly said...

Actually, lesbians and homosexuals are probably of the same size and build as their partner so it probably does seem easier to hold hands. My sister is five foot nothing, her husband is over six feet, it has to be awkward holding hands.

Chuck said...

I LOVE SLATE!!!!

It is Slate, and its founding editor Michael Kinsley, who gave us the quadrennial election year polling of all of the staff members who were willing to make the disclosure; who will you vote for, for President?

In every poll, the Democrat wins by better than 85%. In the last three elections, the Democrat has been winning by better than 90%.

Slate is not as ideological as, say, Salon. But Slate is equally as ideological as, say, NPR. Or the New York Times, or NBC, or Time magazine.

I love Slate. It tells us so much about the mainstream media.

Freeman Hunt said...

Among heterosexual couples I'm not sure that the woman saying, "Being with you is like being with another woman," would be much of a compliment.

gregq said...

"Out of that overwhelming stream of variables, exactly two made a difference: height (the taller partner was more likely to lead)"

Gee, and what's the difference in average male height v average female height? Did these nimrods even stop to consider how much of the normal way is because men are normally taller than women?

Or are they incapable of dealing with that much reality?

dgstock said...

Actually, this has to do with the "carrying angle" of the upper extremity. Men tend to have slight inward rotation at the shoulder, with the palm facing backwards. Women have more anterior rotation of the upper arm, making "man-on-top" more comfortable for both parties

William said...

Is "holding hands" an euphemism for cunnilingus?

Seeing Red said...

I have small hands. My husband has larger hands.

It's beyond silly to think my hands can top his.

Seeing Red said...

Was this research funded by the USG?

Crunchy Frog said...

Among heterosexual couples I'm not sure that the woman saying, "Being with you is like being with another woman," would be much of a compliment.

Unless she's getting her salad tossed at the time.

Meade said...

Surfed,
Cuesto obrigado tanta mucho que can eat it carousel

Speaking of which...

Stay, lesbian lady, stay, stay with your man awhile
Why wait any longer for the world to begin
You can have your que can eat it too
Why wait any longer for the one you love
When he’s Sixty-Four in front of you

paul a'barge said...

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%203:16&version=NKJV

Is it that hard to understand?

David said...

Man hand bigger! Man taller. Why woman no like be with shorter man? Woman no like look down on man. Man no like look up to woman. But man no understand metaphor. Man not get it, metaphor-wise. Better be like old times in Africa. Woman carry stuff on top of head. (Let see man do that! No way. Ha.) Man keep hands free for important stuff. Kill lion. Control remote. Slap forehead in amazement.

SGT Ted said...

Wow, more sexist weirdness from the gay mafia within academia.

How ordinary.

ALP said...

Thread winner @ 2:18. Issue explained in three sentences. Move along, nothing to see here.

Paul Zrimsek said...

This study speaks, in one small, specific way, to lesbians’ ability to discard gender scripts that don’t suit them

Someone send Abdellatif Kechiche a copy.

pduggie said...

"lesbians’ ability to discard gender scripts that don’t suit them."

Or, scripts that aren't written for them. Or, scripts they have no clue about. Or Scripts written in another language.

etc.

Ugh. "I have an ability! An ability to be a woman who has sex with a woman! I have an ability to not follow the script that says I should love a man! I'm special!"

Archie said...

Why those darned Lesbians, they just do everything better.

TomHynes said...

According to this study, lesbians are much more likely to be overweight:http://cnsnews.com/news/article/feds-spend-15-million-study-why-lesbians-are-fat
Maybe it is just fat people who hold hands better.

eddie willers said...

I was 14 when the Beatles came to America.

However, it was many years later that I understood what John was asking when he sang, "Please please me oh yeah, like I please you".

I blushed.

Unknown said...

Ms. Althouse:
Skimming your blog today with no intent to spend any real time on it -- saw this post with 55 comments and ended up wasting a few moments because of a lack of self discipline -- I don't really care, but it's like when you know there's going to be a train wreck.

Mr. Hayden:
the sentence "You could pick out which were which fairly easily -..." didn't parse for me very well, read "pick out" as "pick up" for some reason.

BarryD said...

Sexual dimorphism in the human species means that, at least around the middle of the bell curve for both men and women, a man will have larger hands, stronger muscles, and a few inches more overall height.

Two women are more likely to be similar in height, strength, and hand size, than a man and a woman.

Therefore, it's just plain easier for two lesbians to hold hands.

Also, a drunk man at the middle of the bell curve is far more likely to like seeing two hot lesbians holding hands on the sidewalk, whereas he might yell "get a room!" to a straight couple. So there's that, too.

Jonathan Silber said...

Makes me nostalgic for the sixties rock anthem to lesbos by the Dave Clark Five, "Plaid All Over."

Fearsome Pirate said...

It's been a rule in science for decades that differences between men and women must be reported so as to make women look better. Same with whites and other ethnicities. Gays are just joining the club.

zefal said...

My girlfriend and I hire surrogates to hold each other's hands for us!

Waits for Katy Waldman to call for government assistance so less fortunate don't have to suffer the indignity of having to hold hands.

eddie willers:
Don't put your dirty ideas into John's innocent lyrics.

Although I'm pretty sure Paul had an unfortunate accident that made him half the man he use to be.

Scott M said...

Tenure is a terrible thing to waste.

JamesB.BKK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lee Reynolds said...

All of this fanciful nonsense, these neuroses which the left spends so much of their time and energy obsessing over, are partially the product of a world where it no longer matters whether you are right or wrong. They're free to engage in the most absurd and extreme forms of mental masturbation without it ever affecting their ability to put food on the table or a roof over their head. In fact, because there seem to be so many such people in the world, catering to their neuroses with articles such as those referenced here can actually make one money.

We are victims of our own success as a nation and as a species. If human beings were still struggling against the elements, if being wrong in the face of an unforgiving world spelled disaster and even death, then this sort of nonsense would not exist.

I've called this fanciful nonsense, but there is a better, if cruder, term that more completely captures its essence: bullshit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Bullshit#Argument

Charlie Martin said...

Am I supposed to feel all subordinated retrospectively?

Yes.

j said...

JamesB...how children hold hands would be an interesting baseline. Kids around six where height is not much of an issue and sexual preference is up in the air.

And a tracking study on dominant hand holding behaviour vs. Sexual preference with testable conjectures might be interesting as well...

Bur, as a Canadian, please God not on my dime.

JamesB.BKK said...
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JamesB.BKK said...

Not much discussion on how two heterosexual persons of the same gender hold hands? Or, perhaps how persons without sexual interest in or presumed proclivity toward one another of the same or different genders go about this simple natural act? Or, two children?

Some Schmuck said...

That's funny. Every Lesbian couple that I know, and I know a lot, there is always one that is dominant.

Some Schmuck said...

That's funny. Every Lesbian couple that I know, and I know many, there is always a dominant partner.

Some Schmuck said...

That's funny. Every Lesbian couple that I know, and I know a lot, there is always one that is dominant.

T said...

Tracking the "Rise of PC Science" requires a new book...or rather SEVERAL new books.

T said...

Tracking the "Rise of PC Science" requires a new book...or rather SEVERAL new books.

Tim said...

Scientific studies are always reported such that women and minorities are "better". If that is not possible, then women and minorities are reported as "oppressed".

If an alien read scientific journals of this era, they would think that white men are all nazis.