The web-o-sphere is all a-Twitter with news of a new study to be published in the April issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology which concludes that “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.” The nexus between homophobia and repressed homosexuality is not a new discovery: anyone paying attention to the spectacular (fabulous?) implosions of the prominent anti-gay crusaders of the religious right, after they are caught meth-sniffing-gay-prostituting or wide-stancing, may have intuited a connection. But there has also been academic research going back to at least 1996 documenting an association between homophobia with homosexual arousal. One such study was reported in a paper entitled Is homophobia associated with homosexual arousal? in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology (Adams, HE et al, 105(3):440-5 Aug. 1996). Here is the Abstract:
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.
The existence of the above-referenced paper is why it so irks us to see a report on the new study so mangled at Alternet:
Are Homophobes Just Repressing Their Homosexual Desires?
New Study Says Yes
A new joint study conducted by the University of England in Essex and the University of California in Santa Barbara will show how homophobia can be a fearful symptom of same-sex desire.
It’s long been a maxim that the most extreme homophobes are simply acting out to cover up their same-sex desires, but only now has a scientific study come out with proof.
“New study says yes?” Old study said yes. Sixteen years ago.
“New study will show how homophobia can be a fearful symptom of same-sex desire?” See old study, above.
“It’s long been a maxim that the most extreme homophobes are simply acting out to cover up their same-sex desires”? I wonder why it’s long been a “maxim”? Might it be because there has been actual scientific evidence in support of said maxim for at least sixteen years?
And finally, my favorite: “only now has a scientific study come out with proof.” Great line! Except I might suggest editing it by striking “only now” and substituting “sixteen years ago.” Oh, and one other teeny, tiny detail: science doesn’t deal in proof. Science deals in data, hypotheses, evidence, theories, probabilities, all sorts of amazing and interesting things — but it manifestly does not waltz around proving shit.
Science reporting, of course, is generally abysmal in mainstream media, but the breathless sensationalism, factually false premise, and a complete misunderstanding of the very nature of science in the first sentence alone is more appropriate for Fox than a respected outlet for independent journalism like Alternet. Sheesh.
The Alternet piece does not even mention the key finding of the study: that authoritarian parenting is significantly linked to this homophobia/homosexual repression effect:
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.
What is fascinating to us about this “authoritarian parenting” finding is its potential implications for our primary area of expertise, Conservative Personality Disorder. It has long been established by Altemeyer and others that authoritarians are, in fact, HUGE @$$holes, and we have long hypothesized a correlation between @$$hole parenting and CPD. This is what the advance writeup of the new research says about how the parenting environment of the research subjects was assessed:
Through a series of questionnaires, participants also reported on the type of parenting they experienced growing up, from authoritarian to democratic. Students were asked to agree or disagree with statements like: “I felt controlled and pressured in certain ways,” and “I felt free to be who I am.” For gauging the level of homophobia in a household, subjects responded to items like: “It would be upsetting for my mom to find out she was alone with a lesbian” or “My dad avoids gay men whenever possible.”
Finally, the researcher measured participants’ level of homophobia – both overt, as expressed in questionnaires on social policy and beliefs, and implicit, as revealed in word-completion tasks. In the latter, students wrote down the first three words that came to mind, for example for the prompt “k i _ _”. The study tracked the increase in the amount of aggressive words elicited after subliminally priming subjects with the word “gay” for 35 milliseconds.
Across all the studies, participants with supportive and accepting parents were more in touch with their implicit sexual orientation, while participants from authoritarian homes revealed the most discrepancy between explicit and implicit attraction.
One of the study’s authors makes this observation:
“In a predominately heterosexual society, ‘know thyself’ can be a challenge for many gay individuals. But in controlling and homophobic homes, embracing a minority sexual orientation can be terrifying,” explains Weinstein. These individuals risk losing the love and approval of their parents if they admit to same sex attractions, so many people deny or repress that part of themselves, she said.
Okay, so now I’m just really, really sad for all these homophobic homosexuals. And for everyone, really, whose parents were neither supportive nor accepting of them as children. Not that this excuses @$$holes, mind you. It just helps to explain them.
The authors reference a particular theory which bears on this in a broader sense:
The results also support the more modern self-determination theory, developed by Ryan and Edward Deci at the University of Rochester, which links controlling parenting to poorer self-acceptance and difficulty valuing oneself unconditionally.
Not to get too personal here, but “Difficulty valuing oneself unconditionally”? Bwahahaha! How about “perpetual self-doubt and intermittent major depression requiring years of therapy to even begin to overcome”? Well, on the bright side, as fucked up as we may be, at least we are not living with the existential self-hatred, conscious or not, that these homophobic homosexuals experience…and turn outward onto gay people in the form of discrimination, hostility, and torment.
Needless to say, we are eagerly looking forward to reading the new study in its entirety—and will conscientiously eschew reading any “reporting” on it in the meantime.