1. Religion & Spirituality
Send to a Friend via Email
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Discuss in my forum

Austin Cline

Scientific Links Between Homophobia and Repressed Homosexuality

By January 19, 2011

Follow me on:

It often said that people who are loudest in their condemnations of homosexuality are probably hiding their own homosexuality. Anecdotes aren't data, however, so no manner how many homophobic bigots come out of the closet that wouldn't prove that there is a link between homophobia and repressed homosexuality.

Fortunately, we do have data -- real scientific data. There have been scientific studies which reveal strong links between being homophobic and harboring repressed homosexual urges or desires. This doesn't mean that every homophobic bigot is trying to repressed their own homosexuality, but it does make it a legitimate possibility and might be more common than is currently believed.

One of the most important lines of work in this area dates back to a 1996 article published in The Journal of Abnormal Psychology. In this empirical paper, researchers Henry Adams, Lester Wright, Jr., and Bethany Lohr from the University of Georgia report evidence that homophobic young males may secretly have gay urges.

In this study, 64 self-reported straight males with a mean age of 20.3 years were divided into two groups ("non-homophobic men" and "homophobic men") on the basis of their scores on a questionnaire measure of aversion to gay males. Here, homophobia was operationally defined as the degree of "dread" experienced when placed in close quarters with a homosexual--basically, how comfortable or uncomfortable the person was in interacting with gay people. (There is debate in the clinical literature about the semantics of this term, with some scholars introducing other constructs such as "homonegativism" to underscore the more cognitive nature of some people's antigay stance.)

Each participant then agreed to attach a penile plethysmograph to his, well, "lesser self." According to the authors, this plethysmograph device is "a mercury-in-rubber circumferential strain gauge used to measure erectile responses to sexual stimuli. When attached, changes in the circumference of the penis cause changes in the electrical resistance of the mercury column." Previous research with this apparatus (the plethsymograph, not the penis--well, actually both) confirmed that significant changes in circumference occur only during sexual stimulation and sleep.

Next, the participants were placed in a private chamber and presented with three 4-minute segments of graphic pornography. The three video snippets represented straight porn (scenes of fellatio and vaginal intercourse), lesbian porn (scenes of cunnilingus or tribadism), and gay male porn (scenes of fellatio and anal intercourse). Following each randomly ordered video presentation, the participant rated how sexually aroused he felt and also his degree of penile erection. Can you guess the results?

Both groups--non-homophobic and homophobic men--showed significant engorgement to the straight and lesbian porn and their subjective ratings of arousal matched their penile plethsymograph measure for these two types of video. However, as predicted, only the homophobic men showed a significant increase in penile circumference in response to the gay male porn: specifically, 26 percent of these homophobic men showed "moderate tumescence" (6-12 mm) to this video and 54 percent showed "definite tumescence" (more than 12 mm). (In contrast, for the non-homophobic men, these percentages were 10 and 24, respectively.) Furthermore, the homophobic men significantly underestimated their degree of sexual arousal to the gay male porn.

Source: Scientific American

There have been some attempts at alternative explanations for this data but the author is able to argue that they aren't very convincing. It's hard to find fault in the reasoning here: if you find something attractive which you also believe is evil or disgusting, then not only will you repress it but you'll act to eliminate it from view. You can't be tempted by something you both love and hate if you can't see or hear it anymore.

This connection between homophobia and violence is extremely disturbing. Being homophobic isn't just linked to repressed homosexual desires, it's also linked to an increased willingness to use violence against people for no other reason than that they are gay:

Some of the most startling data I've come across lately involve a 1998 survey of 500 straight males in the San Francisco, California area. Half of these men said they had acted aggressively in some way against homosexuals (and these were just the ones who admitted to such acts). And a third of those who hadn't struck out in this manner against gay people said that they would assault or harass a "homosexual who made a pass at them." If you missed the irony, this was in San Francisco--arguably one of the most "gay-friendly" places in the world!

In one experiment described by the author, homophobic men delivered electrical shocks of greater intensity and longer duration when they thought the victim was a gay man than when they thought it was a straight man -- and this was simply "punishment" for answering a question wrong. The homophobic men essentially lashed out against gay men they didn't know and had no connection to. The fact that they were gay was the sole reason for hurting them.

When it comes to homosexuality, the conservative Christian motto is: love the sin, hate the sinner.

Comments
January 19, 2011 at 9:03 pm
(1) Ron says:

It is my belief that we all know our sexual orientation by the types of sexual dreams we sometimes have when we are sleeping. So, I am going to make a frank confession. most of my sexual dreams have been about women. But, why would I sometimes dream about a knothole in a tree? Would anyone here classify that as borderline perversion?

January 21, 2011 at 3:10 pm
(2) Loren says:

Don’t love a tree for surely it will leave.

January 21, 2011 at 3:26 pm
(3) Steve says:

It would be interesting to see if there was a correlation between being the most homophobic and the most religious. Seems to me that most of the gay-hate stems from a religious perspective, which would be simply one more reason for us to shed that stifling straighjacket otherwise known as religion.

January 21, 2011 at 4:05 pm
(4) Richard says:

Ron: Maybe your belief about the sexual content of dreams is wrong. What evidence is it based on?

January 21, 2011 at 5:02 pm
(5) TonyC says:

Ron, it maybe a perversion or you simply have been denied sexual gratification for too long. IMHO. If this dream persists and is of concern to you, I would suggest knocking one out before going to sleep!

