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DOI: 10.1177/1363460711415216
2011 14: 526 Sexualities
Oscar Guasch
Social stereotypes and masculine homosexualities: The Spanish case

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DOI: 10.1177/1363460711415216
Social stereotypes
and masculine
The Spanish case
Oscar Guasch
University of Barcelona, Spain
The Spanish democracy has brought about important transformations in the cultural
construction of homosexual masculinities. Leaving behind the classical southern
Mediterranean stereotypical images structured around the binary opposition between
top and bottom sexualities a new model has emerged where the idea of gayness
replaces old ways of thinking about male homosexuality. These changes have shaped
both the hegemonic view of homosexuals in society and perceptions by homosexuals
themselves. Slowly, Spanish homosexuals have created new narratives dissociated from
strategies of adaptation to the homophobic contexts of the Francoist regime. Spanish
homosexuals no longer mechanically reproduce social prejudices about male homosex-
uality. They have also developed new frameworks to think about themselves. These
new narratives help Spanish society enrich its own view of homosexual identity by
incorporating variables such as social class and age. This article explores these trans-
formations from a socio-historical perspective and delineates key historical moments:
pre-gay, gay and hyper-gay.
history, homosexuality, masculinities, Spain
This article studies social stereotypes about male homosexuality in Spain since
the beginning of Francoism to the present day. The analysis, comparison and
discussion builds on a critical (re)examination of my own ethnographic sources,
as published (in Spanish) at the end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s
Corresponding author:
Dr Oscar Guasch, Departamento de Sociolog a, Universidad de Barcelona, Diagonal 690, 08034 Barcelona,
Email: oscarguasch@ub.edu
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(Guasch, 1987a, 1987b, 1987c, 1987d, 1991a, 1991b). This early work focused on
the conguration of male homosexualities in Spain and outlined key historical
moments in that process. More specically, a distinction was proposed between
a pre-gay and a gay phase of historical development in the conformation of
sexual regimes.
The typology is recaptured in this article and confronted with
the passing of nearly three decades of magnicent social transformation: a third
period will be, thus, added to the original typology, one that will be presented as
hyper-gay. This article and its predecessors have an undisguised ethnographic
character: it is never the aim to engage with a precise account of the causal
mechanisms underpinning the evolution of cultural representations about homo-
sexuality in Spain. In the absence of alternative sociological works on the subject,
at least as far as the Spanish case is concerned, this article remains preoccupied
with the provision of analytical categories on the topic of how, and in what
direction, Spanish society has changed in what relates to public views on
Many of the ideas presented here are based on research conducted, mostly in
Madrid and Barcelona, between 1985 and 1991. Some rural areas in Catalonia were
also covered. Participant observation was a key aspect of eldwork, particularly
considering my personal involvement in some of the processes discussed.
Information was also obtained from 37 interviews, which could be described as
coming out narratives. Volunteers for interviewing were randomly identied
throughout the data collection process; in some cases I have remained personally
close to the interviewees. The temporal consolidation of these networks, together
with my continuous participation in many homosexual subcultural activities
updates and gives further the validity to the initial data collection process.
This article studies social stereotypes about male homosexuality in Spain and
their transformations. The discussion focuses on male masculinities only, the main
reason for that being the absence of historic ethnographic data on lesbianism. Olga
Vin uales ethnographic approach to lesbian relations in Catalonia, a pioneering
sociological study on Spanish lesbians, was only published in 1999 (Vin uales,
1999). The article also considers how homosexual people react to social stereotypes
at critical historical junctures. Building on previous research, and also on more
recent analysis of media representations on male homosexuality (Llamas, 1997, for
instance), a number of ideal categories will be set out: they might help observers
trace the evolution of social stereotypes.
A threefold historical division is pre-
sented: pre-gay, gay and hyper-gay. Pre-gay is the label that is given here to the
dictatorship (19391975). The gay period starts with the transition towards democ-
racy and covers the last years of the 1990s. We are currently living in the hyper-gay
period. Dierent ideal categories will be discussed in each of periods; some of these
ideal types reect dominant views on homosexuality as represented in the media
and in other spaces for cultural representations. Other types, however, are brought
about when homosexuals think about their own public representations.
The rst two ideal types, namely marica and maricon, dominated cultural rep-
resentations of male homosexuality during pre-democratic times. Translating the
Guasch 527
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words marica and maricon into the English language is not easy. The former is
easily translated into fairy (Cleminson, 2004). According to the dictionary of the
Spanish Royal Academy, marica stands for an eeminate and low-spirited man
with a weak consideration for physical work (RAE, 1992: 1324). The latter word
maricon is laden with sociological meaning, most of which as it is argued in this
article is idiosyncratic to the Spanish case. Maricones, in any case, are to be
viewed as active (top) homosexual males, with a masculine appearance and
virile outlooks. Marica and maricon were derogatory categories; in spite of that,
they were rmly established in popular vocabulary and public cultures. When
transposed to the homosexual universe of those years, these ideal types brought
about two analogous types: la loca (the queen) and el reprimido (the repressed). The
last ideal type discussed here is the gay one, which denes socialization patterns
during the transition years and the time after.
