I recently caught wind of a study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology about the intersection of obvious social categories and not-so-obvious social categories. The findings of the study were that gay Black men, based on appearance and perception, are more likable than straight Black men; and also, that gay white men, based on appearance and perception, are less likable than straight white men.

The study was conducted by researchers and doctoral students at the University of Toronto. I heard about the study while listening to Michaelangelo Signorile on the way home from work and was reminded of studies on attraction in my Social Psychology courses in undergrad; for example, symmetrical facial features tend to be looked upon as more attractive in a psychological sense. This always bugged me because I only have freckles on my right cheek.

From the abstract of the study:

Participants in Study 1 rated faces of White straight men as more likable than White gay men, but rated Black men in the opposite manner: gays were liked more than straights. In Study 2, participants approaching Whites during an approach–avoidance task responded faster to straights than gays, whereas participants approaching Blacks responded faster to gays than straights.

The test subjects were shown photos of 104 different men and were told nothing about them, including their specific sexual orientation; they were, however, told that some of the men were gay and some were straight. The test subjects were then allowed the opportunity to rank the photos 1-7 on a scale of likability of the photo itself and nothing more. The photos, taken from online dating sites, included 26 pictures of men in each category: Black heterosexual, Black homosexual, white heterosexual, and white homosexual. Another finding of the study was that white straight men were perceived as more likable than Black straight men. Does anyone find this troubling?

The test subjects were of both genders, but I’m most curious to know what their ethnic makeup and sexual orientations were. The study was done in Toronto and the questions in the study were geared toward the “average Canadian”, but I’m wondering how much of the negative stereotypes of both sexuality and ethnicity play in the minds of the test subjects. I am completely against the typification of any person based on their sexual orientation, race, and gender; society, however, is not. I strongly advocate for self-identity, and strive hard to not make assumptions about people based on their style of dress, physical attributes, or mannerisms. The world does not. I’m wondering if the findings of this study are a reflection on how people perceive gender-based (read: masculinity) power and the societal structure of race and dominance?

Are the Black men that the test subjects perceived to be homosexual representative of a jovial, less threatening Black man? Are white heterosexual men perceived to be powerful and rightfully in control? Is this study merely a projection of society’s wrongful typification of gender roles and sexuality-based stereotypes? Why are the obvious underlying assumptions in this study – and society – going unaddressed?

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"Livication” is a mix of the words “live” and “dedication”, and is an important concept how I live. I've been dubbed a post-modern hippie. I can come at you on some old school revolution, or kick it with my contemporaries. I am a social butterfly (but also a square peg), Blacktivist, LGBTQ (any/all civil rights) advocate, womanist, feminist, and Black woman. I'm mouthy and passionate; difficult to silence. An abstract thinker and self-defined. An unapologetic fantastic disaster. Calm like a bomb.
  • ch555x

    I’d assume they’d hate my guts…LMAO!  Yeah, this is a part of the global perception of what’s acceptable/threatening.  Beauty, imagery, intelligence, etc…it’s a mess! 

  • ch555x

    I’d assume they’d hate my guts…LMAO!  Yeah, this is a part of the global perception of what’s acceptable/threatening.  Beauty, imagery, intelligence, etc…it’s a mess! 

  • Here’s my question how does one “Look gay”? I mean unless there were some stereotypical pictures of “gay men” shown there how many times have people been mistakenly thought of as gay? Hell were they all completely gay or were some Bi, I hate tests that try to be ambiguous but are obviously flawed because in my estimation the respondents probably didn’t check to see who was likeable or not they probably did what everybody does when the “who’s gay” question comes up “try to focus on someones perceived gayness”.

    After that the question you asked becomes kind of mute, I think they should have done 2 separate studies one where the respondents didn’t know any were gay and then one where they were told X amount were gay, but using the same pictures and then see if the two matched up that way.

  • Are the Black men that the test subjects perceived to be homosexual
    representative of a jovial, less threatening Black man? Are white
    heterosexual men perceived to be powerful and rightfully in control?

    Excellent questions!!!

  • Reggie


    So I’m not attractive or likeable either?!?

    Goddamnit what a day I’m having!!!

    Next thing you know, you’ll be telling me that I’ve gotta turn in my good old Alabama black snake for a Vienna sausage.  What’s a black man to do?!?

  • Perception vs. reality is an eternal debate.  Great 2 see you ch555x, WEE were missing you at WSY.

  • Correction, I was missing you at WSY, but can understand why you had to jet.  It’s all good.

  • Anonymous

     I was also very much wondering how the participants in the study identified the sexualities of the men. Again, I personally don’t believe in putting people in boxes based on appearance, but larger society doesn’t operate that way. I’d assume that the photos were of stereotyped gay and straight men, but I don’t know that for a fact. I’d like to know; I’m in the process of getting a copy of the article in its entirety.

  • ch555x

    Yo…long time, no SEE!  That maintenance mode I keep seeing is driving me crazy!

  • Whassup yo, what happened to you?  You were gone long before WSY went into maintenance mode.

  • Dang Livication, do writers at this blog get to select their own graphics?  What is the dude with the Do-Rag doing in your graphic?  Tossing Salad???

  • Cool, please link to it I really want to see how people figured out who the “gay men” were and how they were identified. I also want to know how often they were CORRECTLY identified. If you thought someone looked gay, said “oh he’s gay he’s attractive” but it was actually a straight guy, or “he’s ugly he must be gay” and it was a straight guy.

  • ch555x

    Yeah, I was mainly a lurker.  It’s hard to post, when many of your points are already being made by others (“same-page” syndrome)…LOL!

  • Is WSY down? Has it been hacked? Just curious because I think Black political sites have been under attack lately.

  • Does the pic bother you?

  • Anonymous

    I didn’t pick the graphic; however…lots of straight men eat ass too. If they tell you they don’t..they lying.

  • Anonymous

    I’m working on getting some student-friends to find the article for free.99. Will keep you updated!

  • Anonymous

    I think it goes along the lines of a “straight looking” Black male being a threat to large society. I don’t know how the respondents decided who was who.

  • ch555x

    I assume they’re fixing up the site as there’s a notice on the front page…

  • Whassup RiPPa,

    Long time no see 2 you too!

    Excellent site that you have here!  Nope, WSY was not hacked (full story coming next week).

  • Yep, it’s being “fixed.”

    EDIT: There are multiple sides to a story. Only one story will be the truth.

  • It’s your blog; you do whatever you want to do 🙂

    ***Pulls out ACLU Card and lays it on the table***

  • Thanks, fam…. my old site was hacked and I know a couple of them that have so I was curious. Somebody out there ain’t feeling Black blogs… prolly a Teabagger!

  • LOL… nah, I was just wondering, fam. My pics used to be off the chain on the old site, but I’m trynna clean it up.