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Are Homophobes Mostly Repressed Gays?
(Blogmensgo, gay blog of June 13, 2016) Is homophobia really an aversion to gays – or could it hide a secret attraction? In other words: Does homophobic behavior come from a real distaste for gays or does it rather indicate repressed homosexual sensations? According to a study by the university of Geneva, both explanations may be true for certain people.
Boris Cheval, a researcher at the Faculty for Psychology and Education Science of the University of Geneva (Switzerland), has developed a method to predict homophobic language or behavior. The results of this study were published in the printed version of the Journal of Sexual Medicine but have been available online since March 19 (abstract) – for quite a steep price however.
Two kinds of homophobia
The study is based on 38 volunteers who consider themselves heterosexual. Not too surprisingly, the researchers found two kinds of homophobes: Those who were conditioned by their social environment and education, and those who secretly feel attracted by men but act in a homophobic way. The second group corresponds to what has frequently been called repressed gays – although we have no concrete figures or reliable studies about them.
Boris Cheval puts his particular focus on this group:
“We are interested in this group because these people are actually victims themselves. Such a strong contrast between their own intimate feelings and the attitudes towards the outside world is highly likely to have to have negative implications on their well-being.”
(Boris Cheval, researcher at the Faculty of Psychology, Geneva)
The method developed by Boris Cheval sheds light on two kinds of homophobia and a number of variations in between, which applied to the participants: The “cold” homophobia on the one hand, i.e. reflected, rational, verbalized and conscious, and the “warm” homophobia on the other hand, i.e. instinctive, emotional, unexpressed and subconscious.
Earlier studies about this subject mostly focused on measuring the participants’ reactions via their penis, i.e. the degree of erection. However, it is known that stress, fear, fatigue etc. may distort any results measured this way.
Therefore, Cheval and his team based their study on the participants’ look and expressions. They had to first fill in a questionnaire about the subject, and then they were shown pictures at a computer, which they had to qualify as gay or straight.
Title of the book Gay Art by James Smalls (edition Parkstone). Attractive or repulsive?
It quickly became clear that homosexual attraction showed itself by a longer look at pictures with a gay subject – independently of the degree of homophobia previously declared. This means that the duration of the reaction to gay stimuli represents a predictive value for same-sex attraction even in men acting strongly homophobic.
The study led by Boris Cheval and his team is still rather vague and should definitely be confirmed before we can derive any practical applications, such as therapy approaches, from it.
Are these results really valid for all homophobic men? This is to be doubted, mainly for two reasons:
The participants were students and therefore formed a rather young group. It would be difficult to apply the results to older or even younger men.
Moreover, this population had a rather high educational degree. What would the results look like in less educated men?
Not to forget: The small sample size (38 participants) leads to a rather large error margin – compared to a sample of several hundred people.
This study only focused on some men’s reaction to gays.
What would be their reaction to lesbians? Or how would women react to gays or lesbians?
One thing is certain however: This is a trend-setting study, and we are curious to see the results of other follow-up studies.