The transition towards democracy brought about important social and politi-
cal transformations (Maravall, 1982). These included changes in the cultural
representations of male homosexualities. Classications based on sexual roles
(active/passive) were replaced by a dierent model around the idea of gayness
(Brandes, 1980). The consequences of these changes were felt at a twofold level; on
the one hand, prevailing social views on homosexuality changed as more positive
references to homosexual behaviour and homosexual identities were introduced.
But internal representations of homosexuality, by homosexuals themselves, also
changed. Aided by the steady recognition of basic civil rights and liberties dur-
ing the transition (Arnalte, 2003: 223250; Calvo, 2005, 94113), Spanish male
homosexuals began to part ways from (derogatory) strategies of adaptation and
survival that only made full sense when observed against the background of height-
ened institutional homophobia. As documented by recent scholarly work on
Francoism and homosexuality, the dictatorship needs to be regarded as a repressive
institutional setting that developed rened techniques to persecute, imprison and
even attempt to cure homosexuals (Arnalte, 2003). At present, Spanish homosex-
uals are less bounded by social prejudices about homosexuality when representing
themselves in public: they have secured a degree of autonomy when thinking
of themselves in public that dees old stereotypes and contributes to the creation
of new ones.
Notwithstanding these important transformations, a dominant social represen-
tation of homosexuality is still active; I call this a hetero-real representation
(Sabuco and Valcuende, 2003; Witting, 2005). Hetero-real representations build
on the socio-sexual values of the so-called heterosexual lifestyle to see homosexu-
ality through heterosexual lenses (Witting, 2005). Heterosexuality can be perceived
as a lifestyle with a set of emotions and consuming practices attached to it (Guasch,
2000). This inspires dominant perceptions of romantic love and marital stability.
For lesbian and gays, hetero-reality supports such (limiting) values as monogamy,
stability, the privacy of sexual relations or the identication between sex and
love. Hetero-real representations of male homosexuality build on old stereotypes
mainly by identifying homosexuals with supposedly female attitudes, capacities and
528 Sexualities 14(5)
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orientations. They recuperate what is most derogatory in old ways of thinking
about homosexuality in public. Like in the past, current hetero-real representations
insist much on domesticity. According to this view, male homosexuals are neat and
tidy, educated and polite with a taste for interior designs, fashion and gastronomy.
In short, social characterizations of homosexuality blend new references with old
ingredients (Mira, 2004). One aim of this article is, by signposting dierent histor-
ical times, to explore these patterns of continuity and change in cultural and social
representations of homosexuality.
The denition and characterization of the three ideal types that are discussed in
this work, namely marica, maricon and gay, is worked out from dominant views on
homosexuality, what I call here social stereotypes. The rst two ideal types were
eshed out during the dictatorship (19391975) and they were intrinsically embed-
ded in the particulars of Spanish society, politics and culture of those years.
The third ideal type (gay) has a hybrid origin, combining domestic features
and the characteristics of the gay model as fabricated in Anglo-Saxon countries
during the late 1970s and the early 1980s. As mentioned before, how social stereo-
types shape inside visions of male homosexuals of themselves is also discussed here.
For these purposes two new ideal types are brought to the fore, namely la loca y el
reprimido: these are presented as the insiders counterparts of the two aforemen-
tioned categories (marica and maricon), which, in this article, are described as
heterosexist social constructions created by a hostile society. Lastly, the article
shows the substitution of old meanings about homosexuality by a narrative
around gayness, a process that takes place both at the level of the homosexuality
community as well as at the level of society as a whole.
Adialectic basedonthe sexgender binary is what organizedclassic social stereotypes
on male homosexuality in Spain. In Clemisons view a particularly strong charac-
teristic of Mediterranean homosexualities and those of some countries of Latin
America was en economy of sexuality based around the active/passive divide
(Clemison, 2004: 413). Each biological sex is assigned to one gender only (Butler,
1999). Well-dened sexual practices are assumed to belong to each gender; by the
same token, each gender is to have a corresponding (and opposite) object of desire.
This model nds its legitimacy in biology. To comply with this normative model, a
male member of the species is to feature male gender markers, crave for women (and
be skilful at having sexual intercourse with them). By the same token, a female
member of the human species is to have female gender markers, crave for men and
wish to be penetrated by them. Here, biological sex, gender, sexual practices and
objects of desire are all part of a neat and well-dened symbolic universe.
