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For other uses, see Sissy (disambiguation).
"Sissyphobia" redirects here. For the 2001 book, see Sissyphobia: Gay Men and Effeminate Behavior.

Sissy (derived from sister;[1] also sissy baby, sissy boy, sissy man, tomgirl, etc.) is a pejorative term for a boy or man who violates or does not meet the "standard male" gender role. Generally, sissy implies a lack of courage, strength, coordination, testosterone, male libido, and stoic calm, all of which have traditionally been associated with masculinity and are considered important to the male role. A man might also be considered a sissy for being interested in traditionally feminine hobbies or employment (e.g., being fond of fashion), displaying effeminate behavior (e.g. using hair products or displaying limp wrists), being unathletic, or being homosexual.[2]

Sissy is, approximately, the male converse of tomboy (a girl with masculine traits or interests), but carries more strongly negative connotations. Even among gay men, behavior thought of as sissy or camp produces mixed reactions. Some men reclaim the term for themselves.

The term sissyphobia denotes a negative cultural reaction against "sissy boys" thought prevalent in 1974.[3] Sissyphobia has more recently been used in some queer studies;[4] other authors in this latter area have proposed effeminiphobia,[5] femiphobia,[6] femmephobia, or effemimania[7][8] as alternative terms.

Term of affection toward women[edit]

Sissy (or sis) can also be a relationship nickname formed from sister, given to girls to indicate their role in the family, especially the oldest female sibling. It can also be applied to girls as a term of affection from friends who are not family members.

In gender and LGBT studies[edit]

Gregory M. Herek wrote that sissyphobia arises as combination of misogyny and homophobia.[9] Communication scholar Shinsuke Eguchi (2011) stated:

The discourse of straight-acting produces and reproduces anti-femininity and homophobia (Clarkson. 2006). For example, feminine gay men are often labeled "fem," "bitchy," "pissy," "sissy," or "queen" (e.g., Christian, 2005; Clarkson, 2006; Payne,2007). They are perceived as if they perform like "women," spurring straight-acting gay men to have negative attitudes toward gay feminine men (Clarkson, 2006; Payne, 2007;Ward, 2000). This is called sissyphobia (Bergling, 2001). Kimmel (1996) supports that "masculinity has been (historically) defined as the flight from women and the repudiation of femininity" (p. 123). Thus, sissyphobia plays as the communication strategy for straight-acting gay men to justify and empower their masculinity. (p. 38).[10]

Eguchi added, "I wonder how 'sissyphobia' particularly plays into the dynamic of domestic violence processes in the straight-acting and effeminate-acting male same-sex coupling pattern." (p. 53).[10]

In sexual subcultures[edit]

In the BDSM practice of forced feminization, the male bottom undergoing cross-dressing may be called a sissy as a form of erotic humiliation, which may elicit guilt or sexual arousal, or possibly both, depending on the individual.[11]

In paraphilic infantilism, a sissy baby is a man who likes to play the role of a baby girl.[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ McGraw-Hill's Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions: The Most Up-to-Date Reference for the Nonstandard Usage, Popular Jargon, and Vulgarisms of Contempos. McGraw-Hill. 2005. p. 318. ISBN 0071461078. 
  2. ^ The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English. Routledge. 2008. p. 885. ISBN 0415371821. 
  3. ^ Oliven, John F. (1974). Clinical sexuality: a manual for the physician and the professions (3rd ed.). Lippincott. p. 110. ISBN 0-397-50329-6. 
  4. ^ Bergling, Tim (2001). Sissyphobia: Gay Men and Effeminate Behavior. Routledge. ISBN 1-56023-990-5. 
  5. ^ Fellows, Will (2004). A Passion to Preserve: Gay Men as Keepers of Culture. Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 280. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  6. ^ Bailey, Michael (1995). "Gender Identity", The Lives of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals, p. 71–93. New York: Harcourt Brace.
  7. ^ Harrison, Kelby (2013). Sexual Deceit: The Ethics of Passing. Lexington Books. p. 10. ISBN 0739177052. 
  8. ^ Serano, Julia (2007). Whipping Girl. Berkeley: Seal Press. p. 133. ISBN 1580051545. 
  9. ^ Heterosexuality: a feminism & psychology reader - Sue Wilkinson, Celia Kitzinger - Google Boeken. 1993-04-14. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  10. ^ a b Eguchi, S. (2011). "Negotiating Sissyphobia: A Critical/Interpretive Analysis of One "Femme" Gay Asian Body in the Heteronormative World". The Journal of Men's Studies 19: 37–56. doi:10.3149/jms.1901.37. 
  11. ^ "Forced Feminization 101". Retrieved 2012-02-10. 
  12. ^ Tristan Taormino (2002-08-13). "Still in Diapers - Page 1 - Columns - New York". Village Voice. Retrieved 2012-02-10. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Padva, Gilad and Talmon, Miri (2008). Gotta Have An Effeminate Heart: The Politics of Effeminacy and Sissyness in a Nostalgic Israeli TV Musical. Feminist Media Studies 8(1), 69-84.
  • Padva, Gilad (2005). Radical Sissies and Stereotyped Fairies in Laurie Lynd’s The Fairy Who Didn’t Want To Be A Fairy Anymore. Cinema Journal 45(1), 66-78.
  • Jana Katz, Martina Kock, Sandra Ortmann, Jana Schenk and Tomka Weiss (2011). Sissy Boyz. Queer Performance. thealit FRAUEN.KULTUR.LABOR, Bremen.

External links[edit]

  • The dictionary definition of sissy at Wiktionary