Study: It’s Homophobes Who Are Turned on by Gay Porn

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday June 16, 2011

It's a stereotype that the most homophobic men are likely to be closet cases themselves, but a longstanding study indicates that there's more than a grain of truth to the belief, which is widespread among the GLBT community.

Armchair psychologists theorize that gay men who are terrified of facing up to the truth about themselves overcompensate by attacking the GLBT community -- whether politically, socially, or through physical violence -- in order to enhance a macho, heterosexual image.

Professional psychologists tested the theory a decade and a half ago, and found it holds up: A study done at the University of Georgia in 1996 confirms that that men who describe themselves as homophobic are the same men who are physically aroused by watching gay porn.

The 15-year-old study resurfaced in a June 12 article posted at as a series of high-profile anti-gay laws dominated headlines, along with an anti-gay celebrity rant delivered as a comedy routine.

The irony of the situation appears to be that truly heterosexual men are secure in their sexuality and do not need to be homophobic, meaning that what gays have long said -- that overtly anti-gay aggression is a sign of suppressed homosexuality -- bears some degree of truth.

The study monitored arousal by directly gauging changes to the men's penises. Such changes occur involuntarily and as a result of sexual arousal. When shown images of lesbian sexual activity and heterosexual congress, both groups -- heterosexual men who had no problem with gays and men who said they were straight and homophobic -- registered sexual arousal.

Gay porn elicited arousal from the homophobic group, but not from the non-homophobic group. The men in the homophobic group claimed to be disgusted and turned off -- but their bodies said the opposite.

The study was published in the August, 1996, edition of the Journal of Abnormal Psychiatry. A press release from that time explained the study's methodology and conclusions.

"Psychoanalytic theory holds that homophobia -- the fear, anxiety, anger, discomfort and aversion that some ostensibly heterosexual people hold for gay individuals -- is the result of repressed homosexual urges that the person is either unaware of or denies," read the release.

"A study appearing in the August 1996 issue of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, published by the American Psychological Association (APA), provides new empirical evidence that is consistent with that theory."

The study was titled "Is Homophobia Associated With Homosexual Arousal?" The study's abstract summarized the results as follows:

"Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies."

According to the press release, the results were quite so clear-cut, however. The release said that about a quarter (24%) of the non-homophobic men showed penile enlargement while viewing gay porn; but the among the homophobic group, over half (54%) showed penile tumescence.

"I'm sure this is not a universal explanation for homophobia, but it's certainly an interesting result," the Wired article noted.

Anti-gay groups and politicians have hammered ferociously at gays and their families in recent years. Recent headlines have indicated that although acceptance for GLBTs and their relationships is climbing in American society in general, such elements continue to target the GLBT community through social and legislative avenues.

One group,, attempted to overturn last year's verdict on Proposition 8 on the grounds that the federal judge in the case was a gay man who only came out after his retirement from the bench. sought to portray that judge, Vaughn Walker, as possibly standing to benefit from his own finding because Walker has been in a committed relationship with another man for ten years. When lost that bid to overturn Walker's verdict, they promptly announced that they would appeal.

Meantime, the state of Tennessee has been a focus of anti-gay legislative activity. Lawmakers there recently approved a measure that strips the ability of local governments to extend anti-discrimination protections to GLBT workers. That law now faces a suit.

Another bill, which would criminalize discussion of GLBTs in elementary school classrooms, has been passed by the Tennessee Senate, and is expected to be revisited by the state's House of Representatives, possibly as soon as this week.

Comedian Tracy Morgan also brought the spotlight to Tennessee when he launched into an anti-gay tirade during an appearance in Nashville, saying that young gays who are bullied should strike back at their tormentors, and telling the audience he would stab his son to death if his son came out as gay.

Morgan later recanted those statements and apologized. He is expected to make a return to Nashville to repeat his apologies there.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.