Challenging any of those elements, whether it be sexual practices, gender markers
or the object of desire assigned to the biological sex is likely to be conducive to
dierent forms of legal and social discrimination, violence and stigmatization.
Spanish normative sexuality of the pre-gay period is well explained by these features.
Guasch 529
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During the period that I call pre-gay, naming practices among the general
population when referring to male homosexuals insisted upon two categories:
marica and maricon. In both cases social stereotypes built on narratives about
some dominant characteristics of these people, together with a presentation of
the causes of homosexuality. According to existing ethnographic accounts of the
pre-gay model in Spain (Guasch, 1987a and 1987b; but see also the more recent
historical account by Arnalte, 2003) the general population showed a tendency
towards the consideration of maricas as born that way;
as a consequence of
that, maricas were expected to behave as women do. This ideal type is fabricated
from elements already used to characterize women. It follows, thus, that fairies
were expected to be sexually passive; they were also expected to be homely. Maricas
were held to represent a class of homosexuals that can be as resentful and vengeful
as women are (Guasch, 1987d: 77). On the contrary, in being classied as eem-
inate, maricas were allowed a degree of visibility that could not be obtained by
other means.
The second ideal type of the pre-gay period, namely el maricon, shows a
completely dierent constellation of dening characteristics. The Spanish language
considers the former to be of greater oence than the latter (being maricon some-
thing close to a big fairy). Fairies are accidental homosexuals, victims of a genetic
accident; accordingly, their condition is very often explained from a supposedly
revealing pool of biographical data. For instance, he never played football when
he was a kid, he was always playing with his girlfriends, he worked hard at
school (Guasch, 1991b). Fairies have not decided to be the way they are. In this
sense, a fairy is an innocent, and, accordingly, his condition and external behaviour
is only to be pitied, tolerated or justied. That these were generalized social
stereotypes is cursorily conrmed from examination of the legislative debate
that led to the passing of the 1970 Social Danger and Rehabilitation Act (a legal
instrument that commissioned the State with the task of curing homosexuality).
In a statement that nicely summarizes one of the chief arguments presented during
the debate, one member of that Assembly called for a distinction between homo-
sexual suering from endocrinal dysfunction and homosexuals favouring
and practising homosexuality.
The former were to be looked after in special
rehabilitation centres.
The second ideal type of the pre-gay period, el maricon, is socially viewed in
a starkly dierent way: unlike fairies, maricones complied with the gender markers
associated with male humans; however, they challenged normative assumptions and
norms regarding their object of desire (Guasch, 2006). Maricones are, therefore,
guilty of choosing to be the way they are. Social constructions of the ideal type
maricones were intimately associated with the ideas of perversion (Lanter -Laura,
1979) and personal corruption (Huertas, 1987). Social stereotypes during the pre-
gay period saw maricones as masculine males (Guasch, 1991a). In normatively
complying with gender markers, they could access social spaces that were exclusive
to men undetected (as, for instance, changing rooms); because of this, maricones
were generally perceived as a threat. Fairies, dened as eeminate and hence easily
530 Sexualities 14(5)
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recognizable, were associated with sexual passivity. However, the sexual practices
of maricones might correlate well with their gender. In short, it is perfectly possible
that they could be sexually active. What follows from here is easy to see: other
males fear maricones as a sexual threat to themselves, but also to children and
young persons.
References to maricones as dangerous predators abound in popular cultural
narratives, and also in the artistic production of the time. As an example, a note
can be made about the works of Mauricio Carlavilla. Carlavilla was a particularly
unsympathetic and obscure gure in Spains recent past; he was close to the leading
personalities of the dictatorship and worked with the information services (Preston,
2007: 8). He wrote to great acclaim on such resonant issues as anti-communism
or Judaism. His 1956 book Sodomitas (sodomites) presented maricones (or sod-
omites) as insatiable predators, perverts, who disguised themselves as normal,
respectable Spaniards, and who craved for young boys. Against this background,
it will surprise nobody to nd that homophobic violence against maricones was
framed as an act of legitimate defence.
In the dierent diagnoses about the underpinnings of perversion lie the
variations in societal responses to homosexuality. Culturally, maricas were
regarded as women-like men and, thus, could be treated as such by the rest of
society. Spanish (heterosexual) males of the time felt entitled to protect, defend,
look after and even fuck male maricas without feeling questioned about their
masculinity in so doing. Maricones on the other hand, deserved hatred for dwelling
in the land of lies. They disguised themselves as something they were really not.
