Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 46, Issue 3, pp 763–773 | Cite as

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

  • Eric M. RussellEmail author
  • Vivian P. Ta
  • David M. G. Lewis
  • Meghan J. Babcock
  • William Ickes
Original Paper


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 



We would like to thank Anna Park for her statistical advice and expertise. We would also like to thank Sarah Hill, Morgan Thurow, Michelle Clark, Brittany Carroll, Karen Lopez, Monica Sheehan, and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful recommendations.


  1. Abbey, A. (1982). Sex differences in attributions for friendly behavior: Do males misperceive females’ friendliness? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 32, 830–838.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bleske, A. L., & Shackelford, T. K. (2001). Poaching, promiscuity, and deceit: Combating mating rivalry in same-sex friendships. Personal Relationships, 8, 407–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bruni, F. (2015, June 20). Gay marriage’s moment. New York Times. Retrieved from
  4. Buss, D. M. (1988). The evolution of human intrasexual competition: Tactics of mate attraction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54, 616–628.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Buss, D. M., & Dedden, L. A. (1990). Derogation of competitors. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 7, 395–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Colquitt, J., Scott, B., & LePine, J. (2007). Trust, trustworthiness, and trust propensity: A meta-analytic test of their unique relationships with risk taking and job performance. Journal of Applied Psychology, 92, 909–927.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. De Block, A., & Dewitte, S. (2007). Mating games: Cultural evolution and sexual selection. Biology and Philosophy, 22, 475–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. de Jong, K., Forsgren, E., Sandvik, H., & Amundsen, T. (2012). Measuring mating competition correctly: Available evidence supports operational sex ratio theory. Behavioral Ecology, 23, 1170–1177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. de la Cruz, M., & Dolby, T. (2007). Girls who like boys who like boys: True tales of love, lust, and friendship between women and gay men. New York: Dutton.Google Scholar
  10. Demir, M., & Ozdemir, M. (2010). Friendship, need satisfaction and happiness. Journal of Happiness Studies, 11, 243–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. DeSouza, E. R., Pierce, T., Zanelli, J. C., & Hutz, C. (1992). Perceived sexual intent in the U.S. and Brazil as a function of nature of encounter, subjects’ nationality, and gender. Journal of Sex Research, 29, 251–260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fisher, M. L. (2013). Women’s intrasexual competition for males. In M. L. Fisher, J. R. Garcia, & R. Sokol Chang (Eds.), Evolution’s empress: Darwinian perspectives on the nature of women (pp. 19–42). New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fisher, M., & Cox, A. (2010). Four strategies used during intrasexual competition for mates. Personal Relationships, 18, 20–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Gaiba, F. (2008). Straight women and gay men friends: A qualitative study. Dissertation Abstracts International Section A, 69, 262.Google Scholar
  15. Gladow, N. W., & Ray, M. P. (1986). The impact of informal support systems on the well-being of low-income single parents. Journal of Applied Family and Child Studies: Family Relations, 35, 113–123.Google Scholar
  16. Grigoriou, T. (2004). Friendship between gay men and heterosexual women: An interpretive phenomenological analysis. London, England: London South Bank University, Families and Social Capital ESRC Research Group.Google Scholar
  17. Hopcke, R. H., & Rafaty, L. (1999). Straight women, gay men: Absolutely fabulous friendships. Berkley, CA: Wildcat Canyon Press.Google Scholar
  18. Huchard, E., & Cowlishaw, G. (2010). Female-female aggression around mating: An extra cost of sociality in a multimale primate society. Behavioral Ecology, 22, 1003–1011.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lewicki, R. J., & Bunker, B. B. (1995). Trust in relationships: A model of development and decline. In B. B. Bunker & J. Z. Rubin (Eds.), Conflict, cooperation and justice (pp. 133–173). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  20. Liptak, A. (2015, June 26). Gay marriage supporters win supreme court victory. New York Times. Retrieved from
  21. Maitland, S. (1991). Fag-hags: A field guide. Critical Quarterly, 33, 19–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Malone, J. (1980). Straight women/gay men: A special relationship. New York: Dial Press.Google Scholar
  23. Mayer, R., Davis, J., & Schoorman, F. (1995). An integrative model of organizational trust. Academy of Management Review, 20, 709–734.Google Scholar
  24. Moon, D. (1995). Insult and inclusion: The term fag hag and the gay male “community”. Social Forces, 74, 487–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Muraco, A. (2004). Friendship matters: A study of close intersectional bonds. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of California Davis, Davis, CA.Google Scholar
  26. Muraco, A. (2012). Odd couples: Friendships at the intersection of gender and sexual orientation. Durham, NC: Duke University Press Books.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rumens, N. (2008). The complexities of friendship: Exploring how gay men make sense of their workplace friendships with straight women. Culture and Organization, 14, 79–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Russell, E. M., DelPriore, D. J., Butterfield, M. E., & Hill, S. E. (2013). Friends with benefits, but without the sex: Straight women and gay men exchange trustworthy mating advice. Evolutionary Psychology, 11, 132–147.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Singleton, D. (2005). Behind every great woman there’s a fabulous gay man: Advice from a guy who gives it to you straight. New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
  30. Smith-Spark, L., Conlon, K., & Black, P. (2015, May 23). Ireland votes overwhelmingly in favor of same-sex marriage. CNN. Retrieved from
  31. Thompson, D. (2004). Calling all fag hags: From identity politics to identification politics. Social Semiotics, 14, 37–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Torre, B. A., & Manalastas, E. J. (2013). Babaeng bakla: Friendships between women and gay men in Philippines. Philippine Journal of Psychology, 46, 149–163.Google Scholar
  33. Vanneste, B. S., Puranam, P., & Kretschmer, T. (2014). Trust over time in exchange relationships: Meta-analysis and theory. Strategic Management Journal, 35, 1891–1902.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Walters, S., & Crawford, C. (1994). The importance of mate attraction for intrasexual competition in men and women. Ethology and Sociobiology, 15, 5–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Warren, C. A. (1976). Women among men: Females in the male homosexual community. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 5, 157–169.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Watson, D. (1992). Correcting for acquiescent response bias in the absence of a balanced scale: An application to class consciousness. Sociological Methods Research, 21, 52–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wilson, E. (2005, December 8). In fashion, who really gets ahead? New York Times, pp. G1, G11.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eric M. Russell
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vivian P. Ta
    • 1
  • David M. G. Lewis
    • 2
  • Meghan J. Babcock
    • 1
  • William Ickes
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyThe University of Texas at ArlingtonArlingtonUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyBilkent UniversityBilkent, AnkaraTurkey

Personalised recommendations