Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 43, Issue 2, pp 353–361 | Cite as

Shape Differences Between the Faces of Homosexual and Heterosexual Men

  • Jaroslava Varella Valentova
  • Karel Kleisner
  • Jan Havlíček
  • Jiří Neustupa
Original Paper


Previous studies have shown that homosexual men differ from heterosexual men in several somatic traits and lay people accurately attribute sexual orientation based on facial images. Thus, we may predict that morphological differences between faces of homosexual and heterosexual individuals can cue to sexual orientation. The main aim of this study was to test for possible differences in facial shape between heterosexual and homosexual men. Further, we tested whether self-reported sexual orientation correlated with sexual orientation and masculinity–femininity attributed from facial images by independent raters. In Study 1, we used geometric morphometrics to test for differences in facial shape between homosexual and heterosexual men. The analysis revealed significant shape differences in faces of heterosexual and homosexual men. Homosexual men showed relatively wider and shorter faces, smaller and shorter noses, and rather massive and more rounded jaws, resulting in a mosaic of both feminine and masculine features. In Study 2, we tested the accuracy of sexual orientation judgment from standardized facial photos which were assessed by 80 independent raters. Binary logistic regression showed no effect of attributed sexual orientation on self-reported sexual orientation. However, homosexual men were rated as more masculine than heterosexual men, which may explain the misjudgment of sexual orientation. Thus, our results showed that differences in facial morphology of homosexual and heterosexual men do not simply mirror variation in femininity, and the stereotypic association of feminine looking men as homosexual may confound judgments of sexual orientation.


Geometric morphometrics Homosexuality Facial shape Sexual orientation 



JV was supported by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic (13-16959P), KK was supported by the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic (GACR P407/11/1464), JV, KK, and JH were supported by Charles University research center UNCE 204004. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the article. We owe our thanks to Věra Pivoňková for helpful comments on the anthropometrical description of faces, to Adam Safron and Gerald Ostdiek for English corrections, and all the research participants for their willingness to cooperate in the project. We are also thankful to anonymous reviewers and the Editor for substantial improvement of the article.


  1. Allen, L. S., & Gorski, R. A. (1992). Sexual orientation and the size of the anterior commissure in the human brain. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 89, 7199–7202.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Ambady, N., Hallahan, M., & Conner, B. (1999). Accuracy of judgments of sexual orientation from thin slices of behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77, 538–547.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Bogaert, A. F., & Blanchard, R. (1996). Physical development and sexual orientation in men: Height, weight and age of puberty differences. Personality and Individual Differences, 21, 77–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bookstein, F. L. (1991). Morphometric tools for landmark data: Geometry and biology. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bruce, V., & Young, A. W. (1998). In the eye of the beholder: The science of face perception. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bulygina, E., Mitteroecker, P., & Aiello, L. (2006). Ontogeny of facial dimorphism and patterns of individual development within one human population. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 131, 432–443.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Byne, W., Tobet, S., Mattiace, L. A., Lasco, M. S., Kemether, E., Edgar, M. A., et al. (2001). The interstitial nuclei of the human anterior hypothalamus: An investigation of variation with sex, sexual orientation, and HIV status. Hormones and Behavior, 40, 86–92.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Dryden, I. L., & Mardia, K. V. (1998). Statistical shape analysis. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  9. Dunkle, J. H., & Francis, P. L. (1990). The role of facial masculinity/femininity in the attribution of homosexuality. Sex Roles, 23, 157–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Enlow, D. H., & Hans, M. G. (1996). Essentials of facial growth. Philadelphia: Saunders.Google Scholar
  11. Farkas, L. G. (1981). Anthropometry of the head and face in medicine. New York: Elsevier.Google Scholar
  12. Ferrario, V. F., Sforza, C., Miani, A., & Tartaglia, G. (1993). Craniofacial morphometry by photographic evaluations. American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, 103, 327–337.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Fink, B., Grammer, K., Mitteroecker, P., Gunz, P., Schaefer, K., Bookstein, F. L., et al. (2005). Second to fourth digit ratio and face shape. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 272, 1995–2001.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. Freeman, J. B., Johnson, K. L., Ambady, N., & Rule, N. O. (2010). Sexual orientation perception involves gendered facial cues. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36, 1318–1331.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Gaudio, R. P. (1994). Sounding gay: Pitch properties in the speech of gay and straight men. American Speech, 69, 30–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gladue, B. A., & Bailey, J. M. (1995). Spatial ability, handedness, and human sexual orientation. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 20, 487–497.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Grimbos, T., Dawood, K., Burriss, R. P., Zucker, K. J., & Puts, D. A. (2010). Sexual orientation and the second to fourth finger length ratio: A meta-analysis in men and women. Behavioral Neuroscience, 124, 278–287.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Hammer, O., Harper, D. A. T., & Ryan, P. D. (2001). PAST: Paleontological statistics software package for education and data analysis. Palaeontologia Electronica, 4.
  19. Johnson, K. L., Gill, S., Reichman, V., & Tassinary, L. G. (2007). Swagger, sway, and sexuality: Judging sexual orientation from body motion and morphology. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 93, 321–334.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Klar, J. S. (2004). Excess of counterclockwise scalp hair-whorl rotation in homosexual men. Journal of Genetics, 83, 251–255.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Kleisner, K., Kočnar, T., Rubešová, A., & Flegr, J. (2010). Eye color predicts but does not directly influence perceived dominance in men. Personality and Individual Differences, 49, 59–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kleisner, K., Příplatová, J., Frost, P., & Flegr, J. (2013). Trustworthy-looking face meets brown eyes. PLoS One, 8(1), e53285. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053285.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Klingenberg, C. P., Barluenga, M., & Meyer, A. (2002). Shape analysis of symmetric structures: Quantifying variation among individuals and asymmetry. Evolution, 56, 1909–1920.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. Kolamunnage, R., & Kent, J. T. (2003). PCA for shape variation about an underlying symmetric shape. In R. G. Aykroyd, K. V. Mardia, & M. J. Langdon (Eds.), Stochastic geometry, biological structure and images (pp. 137–139). Leeds: University of Leeds.Google Scholar
  25. Lalumiere, M. L., Blanchard, R., & Zucker, K. J. (2000). Sexual orientation and handedness in men and women: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 126, 575–592.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. LeVay, S. (1991). A difference in hypothalamic structure between heterosexual and homosexual men. Science, 253, 1034–1037.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. LeVay, S. (2010). Gay, straight, and the reason why: The science of sexual orientation. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Linville, S. E. (1998). Acoustic correlates of perceived versus actual sexual orientation in men’s speech. Folia Phoniatrica et Logopaedica, 50, 35–48.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Lyons, M., Lynch, A., Brewer, G., & Bruno, D. (2013). Detection of sexual orientation (“gaydar”) by homosexual and heterosexual women. Archives of Sexual Behavior, doi: 10.1007/s10508-013-0144-7.