A clandestine living and legal repression were recurrent features of homosexual
life-styles during the pre-gay period (Olmeda, 2004). Homosexuals lived what
could be dened as times of hard homophobia, with a legal apparatus tuned
to criminalize homosexual behaviour (Arnalte, 2003). The 1954 reform of the
so-called Vagrancy Act (Ley de Vagos y Maleantes) dened homosexuality as a
criminal oence (Calvo, 2005; Llamas and Vila, 1999). And in 1970 the so-called
Social Dangers Act was passed: in spite of commanding an eort to cure and
rehabilitate recurrent homosexuals, the law was in eect a new criminal law in
the hands of law-enforcers to punish and restrict (mostly male) homosexual behav-
iour (Fluvia` , 2003). Spanish homosexuals were clearly deprived of the sort of
resistance mechanisms, either cultural of political, that would rest at the heart of
the forthcoming gay model. Lacking the instruments to build up their own signi-
fying stories, narratives and myths, homosexuals during the pre-gay period very
often reproduced dominant homophobic prejudices against some forms of male
homosexuality. It is the assimilation of those prejudices that causes feelings of guilt
around sexual stigma (Plummer, 1991: 174). A similar set of words were used by a
Spanish intellectual who suered repression under the dictatorship:
The Hispanic inverted is, for the most part, still aicted by a feeling of guilt; he drags
his feet around the therapists room or the confessionary to discuss his various
neuroses; and very few of them are capable of seeing their behaviour as something
Guasch 531
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perfectly normal, socially anchored, and not by denition as something sinful or
indicative of a mental disorder. (Haro, 1975: 122)
Marica and Maricon are two ideal types that are embedded in the essential
features of heterosexual stereotypes of male homosexuality. In pre-gay homosexual
jargon maricas were often known as locas (queens, amers); maricones, on their
part, were very often called reprimidos what we today might dene as closeted
(Guasch, 1987c). The loca denes that ultimate scenario where a homosexual
male has accepted to comply with the grotesque image that those who oppress
him have come to design (Pollak, 1983: 47). This can be seen as a desperate
attempt to seek integration into a homophobic social environment. A dierent
situation was that of the reprimidos: the lack of political narratives of resistance
during the pre-gay period drove very many homosexuals to self-denial. These
were male homosexuals wary of being associated with the sort of female features
of the locas, and also with their attempts to seek integration: notwithstanding their
sexual behaviour, reprimidos walked away from any public identication with
homosexuality. The strategy of this ideal type ts well with Plummers idea of
the neutralization of experience (Plummer, 1991: 177). Practices are carried out
while their meaning is denied.
The dening features of the pre-gay period can be summarized as follows: rstly,
a feminization of social denitions of homosexuality; secondly, a dearth of internal
narratives to dene homosexuality; thirdly, the reproduction by homosexuals
themselves of prevailing homophobic values. These constraints were heightened
by the lack of social spaces of interaction and socialization; male homosexuals
colonized during the dictatorship a number of social spaces accessible to the
larger population in the pursuit of sexual relations, such as cinemas, public lava-
tories, public parks or beaches.
After the transition: A gay model for Spanish homosexuals
The transition towards a gay model in Spain began in 1975, after the death of the
dictator and the steady consolidation of basic civil rights and liberties; it gained
speed after the victory of Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) in the 1982
general elections; and it reached its zenith by the time Barcelona was invited to
host the 1992 summer Olympic Games. The length of the dictatorship, combined
with the attitude of the Latin queens, full of cultural vigour, who resisted an Anglo
Saxon model based on responsibility (Hocquenghem, 1977: 145) delayed the
introduction of the gay model in Spain. A similar delay can be detected when
thinking of female homosexuality. Together with the very limited social visibility
of lesbianism in Spain before the 1990s (Vin uales, 1999), the strategies of lesbian
political organizations, and particularly their identication with the goals and
mobilization forms of the womens movement, aected the elaboration of new
models of social and cultural representation for female homosexuals in Spain
(see Trujillo, 2009; see also Calvo and Trujillo, in this issue).
532 Sexualities 14(5)
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The gay model has Anglo-Saxon origins and, for that reason, resonates weakly
with Spanish cultural traditions. It is, thus, an imported model. The pre-gay and
gay models are dierent on many accounts. Firstly, the new model oered homo-
sexuals new tools to develop their own meanings and denitions on homosexuality;
prevailing homophobic stereotypes could be thus challenged or outright ignored.
Secondly, the new model featured a masculinization of those gender markers
commonly used for representational purposes: responding to the grotesque picture
of the eeminate homosexual, a super virile male, a macho, became the most
appropriate identity amongst homosexual people (Pollak, 1983: 47). And, lastly,
a recreational, market-oriented subculture emerged during the gay period which
provided particularized spaces for socialization and interaction.
