This is a great question, and so I turned to the research literature for some answers. All 20 studies that I read agreed there needs to be more review of this dynamic, but below I present some important findings. The research largely agreed that butch/femme dynamics are not related to relationship satisfaction, and that the butch/femme dynamic is changing due to social influences.
– When you look at butch/femme dynamics and relationship satisfaction, internalized homophobia and discrimination were associated with lower relationship quality and both domestic violence perpetration and victimization. Outness and butch/femme identity were largely unrelated to relationship variables. (Psychology of Women Quarterly, Sep, 2005)
– Relationships with unequal power balance reported less satisfaction and more problems, but relationships with the ‘butch-femme’ dynamic did not report these inequalities any more than other relationships. (Sex Roles, Apr, 1984)
– Butch and femme women seem to form their sexual identities in the same manner, when compared to bisexual women. (Archives of Sexual Behavior, Feb, 2009)
– Butch women reported drinking alcohol more frequently and in greater quantity, smoking more cigarettes, and using marijuana more frequently than young femme women. (Substance Use & Misuse, Jul, 2008.)
The butch/femme dynamic has changed over time, but all studies agree that this must be studied more.
– The terms used to designate the different roles of lesbian couples in Bulgaria, “masculine” and “feminine lesbian,” do not have high importance for the majority of lesbians who are part of the club scene. Butch/femme appears to be an old-fashioned way of approaching lesbian relationships in Bulgaria today. Most young lesbians regard their relationships as a game between equals who may decide to play a division of roles for the sake of variety and pleasure. (Journal of Lesbian Studies, 2002)
– Many black gay women in the 1970s did not distance themselves from the use of physical presentations of gender as an organizing mechanism for their relationships and for lesbian community life. During this time period, the use of the butch/femme identification meant something very important to these women, and remains an important part of their identity. (Signs, Aug, 2006)