Friends can suffer from gender inequality and have to choose whether to accept it or not, according to a new study.
The findings suggest that the two types of friends, friends who are supportive and those who are not, are not mutually exclusive.
Friends who have strong and reliable bonds with their gender are less likely to be ostracised or shunned for being ‘gender sensitive’, the researchers found.
The study, published in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, looked at how gender equality can cause friction in friendship, with people more likely to reject a friend for being too ‘gender insensitive’.
For the study, the researchers interviewed 527 heterosexual, female friends of both genders.
All were asked to complete a questionnaire about their gender identity and gender expression, including the gender they identify as, how they identify, and the gender role they see themselves in.
The results revealed that men are more likely than women to report being ‘sexually harassed’ for being gender non-conforming.
And, the women who are gender diverse were also more likely not to feel comfortable with being treated with respect and friendship by their friends.
In contrast, women who were gender-non-conformative were more likely in general to report feeling ‘insecure’ and ‘uncomfortable’ with their friendships.
And women who have experienced sexual abuse, were more than twice as likely to report that they were ‘sex-negative’.
The researchers believe that this could be because they have experienced abuse as children, but this could also be due to how women were raised, how society is taught to view them and the way society sees men and women.
They also noted that there is a strong correlation between gender equality and friendship.
‘When a friend is gender nonconforming, they may feel insecure and may experience isolation, and may find that they cannot relate to people with a similar gender identity or gender expression,’ the researchers write.
‘This can also lead to the victim becoming more hostile towards their friend.’
The findings also showed that people who have been sexually abused may have higher levels of self-esteem and a stronger sense of self worth, compared to those who have not been sexually exploited.
The researchers found that men who experienced sexual exploitation, were less likely than those who had not experienced abuse to feel confident in their gender, and were more often than not, less likely in the long term to be able to talk about their experiences.
They found that, among men who were sexually abused, the sexual victimisation affected their ability to relate to others.
‘There may be a loss of confidence in one’s own gender,’ the authors wrote.
‘While being sexually abused is associated with increased negative social and emotional well-being, it may also cause a person to view their sexual abuse as being in some way a consequence of their gender.’
‘Being sexually abused can lead to a range of negative outcomes for a person’s life and can lead a person, particularly those who identify as gender-diverse, to feel unsafe and unwelcome.’
The researchers also looked at the ways in which people who were not sexually abused experience social exclusion, such as the fact that friends do not accept their gender as they are, or that they have to explain their gender to people.
People who experience sexual abuse may also feel isolated, lonely and devalued by their gender.
In addition, ‘sexual abuse may lead to social exclusion and exclusion from the wider community’, the study concludes.
And because it affects a person ‘for life’, ‘sexual violence’ can leave a lasting legacy on people’s lives, including on their health.