The development of spaces of leisure and recreation (saunas, bars, discos),
particularly in middle-sized and large urban centres such as Madrid, Barcelona,
Valencia, Seville or Bilbao, transformed intra-homosexual relations. A sexual
market of clear geographical boundaries was born, which promoted and facilitated
sexual interaction among males (Villaamil and Jociles, in this issue; see also
Villaamil, 2004). Erotic satisfaction took a new face in these spaces: irting and
seduction were sidelined in favour of easy and fast ways of achieving sexual
pleasure. As Pollack (1983) quite romantically declared, the number of orgasms
became the currency that regulated the democratic trade of pleasure among
participants. A cultural shock of sorts was caused by a new organization of
space in bars and saunas (with the emergence of dark rooms), the introduction
of a new gay iconography (images hanging from walls representing policemen,
cowboys, soldiers or blue-collar workers), and the incorporation of television
sets displaying pornographic pictures (mostly of Anglo-Saxon origins). These
conicted much with the Spanish established tradition of social spaces of a camp
nature, in the cabaret style, where no sexual references could be make overtly
explicit. Of course the new model did not sweep away its predecessor in a fortnight:
a great degree of blending and overlapping was to be found during this period.
During the dictatorship, the possibilities for the development of personal and
collective narratives about sexual diversity were very limited indeed. Homosexuals
were driven towards various forms of clandestine activity and, also, were forced to
nd and develop peripheral spaces for social interaction (Guasch, 1987b). The
dictatorship, in other words, severely restricted the possibilities of subculturiza-
tion, as discussed by Ken Plummer (Plummer, 1995: 88). The transition towards
democracy caused important changes in this scenario. Spain was becoming a
formally constitutional society and democracy was gaining terrain, which helped
the transformation in homosexual narratives and stereotypes.
Two important developments are associated with the introduction of the gay
model in Spain: rst, the process of regime change (Guasch, 1991a); second, the
emergence of new political organizations concerned with homosexual rights
recognition that could be set in motion with the steady legalization of political
organizations and the granting of civil rights (Calvo, 2005; Trujillo, 2009). It must
be noted, however, that the rst generation of homosexual political organizations
Guasch 533
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felt at odds with leisure-driven gay subcultural institutions. In the view of the early
militants, these institutions had an alienating and demobilizing eect on the
homosexual population (for a thorough discussion of this, see Calvo, 2005:
Chapter 4). As published in one of the rst magazines edited by the Spanish gay
. . . it seems that that situation is changing for homosexual people in Spain . . . guides
include information about bars, saunas, etc., for homosexual people. A new tolerance
seems to be gaining terrain. However, are we to conclude that deeper changes lie
behind this permissiveness? The answer is no! . . . Newspapers will be now telling us
where to go, that is, the places from which we cannot escape. (Lambda, 1978: 1)
Something that marred the eorts of the Spanish gay movement during the
1980s was the fragility of its militancy base and, also, its considerable organiza-
tional weaknesses. As argued in Calvo (2003: 203) homosexual activism in Spain,
and in line with the situation aecting other social movements born during the
transition towards democracy, suered from a grave demobilization crisis. This
partially explains why homosexual political organizations could not lead the trans-
formation in the public representations of homosexuality. Such transformation
unfolded in terms of daily and slow changes in daily life styles and decisions,
mostly around the newly created institutions of the subculture: bars, discos and
saunas. Only with the responses to AIDS which stands as a central element in
the consolidation of the gay model the gap between politics and leisure will be
somehow reconciled. The ght against AIDS created some grounds for cooperation
and collaboration between the commercial subculture and the political gay move-
ment (Guasch, 1991c; see also Petit, 2003).
In sum, deprived of a solid and strong gay political movement, the new leisure-
driven institutions of the gay subculture provided an alternative social environment
for the consolidation of new gay narratives. Remarkably, these narratives gained
shape in overly sexualized environments: in being intra-homosexual relations
more clearly sexualized than before, the foundations for a new stereotype regarding
male homosexuality were established, namely sexual promiscuity. This attribution
to male homosexuals of abnormally developed sexual desires will be conducive to
the constitution of a new category (la gay). Medical narratives about gays and
AIDS, by dening homosexuals as a risk group, will contribute to the formation
of these stereotypes (Guasch, 1992).
The growing sexualization of public images of homosexuality was conducive to
public stereotypes that dened them as hedonist and narcissist individuals.
However, homosexuals were not evenly aected by these transformations.
Firstly, age started to matter; the subculture was mostly participated by youngsters
and males in their 30s and early 40s. It appears as if gay homosexuality was more
concerned with entertainment rather than with responsibility and political partic-
ipation. Secondly, new practices of body management were introduced that paved
the way for a greater use of gyms and sports facilities among gay males. The goal
534 Sexualities 14(5)
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was to emulate the imaginary and gay iconography that came from the USA.
Processes of media representation of male homosexuals as narcissists and frivolous
(which dened them as solely concerned with body image and consumerism) gained
speed in Spain during the 1990s. Something that added to this was the consolida-
tion of a new myth about homosexual lives: their supposedly higher spending
powers and more elaborated consuming habits, linked to a lack of family respon-
sibilities and generally higher educational levels.
