Fear of Unwanted Sexual Advances a Cause of Homophobia Among College Students

C. Price
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New research may have discovered the leading cause of homosexual prejudice within the college community.

The study, which was published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science, found homophobia among college students is based on the fear of being hit on by members of the same sex.

Led by Angela G. Pirlott, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the research involved surveying more than 500 college-aged students about the nature of their prejudice toward those identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Participants were asked to rate each group in terms of sexual interest and general acceptance.

“We began exploring the idea of a ‘sexual interest mismatch’ – that the sexual interests of the perceivers and their perceptions of the sexual interests of the different sexual orientation groups differed,” Pirlott said. “In particular, that some sexual orientation groups might be perceived as directing unwanted sexual interest toward them.”


“Men indicated concern about gay and bisexual

men. With women, it was lesbians and bisexuals.”

Researchers wanted to determine which groups were viewed as advancing unwanted sexual attention.

Men indicated a concern with gay men and bisexual men but not bisexual women. Women, however, reported concerns over lesbians and both bisexual men and women.

Women in the study were found to be neutral toward gay men, something not noted between straight men and lesbians.

The study points out fear of an unwanted sexual advances is not the only cause of prejudice among those with less traditional sexual identities.

“To explain sexual prejudice is not to justify it,” Pirlott said. “Our goal was to enhance our understanding of why certain heterosexuals are prejudiced against sexual orientation minorities in the nuanced ways they are. Only through such understanding can effective means of reducing prejudices be designed and implemented.”

Source: Social Psychology and Personality Science. Photo source: