Relationship scientists have known for decades that married people are healthier and live longer lives than their single counterparts.1 However, virtually all of the research conducted to date has focused exclusively on the health benefits associated with heterosexual marriage. Given that more and more countries have started extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, has there been any effect on the health of gays and lesbians? Two recent studies suggest that there have been some positive changes.
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Entries in gay and lesbian (19)
Heterosexual women and gay men are seemingly natural BFFs. As some evidence of this, almost any time you turn on the television, you can see this type of friendship on display, whether it is a scripted sitcom such as Will and Grace or a reality show like The Real Housewives. How do we explain this common social pairing? A new set of studies suggests that both parties find this type of friendship advantageous because it offers a free exchange of unbiased sex and relationship advice from a trustworthy source.1
Earlier this year, a study was released suggesting that children are better off when raised by heterosexual couples than by same-sex couples.1 That study received widespread media attention, despite the fact that it was fundamentally flawed and really said next to nothing about the parenting skills of gay and lesbian parents (you can read more about my take on that study here). In contrast, a new study about adopted children just came out concluding that such kids do equally well irrespective of the sexual orientation of their parents. Although the newer study was far more academically rigorous, it was largely ignored by the mainstream media. In this post, I will review the findings of this study and discuss why the media just doesn’t seem to care about it.
Gaydar refers to the ability to categorize people as gay or straight on the basis of indirect information (e.g., a person’s speech patterns or movement). Gaydar is used by people of all sexualities for a variety of purposes. For instance, gays and lesbians may use it to decode flirtation, whereas heterosexual persons may simply use it to figure out who’s who. So how good are people at making these categorizations and what it is that people are actually paying attention to? A recent set of studies published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior indicates that gaydar judgments are reasonably accurate, and that judgments of sexuality are linked to sex role stereotypes.1
There are countless myths and stereotypes about gays and lesbians spanning everything from their mannerisms to their sex lives to the nature of their relationships. In this article, I will review five of the most common myths and evaluate them in light of what scientific research has to say.
MYTH #1: Gay men sleep around a lot more than straight men.
Over the past decade, scientists have conducted a boatload of studies correlating finger length ratios with psychological variables. Specifically, they have focused on the ratio of the index finger (the second digit when counting from the thumb) to the ring finger (the fourth digit). Among the factors associated with this ratio are sexual orientation and romantic jealousy. A new study finds that our fingers may reveal other interesting secrets, including the size of a man’s penis.
There are several common stereotypes about the sex lives of gay men. One of the most prevalent is that anal sex is the primary (if not only) sexual activity that gay men practice. Another is that sex in public places (e.g., in parks a la singer George Michael) is a common occurrence. And yet one more is that gay men mostly have anonymous sex. Is there any truth to these widespread stereotypes? According to recent research, the answer is a resounding no.
According to classic psychological learning theory, having a higher drive increases the probability of engaging in dominant (i.e., well-learned) behaviors; at the same time, the likelihood of engaging in non-dominant (i.e., poorly learned) behaviors decreases. If we apply this theory to the human sex drive, the logical prediction that follows is that having a higher sex drive should increase attraction only to your desired sex. In other words, a high sex drive should make a heterosexual person more attracted to members of the other sex but not the same sex, while a gay or lesbian person should be more attracted to members of the same sex but not the other sex. But is this really the case? A fascinating set of studies recently revealed that this prediction is not universally supported. Specifically, while it does hold for men, it does not for women.1 Among most women, a high sex drive actually appears to increase attraction to both sexes.
Scientists who want to study what people find sexually arousing usually face a few major challenges. For one thing, simply asking people how aroused they feel in response to a sexual image or video is problematic because not everyone is willing to admit what turns them on. To get around this difficulty, some researchers have turned to instruments that measure the amount of blood that flows to the genitals. However, these tools are rather invasive because they require participants to attach electronic recording devices to their nether regions, which not everyone is comfortable doing and consequently limits the types of people willing to participate in such research. Fortunately, a new study has found a deceptively simple way of dealing with all of these issues that may provide a more reliable gauge of sexual arousal and sexual orientation.1 And all you have to do is look into a subject’s eyes.
I recently posted an article in which I concluded that “while it is indeed possible for both men and women to be bisexual, evidence from a variety of sources suggests that bisexuality may be a more natural occurrence among women than men” (see here for the complete article). I received a couple of comments on the site as well as a few e-mails that were critical of this conclusion, so I thought it might be useful to do a follow-up post and dig a little deeper into the research in the hope of clearing things up a bit more.
Researchers have known for years that parenthood has some predictable effects on heterosexual couples. Specifically, relationship satisfaction typically decreases1 and sexual activity usually drops off markedly once kids enter the picture.2 Given the significant increase in gay couples raising children through surrogacy and adoption in recent years, researchers have begun to explore whether similar effects occur among persons in same-sex relationships. Perhaps not surprisingly, the answer appears to be yes.
Every time a new study comes out comparing the outcomes of children raised by same-sex and heterosexual couples, it garners a huge amount of media attention. It doesn’t matter what the actual findings are or whether the study is even of good quality—reporters, politicians, and activists take it as an opportunity to reignite the debate over whether a couple’s sexuality affects their parenting skills. In my view, such media reports are not only inconsequential, but they are also offensive and counterproductive. Let me explain.
Everyone was talking about same-sex marriage last week. First, voters in North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment banning legal recognition of same-sex relationships. Just a day later, even bigger news was made when President Obama publicly stated his support for extending marriage rights to gay and lesbian couples. All of this talk about same-sex marriage got me thinking about why so much variability exists in people’s attitudes toward this issue and, particularly, why some people are so resistant to it. Of course, religion plays a very large role in determining people’s views on marriage. However, research suggests that there may also be some important psychological processes underlying opposition to marriage equality.
Every Friday on the blog, I answer sex questions submitted to me by actual college students. This week’s question hits on a topic many people are curious about: the origin of homosexuality. Although we don’t know with certainty why variations in sexual orientation exist, there is growing evidence that biology is one of the biggest contributors. In this article, we will explore some of the science supporting this point.
Is a homosexual’s brain different from a heterosexual’s brain?
The idea that homophobia stems from fears of one’s own homosexuality has received a lot of public validation in recent years. From evangelical preacher Ted Haggard, to former Senator Larry Craig, to psychologist George Reckers (one of the leading proponents of “reparative therapy,” a discredited method some people claim is capable of “curing” homosexuality), some of those who have been fighting hardest against LGBT rights have wound up embroiled in gay sex scandals of their own. Naturally, many of us wonder why. A new set of studies suggests that this type of hypocrisy may be traced back to the way these individuals were raised by their parents.1