Homosexual recreational institutions during the pre-gay model were not easily
accessible and dicult to nd, the more so if a comparison is presented with the
availability of subcultural possibilities during the gay model. In the growing
consolidated commercial ghetto, Spanish male homosexuals found new codes
and images that were so far unknown to them (Aliaga and Corte s, 1997).
Ghetto is of course a value-laden concept. Ghettos are viewed here in a twofold
meaning: as defensive strategies elaborated by homosexuals against a hostile
environment, and as mechanisms of social control. In a scenario dened by
rapid democratization and the attribution of masculine characteristics to the
public representation of homosexuality, old types (locas, reprimidos) were met
with hostility and generally rejected (Guasch, 1987c). In both cases it became gen-
erally assumed that their strategies of adaptation were no longer valid or necessary
in a new social environment. The stereotyped version of womanhood that queens
adopted spurred criticism for a variety of reasons. A rst set of criticism had
homophobic overtones and complained about the cabaret-style of queens. In the
words of an informant, you do not need to be a woman to be gay (Guasch, 1991b:
91). A second set of criticism had political implications and defended the idea that
in a democracy homosexuals could escape social restrictions (in this case related
with the trade-o between feminization and toleration). Reprimidos suered from a
similar reaction from their homosexual peers. The truth is that reprimidos were at
odds with anything that looked or sounded camp; however, they also denied the
adoption of homosexual public identities even when being actively involved in
sexual behaviour with other males. Strategies that denied stigma were rendered
useless and dysfunctional in the context of the new gay model; the gay model, as
presented earlier, provided homosexuals with new gender markers of an undisputed
masculine nature.
The development of a new sexual market around the institutions of the gay
subculture gave age a more central role as a factor to classify and qualify homo-
sexual people. Finding a partner during the pre-gay period was very dicult. Legal
and social persecution forced males to operate clandestinely. Although sexual
attraction was always important when assessing candidates, the chances of estab-
lishing stable social relations with peers was very highly valued. However, the
possibilities of nding numerous sexual partners clearly increased during the gay
model (while the risks dramatically decreased), and, as a result, the appeal of social
relations diminished. In this model intra-homosexual relations gave a premium to
sexual appeal. In other words, by giving more weight to interactions based on
sexuality, and in stark dierence to the pre-gay model, older males began to lose
Guasch 535
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presence and signicance in the context of the new spaces for social interaction.
It can even be said that older males began to suer from a new process of stigma-
tization exclusively linked to age. This is something that will become even more
apparent in the last of the models: namely, the hyper-gay model.
Societal views on homosexuality did not remain impervious to the changes
that were taking place at the homosexual subcultural and political levels. This
explains why societal stereotypes around gay people greatly focused on topics
such as youth and promiscuity, which were soon anointed as essential compo-
nents of the gay experience. In spite of all this, the gay model was the period
when the general population became acquainted with new ways of homosexual
living. Very slowly at rst, society began to make less use of old derogatory cat-
egories, such as marica and maricon; this was the harbinger of a successful process
of societal socialization around gayness. As before, this was a trend to reach its
zenith during the hyper-gay period.
The beginning of the hyper-gay period can be traced to the second half of the
1990s; to a great extent, the hyper-gay model represents a radicalization of the
preceding gay model. The denite institutionalization of the gay category denes
the hyper-gay period, a category that becomes the dominant frame of thinking,
naming and categorizing male homosexuality, both in the case of homosexual
people as well as in the case of the general population. In the periodwe are currently
living in, the old categories of marica and maricon are stamped with the seal of
political incorrectness; being considered examples of homophobic abuse, the gen-
eral usage of these terms by the general population has also declined. At the same
time, however, the intervention of queer activists and thinkers give the words
marica and maricon some life support. Some political sectors closed to anti-gay
ideas also vindicated the old terms (Mira, 1999).
It is also during the hyper-gay period when we witness the consolidation of
large specically homosexual urban spaces (Villaamil, 2004), in cities like
Madrid (Chueca district) or Barcelona (Eixample district). These are urban
spaces with a high proportion of homosexual residents, but which also hosts
large populations from other areas on a part-time basis. Note that the quick expan-
sion of high-speed train links is allowing homosexual people living outside Madrid
or Barcelona to enjoy the commodities and pleasures of those larger places during
short periods of time. In so doing these peoples might be spared the diculties
associated with coming out in small urban environments. We might even speak of
part-time gays.
