Monday, April 9, 2012

Homophobes: Externalizing an Internal Conflict

Posted by on Mon, Apr 9, 2012 at 8:08 AM


I've been saying it for years. Glad I lived long enough to see study after study back me up:

Homophobia is more pronounced in individuals with an unacknowledged attraction to the same sex and who grew up with authoritarian parents who forbade such desires, a series of psychology studies demonstrates.

The study is the first to document the role that both parenting and sexual orientation play in the formation of intense and visceral fear of homosexuals, including self-reported homophobic attitudes, discriminatory bias, implicit hostility towards gays, and endorsement of anti-gay policies. Conducted by a team from the University of Rochester, the University of Essex, England, and the University of California in Santa Barbara, the research will be published the April issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"Individuals who identify as straight but in psychological tests show a strong attraction to the same sex may be threatened by gays and lesbians because homosexuals remind them of similar tendencies within themselves," explains Netta Weinstein, a lecturer at the University of Essex and the study's lead author.
"In many cases these are people who are at war with themselves and they are turning this internal conflict outward."

The paper includes four separate experiments, conducted in the United States and Germany, with each study involving an average of 160 college students. The findings provide new empirical evidence to support the psychoanalytic theory that the fear, anxiety, and aversion that some seemingly heterosexual people hold toward gays and lesbians can grow out of their own repressed same-sex desires, Ryan says.

So don't be homophobic, homophobes, because people might think you're gay. And if you really don't want people to think you're gay, being supportive of gay rights and comfortable with gay people is way better cover than screaming and yelling about the evils of homosexuality. Just sayin'.


Comments (44) RSS

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Mom always told me "The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference."
Posted by Ken Mehlman on April 9, 2012 at 8:17 AM · Report this
Vince 2
Well, that explains the Catholic bishops and their pope. Sick bunch, that crew.
Posted by Vince on April 9, 2012 at 8:18 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 3

Sounds like the problem that children of mixed "race" have. Am I this...or that, they ask themselves. And sometimes taking one position or the other to "prove" themselves in society. Maybe these facts argue that sex, like race, are spectra, not on-off switches.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe on April 9, 2012 at 8:26 AM · Report this
@3 Another intelligent thought from the SRotU. What does that make like three this month?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on April 9, 2012 at 8:30 AM · Report this
Xenos 5
I've been skeptical of the conclusion of this study (before anyone studied it, mind you) for years; not because it seemed unlikely, but precisely because it appeared too ironic, too tragic, to be true.

We're one hell of a species, aren't we?
Posted by Xenos on April 9, 2012 at 8:33 AM · Report this
Mike 6
I thought choosing hands with nail polish to hold the signs that are photoshopped into the headshots was a nice touch.
Posted by Mike on April 9, 2012 at 8:36 AM · Report this
Doctor Memory 7
@4: it's clearly a trap. Either that, or someone has hacked his account.

(Okay, I'm starting to feel a little guilty here. Presumably we should be encouraging this kind of behavior. John! Hi! We like the new you!)
Posted by Doctor Memory on April 9, 2012 at 8:36 AM · Report this
Yay, University of Rochester! (You should totally go there for Savage U, hint hint).
Posted by UofRStudent on April 9, 2012 at 8:38 AM · Report this
Reverse Polarity 9
I'd feel sorry for them if they didn't do so much damage with their virulent homophobia.
Posted by Reverse Polarity on April 9, 2012 at 8:41 AM · Report this
What a vicious cycle this is, self-haters responsible for the lion's share of the hate mongering. A shame.
Posted by adamsass on April 9, 2012 at 8:47 AM · Report this
I wonder if people homosexual leanings who are raised in gay-friendly environments are especially accepting of homosexuals.
Posted by DRF on April 9, 2012 at 9:02 AM · Report this
Not that I don't agree with the general conclusion, but given that these studies rely primarily on subliminal priming to trigger different responses, I'm skeptical of the methodology.

If they had used penile plethysmography to measure arousal, it would be harder to dispute.
Posted by Smartypants on April 9, 2012 at 9:19 AM · Report this
Hernandez 13
@3 While your last line is pretty good, as a person of mixed-race background I don't identify with the first part of your idea at all. I never felt pressure to choose one side of my heritage over another, or wonder where I belonged. There was never any need to "prove" myself - my dad is Latino, my mom is white, we're all American and that was that. It didn't seem to matter to the people in my life either.

