Original Paper

Archives of Sexual Behavior

pp 1-11

First online:

Why (and When) Straight Women Trust Gay Men: Ulterior Mating Motives and Female Competition

  • Eric M. RussellAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, The University of Texas at Arlington Email author 
  • , Vivian P. TaAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, The University of Texas at Arlington
  • , David M. G. LewisAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Bilkent University
  • , Meghan J. BabcockAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, The University of Texas at Arlington
  • , William IckesAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, The University of Texas at Arlington

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Previous findings indicate that heterosexual women experience a greater sense of comfort and trust in their friendships with gay men than in their friendships with heterosexual individuals. In the present studies, we tested a hypothesis that not only explains why women exhibit increased trust in gay men but also yields novel predictions about when (i.e., in what contexts) this phenomenon is likely to occur. Specifically, we propose that gay men’s lack of motives to mate with women or to compete with them for mates enhances women’s trust in gay men and openness to befriend them. Study 1 demonstrated that women placed greater trust in a gay man’s mating—but not non-mating (e.g., career) advice—than in the same advice given by heterosexual individuals. Study 2 showed that women perceived a gay man to be more sincere in scenarios relevant to sexual and competitive mating deception. In Study 3, exposing women to a visualization of increased mating competition enhanced their trust in gay men; when mating competition was salient, women’s trust in mating information from a gay man was amplified. Study 4 showed that women who perceived higher levels of mating competition were more open to befriending gay men. Together, these converging findings support our central hypothesis, which not only provides a distal explanation for the trust that straight women place in gay men, but also provides novel insights into previously unidentified contexts that facilitate the formation and strengthening of this unique bond.


Heterosexual women Homosexual men Friendship Human mating Intrasexual competition Gay–straight psychology