Sexual Self-Labels and Personality Differences among Chinese Lesbians

Article excerpt

Distinctions are commonly made regarding preferences for active or receptive sexual roles within the Chinese lesbian community. Three sexual self-labels are typically specified among Chinese lesbians: "T", meaning a lesbian who prefers the active role, "P", meaning a lesbian who prefers the receptive role, and "H", meaning a lesbian without a strong preference for either role. The aim in this study was to examine personality differences within Chinese lesbian sexual self-labeled groups. Among the participants, comprising 217 Chinese lesbians, significant differences were found between sexual self-labeled groups in gender-related and Big Five traits. Ts scored higher than Ps in masculinity and self-ascribed masculinity/ femininity; Ps scored higher than Ts in femininity; Hs gained intermediate scores in a gender-related traits compared to those of Ts and Ps. There were significant differences in the Big Five traits of extraversion, conscientiousness, and emotional stability among the self-labeled groups. Sexual self -labels appear not only to distinguish sexual behavior patterns but may also suggest personality differences among Chinese lesbians.

Keywords: sexual self-labels, masculinity, femininity, Big Five, Chinese lesbians.

Among gay and bisexual men, and men who have sex with men (MSM), distinctions are commonly made regarding preferences for insertive or receptive intercourse (Sanderson, 1994; Wegesin & Meyer-Bahlburg, 2000). Three major self-labels are typically specified: top meaning one who prefers the insertive role, bottom meaning one who prefers the receptive role (Sanderson, 1994), and versatile meaning one without a strong preference for either sexual role (Hart et al., 2003; Moskowitz, Rieger, & Roloff, 2008). However, a few researchers have focused on sexual behaviors among lesbians and bisexual women. Oral sex, digital vaginal penetration, and mutual masturbation were the most commonly reported sexual practices among lesbians (Bailey, Farquhar, Owen, & Whittaker, 2003). Although lesbians use the same sexual self-labels as gay men, their reference to top and bottom indicates one's likelihood of taking the initiative sexually and one's tendency to either give or receive sexual pleasure, instead of a preference for a sexual role (Bailey, Kim, HiUs, & Linsenmeier, 1997).

Sexual self-labels are common among Chinese lesbians (Zeng, Zhang, Liu, Guo, & Ren, 2009; Zheng & Zheng, 2009): those who prefer the active role during a sexual act label themselves "T", those who prefer the receptive role label themselves "P", and those who enjoy both roles equally label themselves "H" (Zeng et al., 2009; Zheng & Zheng, 2009). Zeng et al. reported that 43% of Chinese lesbians engaged only in an active role, while 27% engaged only in a receptive role, and 25% engaged in both active and receptive roles during sexual acts.

In previous studies of gay men and MSM, it has been found that self-labels appear to be associated with psychological (Hart et al., 2003; Moskowitz et al., 2008) and sociodemographic variables (Wei & Raymond, 2011). For example, tops are less likely than versátiles or bottoms to identify as being gay and tend to report higher internalized homophobia compared to versátiles (Hart et al., 2003). Wegesin and Meyer-Bahlburg (2000) suggested that there was an association between top or bottom self-labels and femininity in adulthood. Women's sexual behaviors are also associated with psychological factors. For example, Ethier et al. (1992) found that self-esteem and emotional distress are associated with sexual behavior among adolescent women. However, to our knowledge, there are no published studies on the relationship between sexual behavior and psychological variables among lesbians.

It is possible that lesbians identifying as P, which is often thought of in general culture as being the woman's role in heterosexual sex, may identify more with feminine personality traits. …