SCIENCE: Straight Guys Really Don’t Like Dudes Kissing Dudes


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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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For straight guys, seeing images of two men kissing creates the same physiological stress as pictures of rotting flesh and maggots, according to research published recently.

Scientists found that straight men felt disgust when shown slideshows of gay men kissing. Researchers said this reaction was similar to the disgust straight men experienced when shown images rotting flesh or maggots. That was even true for straight men who reported no prejudice against homosexuals.

The American Institute of Bisexuality, a non-profit charity that “focuses on outreach within the bisexual community,” funded the study. Researchers said their goal was to make science “more inclusive of LGBTQ identities and experiences.”

“We originally were interested in understanding the health effects of same-sex vs. mixed-sex public displays of affection for the couples in the relationship,” Dr. Karen L. Blair, a psychologist at St. Francis Xavier University who authored the research, told PsyPost.

Researchers measured levels of a digestive enzyme associated with stress and disgust. Enzyme levels in straight men who viewed pictures of gay men kissing were comparable to levels displayed when faced with images of rotting flesh and maggots.

“Participants watched a series of slideshows: male couples kissing, male couples holding hands, mixed-sex couples kissing, mixed-sex couples holding hands, boring images (e.g., paper clips) and disgusting images (maggots),” Blair said.

“In between slide shows, we asked participants questions about their responses to the photos (not yet published), and we also collected saliva samples in order to assess salivary alpha-amylase in response to each slide show (the current paper),” Blair said.

The saliva samples meant that the straight men’s reaction to the images was physical and uncontrollable. The scientists also found that the physiological reactions of the straight men in the study couldn’t be explained by anti-gay prejudice alone.

“Why do people low in prejudice still show an increased physiological response?,” Blair said. “We can’t say definitively, however, it could be that society has socialized the notion of same-sex sexuality and affection as being ‘disgusting’ or immoral so strongly, for so long, that merely witnessing it causes a slight physiological stress response.”

The research was based on the results from 120 heterosexual men between the ages of 18 to 45.

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Andrew Follett