Study finds link between homophobia, fear of same-sex flirtation


A new study has shown that prejudice against non-heterosexual orientations is strongly connected to those with a deep fear of being hit on by a member of the same sex.

The study, showcased in the Social Psychological and Personality Science journal, reported a connection with sexual prejudice that “certain sexual orientation groups direct unwanted sexual interest” amongst college students.

“I think people, in general, are uncomfortable by the notion of unwanted sexual interest,” said lead author and psychologist Angela G. Pirlott in an interview with PsyPost.

“Women perceived unwanted sexual interest from bisexual men, bisexual women, and lesbians (but not gay men, who they perceived as directing mutual sexual disinterest) whereas men perceived unwanted sexual interest from gay and bisexual men (but not bisexual women, who they perceived as a mutual sexual interest target).”

The study asked 533 self-identified heterosexual students two basic questions. The first question: What is the student’s own sexual preference in regard to members of the same sex, opposite sex or bisexual students?

“To assess this, we had participants rate their sexual interest in each of the six target groups (straight men, straight women, bisexual men, bisexual women, gay men, and lesbians),” Pirlott added.

“We then assessed their perceptions of the extent to which each of the those six target groups were interested in heterosexual men and women. Using a difference score in which we subtracted perceptions of target sexual interest from perceiver sexual interest, we determined which groups were perceived to direct unwanted sexual interest.”

The second question was: to what extent does the student feel that these groups would be interested in having sex with the student?

“Patterns of prejudice mapped onto perceptions of unwanted sexual interest—heterosexual women viewed bisexual men, bisexual women, and lesbians negatively (but not gay men) and heterosexual men viewed bisexual and gay men unfavorably (but not bisexual women, for example).”

Pirlott and her colleagues hope the study will illustrate the intricacies of sexual prejudice.

“[Thinking] about sexual prejudices, like thinking about all prejudices, requires we consider the perceived tangible challenges and opportunities people perceive others to pose,” Pirlott concluded. “Finally, to explain sexual prejudice is not to justify it. Our goal was to enhance our understanding of why certain heterosexuals are prejudiced against sexual orientation minorities in the nuanced ways they are. Only through such understanding can effective means of reducing prejudices be designed and implemented.”


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