  30. Mardia, K. V., Bookstein, F. L., & Moreton, I. J. (2000). Statistical assessment of bilateral symmetry of shapes. Biometrika, 87, 285–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Martin, J. T., & Nguyen, D. H. (2004). Anthropometric analysis of homosexuals and heterosexuals: Implications for early hormone exposure. Hormones and Behavior, 45, 31–39.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  32. McDermid, S. A., Zucker, K. J., Bradley, S. J., & Maing, D. M. (1998). Effects of physical appearance on masculine trait ratings of boys and girls with gender identity disorder. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 27, 253–267.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. McFadden, D., Loehlin, J. C., Breedlove, S. M., Lippa, R. A., Manning, J. T., & Rahman, Q. (2005). A reanalysis of five studies on sexual orientation and the relative digit length of the 2nd and 4th fingers (the 2D:4D ratio). Archives of Sexual Behavior, 34, 341–356.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Nicholas, C. L. (2004). Gaydar: Eye-gaze as identity recognition among gay men and lesbians. Sexuality and Culture, 8, 60–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pierrehumbert, J. B., Bent, T., Munson, B., Bradlow, A. R., & Bailey, J. M. (2004). The influence of sexual orientation on vowel production (L). Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 116, 1905–1908.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. R Core Development Team. (2009). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing.Google Scholar
  37. Rahman, Q. (2005). Fluctuating asymmetry, second to fourth finger length ratios and human sexual orientation. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 30, 382–391.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Rendall, D., Vasey, P. L., & McKenzie, J. (2008). The Queen’s English: An alternative, biosocial hypothesis for the distinctive features of “gay speech”. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 188–204.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Rieger, G., Linsenmeier, J., Gygax, L., & Bailey, J. M. (2008). Sexual orientation and childhood gender nonconformity: Evidence from home videos. Developmental Psychology, 44, 46–58.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Rieger, G., Linsenmeier, J., Gygax, L., Garcia, S., & Bailey, J. M. (2010). Dissecting “gaydar”: Accuracy and the role of masculinity–femininity. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 124–140.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Rohlf, J. F. (2008). tpsRelw (version 1.46). Department of Ecology and Evolution, State University of New York at Stony Brook, Stony Brook.Google Scholar
  42. Rohlf, J. F. (2009a). TpsDig2 (version 2.14). Department of Ecology and Evolution, State University of New York at Stony Brook.Google Scholar
  43. Rohlf, J. F. (2009b). TpsRegr (version 1.36). Department of Ecology and Evolution, State University of New York at Stony Brook.Google Scholar
  44. Rule, N. O., & Ambady, N. (2008). Brief exposures: Male sexual orientation is accurately perceived at 50 ms. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 1100–1105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rule, N. O., Ambady, N., Adams, J., & Macrae, C. N. (2008). Accuracy and awareness in the perception and categorization of male sexual orientation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 1019–1028.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  46. Rule, N. O., Ishii, K., Ambady, N., Rosen, K. S., & Hallett, K. C. (2011). Found in translation. Personality and Social Psychology, 37, 1499–1507.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Savriama, Y., & Klingenberg, C. P. (2011). Beyond bilateral symmetry: Geometric morphometric methods for any type of symmetry. BMC Evolutionary Biology, 11, 280.PubMedCentralCrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Savriama, Y., Neustupa, J., & Klingenberg, C. (2010). Geometric morphometrics of symmetry and allometry in Micrasterias rotata (Zygnemophyceae, Viridiplantae). Nova Hedwigia, 136, 43–54.Google Scholar
  49. Schaefer, K., Fink, B., Grammer, K., Mitteroecker, P., Gunz, P., & Bookstein, F. L. (2006). Female appearance: Facial and bodily attractiveness as shape. Psychology Science, 48, 187–204.Google Scholar
  50. Shelp, S. G. (2002). Gaydar: Visual detection of sexual orientation among gay and straight men. Journal of Homosexuality, 44, 1–14.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Sylva, D., Rieger, G., Linsenmeier, J., & Bailey, J. (2010). Concealment of sexual orientation. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 39, 141–152.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  52. Třebický, V., Havlíček, J. Roberts, S. C., Little, A. C., & Kleisner, K. (2013). Perceived aggressiveness predicts fighting performance in mixed martial arts fighters. Psychological Science, 24, 1664–1672.Google Scholar
  53. Tskhay, K. O., & Rule, N. O. (2013). Accurate identification of a preference for insertive versus receptive anal intercourse from static facial cues of gay men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, doi: 10.1007/s10508-013-0092-2.
  54. Valentova, J., Rieger, G., Havlicek, J., Linsenmeier, J. A. W., & Bailey, J. M. (2011). Judgments of sexual orientation and masculinity–femininity based on thin slices of behavior: A cross-cultural comparison. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 1145–1152.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  55. Witelson, S. F., Kigar, D. L., Scamvougeras, A., Kideckel, D. M., Buck, B., Stanchev, P. L., et al. (2008). Corpus callosum anatomy in right-handed homosexual and heterosexual men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 37, 857–863.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Zebrowitz, L. A. (1997). Reading faces: Window to the soul?. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  57. Zelditch, M. L., Swiderski, D. L., Sheets, H. D., & Fink, W. L. (2004). Geometric morphometrics for biologists: A primer. London: Elsevier Academic Press.Google Scholar
  58. Zucker, K. J., Wild, J., Bradley, S. J., & Lowry, C. B. (1993). Physical attractiveness of boys with gender identity disorder. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 22, 23–36.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jaroslava Varella Valentova
    • 1
  • Karel Kleisner
    • 2
  • Jan Havlíček
    • 3
  • Jiří Neustupa
    • 4
  1. 1.Center for Theoretical StudyCharles University in Prague and The Academy of Sciences of the Czech RepublicPrague 1Czech Republic
  2. 2.Department of Philosophy and History of Sciences, Faculty of ScienceCharles UniversityPragueCzech Republic
  3. 3.Department of Zoology, Faculty of ScienceCharles UniversityPragueCzech Republic
  4. 4.Department of Botany, Faculty of ScienceCharles UniversityPragueCzech Republic

Personalised recommendations