Gay men, straight women’s friendship stems from relationship advice

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Researchers have finally pinned down why straight women and gay men seem to form close relationships: it all comes down to love — but not between each other. 

A new study from UT visiting researcher Eric Russell has found one possible reason for these relationships is because on average, straight women viewed relationship advice from a gay man as more trustworthy than the same advice given by a straight man or woman. Likewise, gay men trusted straight women’s advice more so than that of other gay men or women. Russell’s study is the first to use observations to explain the reason for these friendships that cross sexual orientation lines. The study was published online in Evolutionary Psychology, a public online academic journal, on Feb. 9.

Russell, working alongside colleagues from Texas Christian University, tested 88 straight women and 58 homosexual men.

“We tested our subjects using an online survey. Using fake Facebook profiles, we displayed either a straight woman, a straight man or a gay man to the participants,” Russell said. “We then asked the participants whether they would trust the person in the Facebook profile if they offered them relationship advice.”

The study assessed how sincere the subjects viewed advice from the person depicted in the Facebook profile. Advice ranged in topics from comments on the subject’s clothes to opinions about other men at a hypothetical party.

Danielle DelPriore, a psychology graduate student at TCU, worked on the study with Russell.

“I really liked the way these projects took a widely recognized phenomenon — close friendships between straight women and gay men — and examined it from both perspectives, and ultimately showed that gay men and straight women seem to receive similar benefits from one another,” DelPriore said.

Russell said the absence of ulterior mating motivations between gay men and straight women make those friendships stand out among the more common relationships between heterosexual friends.

“Second, our results provide evidence that these relationships may be more than just stereotypes we see in the popular media — they have a basis in real life,” Russell said.

Psychology junior Morgan Harnois said she has had experiences with relationships such as those the study covered. She said she feels gay men at UT can be stereotyped by women.

“I feel that studying those kinds of relationships are taking down that barrier, taking down that mentality,” Harnois said. 

Printed on Tuesday, March 5, 2013 as: Researchers explain gay, female friendships