Now, I didn't grow up in an environment full of racial tension, and I don't particularly *look* like any particular race (unlike, say, Obama, who is half-white but we think of him as a black man), and so I'm not claiming my experience is universal.
Posted by Hernandez on April 9, 2012 at 9:51 AM · Report this
The closet is simply a horrible place to live. You cannot survive there in a healthy way.
Posted by SeattleKim on April 9, 2012 at 9:52 AM · Report this
Ophian 15
Yup, homophobia is so gay.
Posted by Ophian on April 9, 2012 at 10:00 AM · Report this
I assume the article has already passed peer review. It will be interesting to see what kind of response it gets from the wider professional (psychological) community.

The real fun, though, is going to be seeing what happens in the press and blogosphere. I expect some people to pop some aneurysms over this!
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on April 9, 2012 at 10:26 AM · Report this
@16 (Not that I'm wishing that on anyone, mind you.) I just mean there will be a lot of frothing.

After I grew up, and got a sex life of my very own (which happens to be straight, if anyone is keeping score), I came to question the logic of homophobia, or lack thereof. I mean, who cares? As long as you're in a happy relationship, and getting laid, wtf do you care who else is getting what? I mean, I might question my sister's choice of partner on an individual basis, if he's a dipshit, because I feel protective of her, but I do not want to know what she's doing with him, when, where or how often, you know? And as far as anyone else, that I don't know, please spare me.

If two girls or two dudes find romantic happiness with each other, and none of them personally broke your heart in the process, just exactly, EXACTLY, how does it concern you? And even if they did, move on already. You only get one life, so get on with it.

A certain amount of prurient interest is probably unavoidable, but recognize it for what it is, and grow up!
Posted by Brooklyn Reader on April 9, 2012 at 10:40 AM · Report this
Unsurprising, indeed. I wish, however, that more attention was paid to the issue of authoritarian parenting. From such a family myself, I think it's self-evident that authoritarian parenting models cause hosts of soon-to-be-projected internalized self-hatreds.
Posted by maddy811 on April 9, 2012 at 11:01 AM · Report this
Darken his hair and the reverend person in the centre would look disturbingly like Sir Nick Faldo, who was content merely to tell his wife during or just before the (1995?) Ryder Cup matches that he was leaving her for a (female) college student about half her age. With the European team desperate not to upset their star player, the Euro wives froze her out, resulting in highly irregular cross-Atlantic supplications to the Loves of the US side for aid in dissuading him.
Posted by vennominon on April 9, 2012 at 11:03 AM · Report this
So don't be homophobic, homophobes, because people might think you're gay.

Jesus Christ, Dan, that is supremely unhelpful.

The most prevalent form of homophobia is the fear of being perceived as gay, which you will find in many people (cough men cough) who will happily tell you they've got nothing against teh gays.

The particular subset* of homophobes identified in this study will become more homophobic when you tell them you suspect they're gay. I'm all for taking an aggressive stance toward homophobia, but when you say shit like this, Dan, you're making the problem worse.


* there are also, of course, homophobes who don't have strong same-sex attractions. This study isn't about them, but that doesn't make them stop existing.
Posted by robotslave on April 9, 2012 at 11:25 AM · Report this
Will in Seattle 21
See, the reason why the GOP is so sturm und drang over this is precisely because half of this year's Presidential Primary Contenders are gay or married to gay spouses.

