Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Correlation of Homophobia and Homosexual Arousal

Hey guys, I'm excited about this post. For years I've heard people say they have hunches that the people who get the most upset over all things gay are closeted homosexuals. Within the past year, I've heard reference to a published scientific study of this phenomenon. Today, a buddy sent me the text of the study itself. You can read it for yourself by following the link below.

H.E. Adams, L.W. Wright, Jr., and B.A. Lohr, "Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal?'' Journal of Abornomal Psychology, vol. 105, no. 3, 1996, pp. 440-445.

Here's the abstract from the study.
The authors investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men (n=35) and a group of nonhomophobic men (n=29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W.W. Hudson & W.A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A.H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.
Whether this study seems to agree with your personal convictions or not, I encourage you to read it. I have some criticisms of the study and of its generalizability, but its findings are no less interesting and important. First, though, a comment about the term "homophobic" that is used in this study. It rankled me at first, because I do feel the term "homophobic" is often misapplied to people who aren't afraid at all but have calm, intellectual disagreement with homosexuality on moral grounds.

The authors take care to distinguish homophobia from homonegativity and reference some previous literature on the distinction. So to clarify the type of person being investigated in this study, I'll repeat that distinction here. Homonegatism is defined as "a miltidimensional construct that includes judgement regarding the morality of homosexuality, decisions concerning personal or social relationships, and any response concerning beliefs, preferences, legality, social desirability, or similar cognitive responses." Homophobia is defined as "an emotional or affective response including fear, anxiety, anger, discomfort, and aversion that an individual experiences in interacting with gay individuals, which may or may not involve a cognitive component." This study's findings pertain to folks in the latter category.

By these defintions, I would classify my parents and the leadership of the church from which I was recently expelled homonegative. They aren't homophobes; they are rather thoughtful, listen carefully to my dissenting viewpoint, and respond calmly. On the other hand, those folks that are always screaming the "condemnation of the Lord" at every gay event seem to be homophobic.

Issues/limitations with the study: as is almost always the case, sampling is an issue. All the participants in the study were white and all were in college. Since this is a nonrepresentative sample of the U.S. population, it is impossible to generalize the results of this study to homophobic men who are ethnic minorities, who do not have post-secondary education, and who live outside Georgia. Furthermore, this study is exclusively about men; we cannot apply the conclusions of this study to women at all. None of these limitations diminish the significance of the study, however. That there is a measurable correlation between homophobia and homosexual arousal among highly-educated white men in Georgia is a meaningful discovery.

On an "interesting" additional note, there is the issue of the porn the researchers showed the participants. Surely not all porn is created equal; were the responses measured directly related to the particular porn flicks the participants watched? What if they showed a relatively mundane hetero flick and a relatively intense homo flick? Of course it is probably impossible to scientifically classify porn films by "intensity" or any other metric. But it's worth mentioning and perhaps future investigations seeking to replicate the results of this study might experiment with a variety of porn and study the difference in responses.

The study was well-designed to be meaningful regardless of the relative intensity of the porn films. Why? Because a group of nonhomophobic men were shown the same films. The nonhomophobic group did not exhibit statistically significant change in penis girth, but the homophobic group did. Interesting.

There's a video on YouTube that narrates a bit about the study and interviews the lead author. Check it out if you're interested.

Hat tip: JD and Darren


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Anonymous said...
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G A.Graham said...

Your 'excitement' about this study may indicate that you are a closeted homosexual.
Does that seem like an overly subjective and interpretive one?
Because it is.
I have serious concerns about this 'study'.
It smacks of junk science- diminutive study subject group, no control group, for starters.

Paul L P said...

Although this post is old, thank you for making the effort of posting on a subject that was, at the time, really still controversial. Thank you.