The reason behind prejudices such as racism and homophobia have been contributed to a wide range of factors, but a new study suggests that the root of sexual prejudice is directly related to the fear some people have of unwanted sexual advances by someone of the same gender, reports the Huffington Post.
The new study was conducted by psychologists Angela G. Pirlott and Steven L. Neuberg and appears in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.
Pirlott and Neuberg, say their research reveals a link between homophobia among college students and a belief that “certain sexual orientation groups direct unwanted sexual interest.”
“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 told Huffington Post. "In particular, that some sexual orientation groups might be perceived as directing unwanted sexual interest toward them."
The researchers used a sample size of 533 heterosexual students, asking them to reveal both their own sexual preference as well as the extent they believed other groups of students (same sex, opposite sex, and bisexual) would be interested in having sex with them.
“The patterns of prejudices map on nearly perfectly with perceptions of unwanted sexual interest," Neuberg said.
"[O]ur article says that straight men perceive gay and bisexual men to direct unwanted sexual interest, but not lesbians or bisexual women; and straight women perceive lesbians, bisexual women and bisexual men to direct unwanted sexual interest, but not gay men; and that this perception strongly explained their sexual prejudices," Pirlott said.
The researchers hope their report will not only highlight one aspect of sexual prejudice, but also help scientists who have previously been focused on other factors in generating homophobia such as gender-role deviation and religious values.