Are women and gay men faster (and better) friends? Science has provided some answers.
A study published in the February issue of Psychological Science tested whether there is a basis in the perception of a "unique bond that straight women and gay men share," as author Eric M. Russell, from the University of Texas at Arlington, told PsyPost.
A preliminary survey conducted by UT researchers was promising: 153 straight female college students indicated a greater level of comfort with gay men than straight men.
To further test this preference, 66 straight women participated in an experiment in which they were asked to describe their ideal romantic partner to a man. At one point in the recorded exchange, the sexual orientation of the man was revealed.
Overall, participants reported that once this information was disclosed, they experienced a greater level of comfort with gay speaking partners and a "reduced worry about his sexual intentions," the study's abstract notes. Researchers observed this ease in a woman's openness in conversation as well as her body language. Attractive women were even likelier to experience reduced worry.
"Because straight men typically overperceive women's sexual interest, women often try to keep their 'friendlier' interaction behaviors in check when they are meeting men for the first time," Russell explained to PsyPost. "This is especially true of physically attractive women who are often wary of straight men wanting more than a platonic relationship with them."
"However, when these women discover that they are interacting with gay men, this anxiety is greatly reduced in that the women no longer feel pressured to suppress their more open and involving interaction behaviors," he added. "With gay men, women can engage more openly and intimately with them because they do not have to worry about the men having an ulterior sexual motive."
This absence of anxiety may help lead to closer friendships or "safe spaces where they can have fun, be themselves, and engage in intimate conversations without fear of judgment, expectations, or one-sided sexual interest," Russell concluded.
However, Russell stressed that the study did not examine long-term relationships -- only first-time interactions. He indicated he would like to see more studies examining these relationships, particularly in how they could serve as a "prejudice-reduction mechanism" in the United States and abroad.
"The psychology of gay-straight friendships is not only a new and exciting area of exploration for not just researchers but also for pro-LGBT organizations and businesses," Russell concluded.