One in Five Straight Men Watches Gay Sex

One in Five Straight Men Watches Gay Sex

A new study published in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour, which examined the porn-viewing habits of 821 gay, straight, and bisexual men from around the country, found a number of unexpected results. Among them: that 55 percent of gay men watch straight porn, and 21 percent of straight men watch gay porn.

So what gives? It’s no giant leap to hypothesize why gay men might enjoy watching straight porn: to watch straight guys. But when one out of five self-identified straight men reports watching gay porn, it prompts the further question: Are these men really straight, or are they down-low/straight-identified bisexual men?

Dr. Martin J. Downing, the study’s lead researcher, had the same question. When his team looked at the data, they confirmed that the straight men didn’t report having sex with men, and the gay men (outside of a very small fraction) didn’t report having sex with women. Their sexual behavior and sexual identity seem to line up. Downing sees this “identity discrepant viewing” as “some level of evidence” of fluidity in sexual attraction, at least in terms of what people are watching.

Meanwhile, bisexual men displayed porn-viewing habits that were quite distinct from those of their homo and hetero peers. Bi men reported watching guy-on-guy porn just as much as gay men do, and they consumed heterosexual porn (one male/one female) almost as much as heterosexual men. They also reported watching a significant amount of “bisexual porn” that has either two men and one woman or two women and one man. According to Downing, bisexual men aren’t “watered down gays or heterosexuals.” 

“[Bisexual men] are more like heterosexual men in some things, and more like gay men in other things, but that’s a reflection of their own unique attractions. They’re not identical to either group in terms of their porn viewing, which I think is really interesting for understanding bisexuality.”

For instance, both bi and heterosexual men reported viewing solo masturbation material (the report did not indicate the sex of the person depicted) at about the same rate — around 60 percent — while less than 50 percent of gay men did. Bisexual men were markedly less interested in viewing sexually explicit material involving bondage and kink (13.7 percent) than their straight (24.6 percent) or gay (27.9 percent) peers — unless that kink involved fisting, felching, or water sports, all activities gay men were far more likely to report watching.

It’s unfortunately quite rare for studies examining porn consumption in men to get this level of group comparison — heterosexual, gay, and bisexual men, and enough participants to look at each group separately. The science that has been done thus far tends to break down into two broad camps. The heterosexual porn literature tends to be really specific to violence against women, with the rest focused on the risks of contracting HIV, usually lumping gay and bisexual men together as “men who have sex with men.” That is how a lot of research is conducted, but in the light of this study’s data it seems to be clearly problematic. 

There are a few takeaways from this study: Our porn consumption is more eclectic than previously suspected, and bisexual men are distinct from their straight and gay brothers in their pornographic habits and inclinations. Though not the study’s focus, this further suggests that bisexuality isn’t simply a way station on the road to being gay; bisexuals are bisexual.

“Sexually Explicit Media Use by Sexual Identity: A Comparative Analysis of Gay, Bisexual, and Heterosexual Men in the United States” 
By Martin J. Downing Jr., Eric W. Schrimshaw, Roberta Scheinmann, Nadav Antebi-Gruszka, Sabina Hirshfield in the Archives of Sexual Behaviour

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