The hyper-gay period sees a marked diversication in the array of services
specically designed to cater for the needs of the gay population, going clearly
beyond the classic institutions of the gay model. Cinemas, travel agencies, restau-
rants, hotels, shops, elder (homosexual) peoples homes and even some pioneering
services relating to domestic assistance are the fabric from which a new homosexual
536 Sexualities 14(5)
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economy is crafted, transforming the urban districts that host it. In the minds of
some authors (see, for instance, Llamas and Vidarte, 1999), these urban districts
with a high concentration of services and business of a homosexual orientation
should be regarded as small theme-parks. Heterosexuals who feel curious about
the new gay life-style can visit those parts and get acquainted with it: it would be
a heterosexual tourism of sorts. Gay migrations, together with both gay and
heterosexual tourism contribute to the consolidation in the largest Spanish cities
of areas of gay consumerism that are centrally located, visible and accessible to the
entire population (homosexual or not). During the hyper-gay period one can also
witness the proliferation of gay-fairs, many of which look towards the tourism
business. These very often are endowed with nancial and organizational support
by local and regional authorities.
Two other important features of the hyper-gay period can be noted: rst, the
transformation of HIV-related diseases into chronic health problems which leads
to a approach to AIDS as something too banal to be taken seriously (Villaamil,
2006); second, homosexual socialization through the internet. Internet contributes
with new ways of homosexual interaction while, at the same time, accelerating the
process of ghetto-making that commenced during the gay model. Notwithstanding
that, the hyper-gay period is a time of great homosexual visibility. Mass media, and
in particular the ever so popular reality-shows, together with television series,
regularly incorporate homosexual characters. On the other hand, a new legal
framework is being organized internationally to regulate homosexual marriages
(Calvo, 2010; Merin, 2002; Schutter, 2008). It could well be argued that
these laws contribute to the legitimation of public portrayals of homosexual
love. The successful and highly participated gay pride events have given further
visibility to homosexuality. After 2000 these events began to have extensive media
cover, exhibiting record numbers of participants. The prevailing social image of
male homosexuals during the hyper-gay period, as produced in the mass media,
talks about beautiful, frivolous, successful and economically independent males
with, besides, the possibilities of social legitimacy granted through marriage
(Guasch, 2007).
Conclusions: Change and continuity
Important transformations not only in relation to social constructions of homo-
sexuality, but also in relation to how homosexuals think of themselves, have
occurred throughout the three periods discussed in this article. A relaxation of
hard societal reactions of a homophobic character can be identied; homosexuality
escaped criminal punishment while signicant achievements in the eld of civil and
political rights recognition were operated: this is of course the case with marriage
and adoption rights. The social situation of homosexuals has radically improved,
which has resulted in the development of soft management techniques to deal with
homosexuality at the social level. These mechanisms have been characterized as
examples of liberal homophobia (Borrillo, 2001); in other words, the spreading of
Guasch 537
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more permissive norms and regulations conveys the image of success in the quest
for the elimination of discriminations against homosexuals. This, however, also has
the eect of making everyday life homophobia more invisible.
The scenarios where socialization and homosexual interaction take place have
also changed. Homosexuals found very few spaces they could consider their own
during the pre-gay period; peripheral social spaces thus became central to their
interactive strategies. In a departure from that situation, the gay model contributed
with a host of new spaces specically suited to the purposes of gay socialization
(bars, saunas, discos, and so forth); these, besides, developed well-dened urban
frontiers. And the hyper-gay period adds the internet. At present, and in spite of
the great use that younger generations of homosexuals are making of the internet
as a meeting and dating place, an unobtrusive coexistence of dierent spaces of
interaction (each pertaining to the dierent periods) can be detected. It is possible,
however, that the social functions associated with each of them might have
changed. The social and the sexual dimensions of social interaction were equally
important during the pre-gay period. The latter dimension, however, became more
important during the gay model, a process that found true consolidation during
the hyper-gay period thanks mostly to the internet.
On the other hand, and in spite of the fact that the development of ecient new
treatments for HIV might lead many to revive sexual practices of the pre-gay
period (Ferna ndez-Davila, 2009), homosexuals have acquired an iconic reputation
as leaders of the ghts against AIDS in a community context thus replacing old
stereotypes that insisted that homosexuals were promiscuous and infection agents
for HIV (Villaamil, 2006). Social visibility of homosexuality has also increased
(more so in the mass media than in public spaces), while new themes ght for a
place in the agenda, such as homophobic bullying in schools (Generelo and
Pichardo, 2006) or the ght to supplement legal recognition of family diversity
with social and cultural legitimacy (Pichardo, 2009).