January 22, 2011 at 10:39 am
(6) mia says:

I agree with Steve. I am very curious about any data out there indicating this correlation and the degrees to it. It makes sense when you think of the fact that the only massive homosexual repressant pill out there is religion.

January 22, 2011 at 7:52 pm
(7) Ron says:

Richard(4) Says:

Ron: Maybe your belief about the sexual content of dreams is wrong. What evidence is it based on?))). No evidence. Just a feeling. It makes sense to me.

February 9, 2011 at 11:56 am
(8) jyhtcg says:

isnt it love the sinner hate the sin?

July 21, 2012 at 11:07 pm
(9) Todd says:

Gee…wonder if the author is gay? How humorous it is that the argument now seems to be that if someone believes homosexuality is wrong he/she must be homosexual. Genius. The liberal elite never ceases to amaze me. I never thought you guys could beat your abortion / death penalty stance (i.e., it’s OK to abort the innocent unborn children of poor mothers because they’ll never stand a chance in society, but it’s wrong to put convicted murderers to death because they can be rehabilitated) but this sure comes close! Bravo!!

July 22, 2012 at 11:07 am
(10) Austin Cline says:

How humorous it is that the argument now seems to be that if someone believes homosexuality is wrong he/she must be homosexual.

No, that’s not the argument. Try re-reading.

The liberal elite never ceases to amaze me. I never thought you guys could beat your abortion / death penalty stance (i.e., it’s OK to abort the innocent unborn children of poor mothers because they’ll never stand a chance in society, but it’s wrong to put convicted murderers to death because they can be rehabilitated)

No, that’s not the argument either.

Do you lack basic reading comprehension skills, or is it comprehension in general that escapes you?

August 7, 2012 at 7:54 pm
(11) OZAtheist says:

Yes, Todd seems to have a comprehension problem here – or is he deliberately pretending to misunderstand?

I have read similar material to the above before and as I have mentioned in previous posts the phenomenon of homophobia has been studied by many psychologists, and a common conclusion reached by many, is that those afflicted by this condition are insecure in their own sexuality, and thus feel threatened. They are afraid they will catch homosexuality I suppose.

I have managed to stop the ranting of a number of homophobes by suggesting the above it’s amazing how well it shuts them up.

August 8, 2012 at 8:44 am
(12) OZAtheist says:

That segment about the homophobes in San Francisco is scary stuff. One must wonder why these guys react, or feel they would react, in this way. Is it because they feel they may be somehow swayed or infected by the homosexual influence, or is it just that they are afraid of being identified as possibly gay.

I have discouraged advances by homosexuals a few times in my life but have never felt even slightly threatened. To be honest I have felt flattered even though I have felt no attraction towards them.

August 9, 2012 at 8:02 pm
(13) Marvin says:

It’s interesting and gratifying to see that an actual attempt has been made to scientifically test what many of us have long suspected. I can’t help thinking that the contention by religious conservatives that homosexuality is a choice is strong evidence that the leadership harbors ambivilant desires and could as easily go one way or the other. I suspect that if many of their followers asked themselves whether they could possibly be attracted by their own sex, they’d begin to see the falacy. No one chooses to do something that simply does not work for them.

I’ve only recently been made aware that there are many who fall somewhere between and could make a choice, but I doubt they are a majority (I have no data for this doubt, admittedly). Still, if these individuals have repressed their feelings, they may feel vastly superior to others and justify themselves in “punishing” the “weak.”

March 27, 2013 at 3:39 pm
(14) KC says:

Thankfully someone has written a article on this. I have thought this might be the case for such a long time. I myself identify as being bisexual and therefore gay, but that is not why I agree with the article. It is just what I have observed over the years. Also to the people who said about the ones this article refers to also being very religious as well, I believe that is the case as some that I have observed that this article would pertain to (the biggest of the homophobes possibly having secret gay desires/ fantasies) have also been very religious. Generally Christian based of some sort.

I just wish I had come across this article sooner. To better explain to people what I was talking about.

June 23, 2013 at 3:04 am
(15) Chris says:

This isn’t a very good article and a very fallacious study. It surely wouldn’t be relevant to Christians who took the faith seriously because the study commits a sampling bias fallacy (doesn’t take into account those who would buy into the study just for watching porn) and since Christians in general would be against porn and as immoral then they would logically be excluded from the sampling set. Even if we conceded your point, it would still be a text-book example of the Genetic fallacy which is trying to invalidate someone’s views based on where it originated.

June 25, 2013 at 9:43 pm
(16) Austin Cline says:

This isn’t a very good article and a very fallacious study.

A scientific study can’t be “fallacious.” Only an argument can.

It surely wouldn’t be relevant to Christians who took the faith seriously because the study commits a sampling bias fallacy (doesn’t take into account those who would buy into the study just for watching porn)

You have no evidence that such people exist.

and since Christians in general would be against porn and as immoral then they would logically be excluded from the sampling set.

You have no evidence that Christians were excluded.

Even if we conceded your point, it would still be a text-book example of the Genetic fallacy which is trying to invalidate someone’s views based on where it originated.

Except that no such argument has been made.

So you misunderstand what a fallacy is, you misrepresent the study, and mislead about what arguments are actually made.

With detractors like you, studies like this are further bolstered.

July 10, 2013 at 9:35 am
(17) Meed says:

“Ron says:
It is my belief that we all know our sexual orientation by the types of sexual dreams we sometimes have when we are sleeping.”

Im gay but I sometimes dream about sex with women. nice theory old boy but thats all it is

Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.