A study of year five girls has suggested that many feel they must act “girly” in order to avoid being called lesbians by their peers.
The research was conducted at a single-sex private primary school by Dr Alexandra Allan, of Cardiff University.
Published in the latest edition of the Gender and Education journal, the study found that pupils were under pressure to ensure they appeared heterosexual.
Speaking to the Times Educational Supplement, Dr Allan said: “The girls in this school felt that many more comments were made about their sexuality because of their separation from boys. They felt that it was automatically assumed by their peers outside of school that they were lesbians.”
She cited one incident of a girl being teased by a boy from an outside school about being a lesbian which was still a topic of discussion among pupils.
Pupils were found to go to great lengths to appear “girly” and “ladylike” in order to avoid being thought of as lesbians, adopting “hetero hyper-feminine” behaviour.
“Where boys were not physically present and where romantic relationships were rarely practised, the girls still felt pressured to present themselves as heterosexually attractive,” Dr Allan said.
In March, a Stonewall survey of UK teachers found a “deeply alarming” amount of homophobia in schools.
According to the research, titled The Teachers’ Report, more than 150,000 pupils are affected by anti-gay bullying, with boys who work hard, girls who play sport, young people with gay parents, and young people who are thought to be gay all suffering from name-calling and abuse.
Teachers reported that homophobic bullying was the most prevalent form of bullying after bullying because of weight, coming above racism.