Nothing wrong with that, but there is with not admitting it.
Posted by Will in Seattle on April 9, 2012 at 11:34 AM · Report this
Urgutha Forka 22
I'll be interested to see the reaction from research psychologists as well.
It's published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (JPSP) so it has already passed the highest levels of peer review. JPSP is the top journal in that area of psych and rejects probably around 90% of the articles submitted to it, so it's been run through the full gamut of criticisms and suggestions for alternative explantions.
Posted by Urgutha Forka on April 9, 2012 at 11:54 AM · Report this
very bad homo 23
We hate most in others what we hate in ourselves.
Posted by very bad homo on April 9, 2012 at 11:56 AM · Report this
piminnowcheez 24
@20: Dude.
Posted by piminnowcheez on April 9, 2012 at 12:03 PM · Report this
I am reminded of the recent Reuters interview in which Hunter College Professor (emirtus) Ken Sherrill was quoted as saying that the tone of the presidential campaign is going to be negative. I asked him if, in his expert opinion, the son was going to rise tomorrow. He "liked" the comment on FaceBook. (Ken is also an expert on gay rights, so I assume he would also see this as a sunrise issue.)
Posted by LML on April 9, 2012 at 12:32 PM · Report this
@12, totally agreed. I don't believe JPSP is the greatest in its field. It's actually considered a "B" journal. I know - JPSP has published three of my papers. Not that I mean that they don't have high standards and peer review - it's just easier to get published there than some other psych journals. It bothers me that the outcome measure of homosexual arousal was some psychological (projective?) test with possibly limited validity. That said, I do believe there has got to be a link between homophobia and closeted tendencies squashed by authoritarian parents. Just not sure this group of studies is the definitive proof.
Posted by nordica on April 9, 2012 at 12:53 PM · Report this
Rob in Baltimore 27
A certain homosexually obsessed commenter who recently returned to Slog (I knew he wouldn't be able to stay away.) seems to be a textbook case of a homophobe with repressed homosexual desires. I mean really, what secure straight man thinks as much about gay people, and gay sex as Seattlebruise. His battles on Slog are really more about keeping his own homosexual desires in check than actually accomplishing something. All the hours he spends everyday of his life trolling here obsessing on Dan Savage are really just to keep SB away from the gay prostitutes.
Posted by Rob in Baltimore on April 9, 2012 at 1:06 PM · Report this
Overt and/or obsessive homophobia is pretty darn gay. Nice to see some validation of that hunch--now someone should design a study using dick-meters and gay porn (plus the female equivalent to test the applicability of the principle to women like Maggie Gallagher and Phyllis Schlafly).

Oh and 20: respectfully, I think Dan's instinct to attempt to alarm overt homophobes to shut the hell up, lest they be perceived as gay, is correct and helpful. Think of it as a harm-reduction strategy: quiet homophobes still vote for assholes and harm gays indirectly, but that isn't as damaging as being loud and proud and public in their bigotry.
Posted by Functional Atheist on April 9, 2012 at 1:33 PM · Report this
@12 smartypants -- Actually, an earlier well known plethysmography study (Adams, 1996) left doubt in some because fear / anxiety can give some guys a mild boner (even though it's boner killing to others). So it's good the new team used other measures of same sex interest as we now have two studies over 15 years apart with very different stimuli and measures showing the same thing, homophobes = closet gays.

@26 nordica -- JPSP is #3 out of 58 social psychology journals, it's in the top tier of most difficult to publish in within its field, hardly a "B" journal. The article at Dan's link clearly describes a behavioral measure of sexual interest -- time spent browsing pics of hotties -- not a projective, plus RT to subliminal presentation of "gay" and "me" or "straight" and "me" -- RT to subliminal priming is well verified as a leading technique in social cognition and measuring implicit mental states. You sure you've had 3 papers in JPSP?!
Posted by delta35 on April 9, 2012 at 1:41 PM · Report this
All wonderful news and very ironic. Just remember that it won't matter one bit in terms of winning the culture war. I'd like to say it's because everyone respects the Aristotelian position that you can't legitimately attack an argument by attacking the character of the person who is advancing that argument. But really, it's because homophobia is all about personal gain/disdain, and nobody's ever rational about that stuff.
Posted by Keey on April 9, 2012 at 2:05 PM · Report this
Did these studies include females? Last few similar ones i read did not.
Posted by whole picture? on April 9, 2012 at 2:20 PM · Report this
I used to date an ex-biker, who was kind of terrifying-looking. Big muscles, bizarre tattoos, and a face that looked like it had been shoved through a plate-glass window. He could build a house or a car or a bike essentially from scratch, dress a deer and God help the poor dumb guy who ever started a fight with him. What really made him manly to me? The fact that he was gracious and polite, even mildly flirtatious, when gay men would occasionally come on to him. From his perspective, he knew who he was, and who was he to turn down a compliment? Most homophobic guys in my experience are either gay but deeply closeted or very insecure in their masculinity. And I'd say it's probably safe to assume that most homophobic guys are also misogynists, just because it means they're kind of obsessed with gender constructs.
Posted by JrzWrld on April 9, 2012 at 2:34 PM · Report this
OutInBumF 33
@11- At least those folks with supportive parents don't have a double-whammy coming at them. I often think how much less homophobia I'd have packed around, had I had supportive, neutral parents, instead of the homophobic lot I ended up with. Could have spared me 15 years of my young adult life, an ex-wife & kids and a whole lot of pain trying to be straight for dear old dad when I knew from puberty it was the boy parts I was after.
The amount of time gay men waste trying to please their homophobe fathers is staggering.
Posted by OutInBumF on April 9, 2012 at 3:10 PM · Report this
Sandiai 34
"And I'd say it's probably safe to assume that most homophobic guys are also misogynists"

