Study Shows People Can Accurately Identify Sexual Roles in Gay Relationships

C. Price

Written by: C. Price

C. Price

C. Price is part of's content team. She writes advice articles, how-to guides, and studies — all relating to dating, relationships, love, sex, and more.

Edited by: Lillian Castro

Lillian Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of journalism experience to ensure DatingAdvice articles have been edited for overall clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement. She has worked at The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, The Gwinnett Daily News, and The Gainesville Sun covering lifestyle topics.

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How easy is it to identify the sexual roles of a gay couple? According to a new study, all you need is a picture.

Published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, the study found the average person, whether they’ve had gay sex or not, can easily identify sexual roles between two gay men in a relationship, even based on minimal information.

Researchers asked participants to identify whether a man was the top or bottom in his relationship solely by looking at a picture of his face.


“People can identify sexual roles in a gay

relationship, even based on minimal information.”

The results showed participants were successful at guessing each man’s sexual role from his picture alone, guessing correctly to a degree of “accuracy that was significantly greater than chance guessing.”

The second half of the study attempted to determine why participants were able to guess sexual roles so easily, with researchers ultimately concluding participants labeled each man according to how traditionally masculine or feminine he looked.

“People rely on perceptions of characteristics relevant to stereotypical male-female gender roles and heterosexual relationships to accurately infer sexual roles in same-sex relationships,” researchers said. “Thus, same-sex relationships and sexual behavior may be perceptually framed, understood and possibly structured in ways similar to stereotypes about opposite-sex relationships, suggesting that people may rely on these inferences to form accurate perceptions.”

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