I Now Understand Ted Haggard February 7, 2009

I Now Understand Ted Haggard

Research psychologist Jesse Bering writes in Scientific American about how homophobes have “secret gay urges”:

I may have failed as a homophobe, but unfortunately, many people succeed. And it turns out we may have something in common—many young, homophobic males may secretly harbor homosexual desires (whether they are consciously trying to deceive the world about them as I was or not even aware they exist).

The best part of the article seems to be the methodology of the experiment. They divided a group of men into two groups: homophobic and non-homophobic.

Then they showed them porn — Straight, lesbian, and gay.

The best part (well… the second best part):

Each participant then agreed to attach a penile plethysmograph to his, well, “lesser self.” According to the authors, this plethysmograph device is “a mercury-in-rubber circumferential strain gauge used to measure erectile responses to sexual stimuli.

The guys enjoyed the straight porn. They enjoyed the lesbian porn.

What about the man-on-man action?

However, as predicted, only the homophobic men showed a significant increase in penile circumference in response to the gay male porn: specifically, 26 percent of these homophobic men showed “moderate tumescence” (6-12 mm) to this video and 54 percent showed “definite tumescence” (more than 12 mm). (In contrast, for the non-homophobic men, these percentages were 10 and 24, respectively.) Furthermore, the homophobic men significantly underestimated their degree of sexual arousal to the gay male porn.

Bering ends with this:

… the next time you come across some imbecile being especially hostile toward gay people, I’d like you to stare him in the eye, scratch your chin and repeat after me: “Hmm… very interesting….”

Now, how does this apply to Rick Warren?

(via Dangerous Intersection)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Lindsey

    This is the sort of thing that I’ve supposed was the case for a long time. Now there’s research to back me up!

  • Maria

    lol, I knew it. now I have something to use against homophobes. Thanks Hemant!

  • mikespeir

    On the other hand, I’m not sure this justifies a belief that anyone who overtly opposes homosexuality is, in fact, a homosexual.

  • I sorta suspect the main reason they were more excited by the gay porn is that that what they’d seen the least of.

    So to test this they could show the guys gay porn every day for a month or so. Then do essentially the same experiment again and see if that made any difference.

  • Daniel

    Does “homophobe” mean people who are pathologically afraid of gays (as some people are of heights, spiders, etc) as the name implies?

    Or does it simply refer to people who believe homosexuality is sinful, which is the way it always seems to be used? And in that case can we start calling people who think lying is sinful “liarphobes”?

    If the first sense it what is meant in this post, I’d be inclined to believe it.

  • Sounds like the most vocal homophobes out there are more afraid of their own tendencies than they are afraid of homo guys. And they are afraid that anyone might know they have any tendancies that are not 100% hetero. I don’t think sexuality is a black and white thing, as if someone must always be 100% homo or 100% straight or even 50%/50% bi. It’s more like a spectrum than a dichotomy (or trichotomy?)

    That is how it seems to me, anyway. I’m no expert.

  • I’ve always said this. If you a man and are not attracted to other men, then what’s to fear?

    I think the homophobes are all gay or bi. Mostly bi, since they tend to think you have a choice about choosing partners. Anyone who is strictly straight really doesn’t because they just are not attracted to people of the same sex (same goes for being strictly gay and not being attracted to people of the opposite sex).

  • I’ve always wondered about homophobes because it seemed like a case of “me thinks he doth protest too much.”

  • Well, this theory has been around for a while and has always struck me as reasonable, so I am not surprised. I have not met too many homophobes in church, but when I have, lets just say Ive always looked for identity issues.

    I remember one adolescent male I encountered as a youth leader who had some rather intollerant attitudes. With some reassurance that he was accepted no matter what and guidance about the loving acceptance of Jesus he let go of the homophobia as he matured and got over his insecurities.

  • gmcfly

    We hate in others that which we hate most in ourselves. Whether it’s a homophobe with gay feelings, or a gay man who rejects “femmes” due to internalized homophobia.

  • “However, as predicted, only the homophobic men showed a significant increase in penile circumference in response to the gay male porn: specifically, 26 percent of these homophobic men showed “moderate tumescence”

    This has been known for many years, but we all know how fundies refuse to listen to science….

  • Adam

    Is there any arousal by anger? I mean, if you showed racists or political extremists or whatever images of the targets of their anger, do you get the same tumescence?

  • Vystrix Nexoth

    I don’t buy it. I think homophobia could come from being non-heterosexual while within a strongly anti-non-heterosexual environment, as a way to externalize their feelings and/or to convince themselves as much as convince others.

    However, I don’t think all, or even most, homophobes are non-heterosexual themselves. To say that they are, would be like saying that Christians who speak strongly against Atheism are secretly Atheists… or vice versa!

    In other words, “gay + repression = homophobia”, not “homophobia + repression = gay”.

    Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a greater proportion of non-heterosexuals amongst the outspoken Christian homophobe crowd than among more-tolerant Christians. But I assume they’re straight until I have reason to believe otherwise (as with Ted Haggard).

  • mikespeir

    Let me say it this way. There are millions of Evangelical/Fundamentalist Christian men in the United States. I take it pretty much for granted that all of them are not closet homosexuals. (In fact, few of them are.) On the other hand, most–nearly all–believe the practice of homosexuality is a sin. Therefore, if “homophobia” is defined simply as “fear and/or loathing of homosexuality,” it’s clear that most who fear and/or loathe homosexuality are not themselves homosexuals.

  • llewelly

    The article describes two studies that test the question at hand. One has a sample size of 64, and another with an unmentioned sample size. 64 is not very many. I don’t think it’s reasonable to support a strong statement like ‘all homophobes are closet gay or bi’ with only two studies, one of them quite small. All the science supports is a much weaker ‘There is evidence that homophobes are more likely to be secretly gay’ .

  • Joe

    So people deathly afraid of spiders are really repressed arachnophiles?

    Sounds like there are more complicated things going on here. Erections can indicate sexual arousal, but its not biologically correct to state this is the only reason men get them.

  • Kenneth

    Yeah, I’d be a bit skeptical of this study. One, the sample size is small (as was pointed out by llewelly). Two, the reliance on plethysmography is a problem. Yes, it measures *ahem* engorgement, but does that really say anything useful about the person attached to the device? Male sexuality is more than just a boner, after all…

  • gribblethemunchkin

    As others have noticed, the sample size and methodology are far from enough to draw conclusions. However, the results certainly are interesting and worthy of more research.

    I think Vystrix Nexoth hit the nail on the head by saying
    “gay + repression = homophobia”, not “homophobia + repression = gay”.

    It is thus reasonable to conclude that gay-intolerant evangelicals could harbour more closet homosexuals than tolerant liberal christians, simply because the liberal christians would likely not feel the pressure to not be gay.

  • Stephan Goodwin

    I think this would be a great study to try and get funding for a follow-up where they use MRI to get brain-scans of the individuals. As Kenneth had said earlier, erections don’t necessarily mean mental arousal. A brain scan that ties pleasure centers of the brain to erections and gay porn however…

    As Mikayla alluded to, sexuality isn’t just a one-or-the-other, it is a continuum. The Kinsey scale from 0-6 is a useful scale I think, with 0 being completely hetero and 6 completely homosexual.

    My personal hypothesis about this issue is that while not all homophobes are gay or even partially gay, they are probably a higher percentage of closeted peoples amongst the homophobes simply because their culture demands it. Since they are in fact (unless you are Haggard) choosing to not act on their urges, they seem them as a “choice,” hence other gays, in their minds, could make the same choice. Additionally, it may be this small proportion that keeps reinforcing the rest of the heterosexual homophobes to keep hating, because it is an issue they can not move on from…

  • Ha, the homophobe doth protest too much, methinks and now there is evidence to explain why.

  • Kurt

    Now, how does this apply to Rick Warren?

    A preliminary study of Rick Warren was inconclusive – the plethysmograph was not tiny enough to measure the barely-visible tumescence of the good pastor under any of the stimulation scenarios. Scientists speculate that showing Mr. Warren his bank balance might be the only way to obtain measurable engorgement.

    Sorry, I know “size” jokes are the lowest form of humor, but after that tone-deaf inaugural invocation, it’s all I’ve got. OK, back to being Friendly. 🙂

  • David

    Please do not underestimate the potential of calling out homophobic morons in this way to get you beaten to the point of severe injury or death.

    The macho self-image will defend itself as fiercely as a mama bear will defend her cubs.

    In other words, do not try this at home.

  • We hear the evangelicals and the Bible warning that homosexuality is a sin. Sin as I understand it is willfull, an exersize in free will. This would mean that the person sinning actually has a choice to make. I am a male heterosexual, I have been interested in females, exclusively, since I was at least 4 years old. I don’t remember making a choice at that time, or even knowing that there was any other option. Since these people seem to think there is a choice to be made I would assume that they made a choice themselves at some point, which could only mean that their own sexual orientation was somewhat ambigous.
    Dan Baum

  • LeBaz

    Science: 1
    Ignorance: 0

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