Word. Hating the little bit of feminity in a man = hating feminity. Also explains how the homophobes don't hate lesbians so much (because they're at least aspiring to be masculine*).

*The homophobes' thinking, not mine.
Posted by Sandiai on April 9, 2012 at 3:17 PM · Report this
Yet Another Reasons for the right wing to Hate Science. Because, you know, reality has a well-known liberal bias.
Posted by YellowCat on April 9, 2012 at 3:30 PM · Report this
For a long time, I didn't get *at all* where the idea came from that being gay was a lifestyle choice. I mean, I had my first crush at age 6- who the hell chooses who they're attracted to at age 6? Then all the Ted Haggart-like stories came out. "Oh, I get it. All the people who say it's a choice are actually attracted to the same sex themselves, but are trying really hard not to act on it." Hence the repeated homophobic statements. And we've all seen how well this "choice" to be straight turns out in the long run.
Posted by LMR on April 9, 2012 at 3:48 PM · Report this
@34, I dunno, I think they hate lesbians too - the implied automatic rejection, ya know? Everyone's a threat, I think, when you can't embrace your own identity.
Posted by JrzWrld on April 9, 2012 at 3:53 PM · Report this
@29, you're right. I should have read the article in Dan's link before making assumptions about the outcome measures. I'm still not convinced these are the best measures of implicit mental state (since there is no way to ever measure what someone is hiding or does not even know about one's self). But these results are not to be ignored and offer some more evidence of what is more and more obvious about how our society is shaping every new generation of homophobic jerk.
Posted by nordica on April 9, 2012 at 5:23 PM · Report this
Really really straight guys -- guys who get boners about girls -- don't give a SHIT about gays. How to identify a straight guy? He says things like: "Let them get fucking married. I don't give a shit. Let them be happy." Only the weirdo guys have an issue, and the the straight guys don't like them. "What's up with him?"
Posted by Lan on April 9, 2012 at 5:49 PM · Report this
Fortunately, Mr Out, not all of us.

From "Love and Freindship" (Miss Austen's original spelling):

"My Father, seduced by the false glare of Fortune and the Deluding Pomp of Title, insisted on my giving my hand to Lady Dorothea. No never exclaimed I. Lady Dorothea is lovely and Engaging; I prefer no woman to her; but know Sir, that I scorn to marry her in compliance to your wishes. No! Never shall it be said that I obliged my Father."
Posted by vennominon on April 9, 2012 at 8:11 PM · Report this
So, the driving force behind homophobia is closeted bi's? Makes sense to me. I'm reminded of the Senator Jesse Helms of NC getting all het up over "homo erotic" images in a National Council for the Arts show of the work of Robert Mapplethorpe. It only made me wonder, "How do you know about that Jesse?"

Posted by BarryZZZ on April 10, 2012 at 6:14 PM · Report this
@27 You may be onto something Rob. When SB rants about gays destroying marriage it may be that the marriage he is most worried about is his own.
Posted by Clayton on April 10, 2012 at 8:26 PM · Report this
Back in the late 80s in the Marine Corps an old, lifelong bachelor/gymrat, Company Gunny went off on our whole Company at Afternoon formation (muster/parade for the other services) once about "all you faggots out there" screaming "Yeah I see you checking each other out," "I know who you are." I was thinking "wow, I don't see them/know who they are." "Must be what they call 'gaydar' ........ ah haaaa!"
Posted by Whitey's Conspiracy on April 13, 2012 at 3:42 PM · Report this
A pretty important news item:
Posted by Mike OC on April 14, 2012 at 11:17 PM · Report this

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