Improvements can also be detected in relation to societal reactions to the public
agenda of the Spanish gay movement (Ve lez-Pelligrini, 2008), a great deal of which
has been already assumed by leftist political parties in Spain. The idea of state
feminism (Stetson and Mazur, 1995) describes how gender claims by the womens
movement nd institutional transposition in the form of state structures with a
focus on gender equality. An example of this is the Instituto de la Mujer, the
Spanish womens institute (Valiente, 1996), which is organically part of the
Equality Ministry. What is proposed here is a related concept, namely the homo-
phile State that might use the institutional and political process whereby the
State develops policies to ght homophobia and discrimination. In Spain, homo-
phile state institutions are based mostly at the local and regional levels. A few
examples can be mentioned here, such as the Programa per al Col-lectiu Gai,
Lesbia, Bisexual i Transsexual,
from the Catalonian regional government
(2004), the Pla Municipal per al Col.lectiu Lesbia, Gai, Bisexual i Transsexual
(LGTB) by the Barcelona municipal government (2008),
or even the creation of
a special prosecution oce with a mandate to ght homophobic assaults and
538 Sexualities 14(5)
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violence (for further information on this, see El Mundo, 2009). It is interesting to
note that the Catalonian regional government is part of ILGA (Publico, 2007).
As it has been insisted upon in this article, general social views on male homo-
sexuality have experienced a great deal of transformation in Spain. It is becoming
very dicult to nd, at the level of mass media, stories or news that reproduce
those classic social stereotypes that described male homosexuals as tortured and
isolated, living a miserable and stigmatized life solely because of their sexual ori-
entation. The gay category is what currently governs public representations of
homosexuality in Spain. Gayness, at least in public, has swept away old ways of
talking about male homosexuality. Chances that the public usage of derogatory
categories (marica, maricon) can be received with approval are vanishing; if so
used, the speaker will surely be accused of homophobia. However, it cannot be
denied that the mass assimilation of narratives around gayness by the general
population builds on some constitutive elements of old stereotypes, including
those of maricas.
The pre-gay period was dened by harsh sexism where, according to the logic of
the sex-gender system, homosexuals were attributed female characteristics. This
enabled society to employ existing cultural representations to think about homo-
sexuals. This explains why maricas were so closely identied with women. Building
on that, homosexuals were assumed to be able to sew, iron, cook and do related
housework. Maricas were ultimately assumed to have attitudes and capabilities
that were not the province of normal males (including personal hygiene and
good manners). Current dominant social views on homosexuality have not aban-
doned those references; they have been incorporated into societal views on gayness.
Social views on gays build on a recycled presentation of old maricas from the pre-
gay period, a view where references to various house chores have been replaced by
more sophisticated endeavours (such as a taste in fashion, food or interior design).
The fact that a structural connection can be traced between the stereotypes of the
pre-gay period and current views on gayness suggests the existence of a long-lasting
model of social construction of homosexuality. It is a model that works for a great
part of the male homosexual population in as much as it gives tools for a positive
public presentation of homosexuality.
The self-esteem of Spanish homosexuals has clearly improved over the last 30
years: they can count on their own social and personal narratives to create auton-
omous views on male homosexuality that are not as constrained by hetero-centric
prejudices as before. However, it is also true that some adaptive strategies to soft
homophobia force homosexuals to accept hetero-real views of gays as ever young,
successful, beautiful and nice. Cultivated gays, with a taste for home comfort,
fashion and classical music are at the centre point of this homosexual stereotype.
In doing so some old ways are reproduced. Those gays, in vindicating feelings
of individual and collective normality, ght to assimilate, and comply with
hetero-centric expectations on homosexuality. A hegemonic term for the social
construction of male homosexuality already exists in Spain: namely, the gay cate-
gory. This is a stereotyped and hetero-real category that helps the deployment of
Guasch 539
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political strategies, individual as well as collective, on the public representations of
homosexuality in an environment dened by soft homophobia.
This article was translated from Spanish by Kerman Calvo.
Funding for this article was provided by the Project Los cambios de las pol ticas pu blicas
entorno a la sexualidad femenina desde el franquismo a la democracia: de la represio n a las
pol ticas pu blicas de igualdad, Spanish Ministry of Science.
1. Clemison (2004) discusses public representations of homosexuality in Spain at earlier
times, particularly during the 1920s and 1930s.
2. My own sample of news on homosexuality consists of more than 2000 items, compiled
over a period that begins in 1989 and ends in 2008.
3. Arnalte (2003: 9294), for instance, has recently unearthed the thinking of Vicente Pe rez
Arguile s, a prominent medical expert during the dictatorship, who extensively wrote on
the biological basis of maricas. Arguile s gave voice to the prevailing medical opinion in
Spain on homosexuality that linked, at least in most of the cases, homosexuality with
inherited pathological conditions.
4. Bolet n Oficial de las Cortes Espan olas [Ape ndice n

77]; Diario de las Sesiones

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Oscar Guasch (PhD, Social Anthropology) is Associate Professor of Sociology at
the University of Barcelona. He has published widely on the sociology of sexuality,
masculinities and homophobia; he has also written on the history of heterosexu-
ality. He is currently preparing an ethnographic study on homosexual prostitution
in Spain.
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