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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Eric M. Russell.

Appendices

Appendix 1: Scenarios Relevant to Sexual and Competitive Deception—Study 2

Note: “Alex” is the target.

Scenarios Relevant to Sexual Deception

  1. (1)

    Imagine that you picked out something to wear to the party, but you are worried it may be too revealing. When you express this concern to Alex, he looks you up-and-down a few times and then says, “Your outfit looks good—it isn’t too revealing.”

  2. (2)

    Imagine that you and Alex are mingling with other people at the party. You notice a really attractive man in the corner of the room, and you really want to introduce yourself. Alex notices you looking at this man and immediately tells you, “I know him, and I wouldn’t go there. I’m sure there is a better fit for you…”

  3. (3)

    Imagine that you are mixing a drink for yourself. Alex approaches you with two drinks in hand. He hands one to you and tells you, “I made this one just for you… Don’t worry, it doesn’t have that much alcohol in it.”

  4. (4)

    Imagine that you sit down next to Alex on the couch while he is talking to someone else. Suddenly, you feel Alex’s hand caress your leg. He turns to you, pulls his hand away and says: “Oh sorry, I thought you were my other friend…”

  5. (5)

    Imagine that you and Alex are mingling with other party attendees about traveling. After the conversation comes to a close, Alex turns to you privately and asks: “Want to go upstairs to my friend’s bedroom with me? I have some pretty cool pictures from our recent trip that I could show you…”

  6. (6)

    Imagine that the party is coming to a close, and you are quite tipsy. You are thinking about calling a taxi to take you home. When you say goodbye to Alex, he tells you: “Don’t worry—I will walk you to my place that’s down the street. I will let you sleep there.”

Scenarios Relevant to Competitive Deception

  1. (1)

    Imagine that you misplaced the invitation to the party that you are about to attend, and you just decide to wear casual clothing. When you arrive to the party, you are horrified to find out everyone is in cocktail attire. You turn to Alex and express how you need to go home and change. Alex looks your clothes and then says: “You look great in what you’re wearing.”

  2. (2)

    Imagine that you and Alex are mingling with other people at the party. You notice a really attractive man in the corner of the room, and you really want to introduce yourself. Alex notices you looking at this man. She/he immediately smiles and tells you: “Let me introduce myself to him, and I could put in a good word for you.”

  3. (3)

    Imagine that Alex approaches the attractive man that you had your eyes so that she/he can put in a good word for you. Alex comes back to tell you about his/her conversation with him and says: “I pointed you out to him, but he didn’t seem interested. Darn…”

  4. (4)

    Imagine that you are grabbing another drink and you see the attractive guy again in passing. You smile at him as he passes, but he gives you a strange look. When you walk to the bathroom, you notice some food was caught in your teeth. After removing the food from your teeth, you rush back out to the party and ask Alex why she/he didn’t tell you that there was food in her teeth. Alex replies by saying, “Oh sorry… I didn’t notice it from my angle.”

  5. (5)

    Imagine that you and Alex overhear a group of girls at the party talking about how attractive a guy is in the kitchen, so the two of you make your way over to the kitchen. To your surprise, the attractive guy looks your way and smiles at you. Alex notices him looking your way and then says to you: “I’ve heard he is a big player, so be careful because you seem like a great girl.”

  6. (6)

    Imagine that you begin talking with the cute guy at the party again. You end up exchanging numbers with him and he tells you to text him later tonight after the party. Excitedly, you tell Alex what happened. Alex tells you, “I wouldn’t text him tonight…it’s better for him to text you first.”

Appendix 2: Guided Visualization of Increased Mating Competition—Study 3

Where Have all the Good Men Gone?

By: Alexis Dale

Let the hunt begin. According to a recent study conducted by the psychology department of University of Texas at Austin, women may need to add a new concern to their list: finding a romantic partner. According to Psychology Professor Robert Dunn, his newest body of research indicates an unusual increase in the ratio of females to males in the US, especially those born between the years 1985 and 1998. His research demonstrated that—among individuals in the 1985–1998 birth cohort—women make up 59 % of the population while men are down to a paltry 41 %. “This has been a very unprecedented change in the status quo,” said Mary Barker of the US Census Bureau. “The sex ratio has never been this imbalanced.” Nowhere has this imbalance been more evident than on college campuses. Although the sex ratio on college campuses has been female biased for a number of years now, things have gotten progressively worse. Many college campuses in the U.S. now have twice as many women as they do men.

“I have been trying to find a decent boyfriend for a number of years now without any luck,” says Ellie Houser, a student from the University of Texas at Austin. “At least now I can feel confident that the problem might not be me. It’s that there are literally fewer quality men out there for the taking, and too many single women who are after them.”

Despite our current economic turmoil, companies such as eHarmony and Match.com have reported some of their highest earnings in the 2012–2013 fiscal year. The female clients who use these dating websites voice their concerns. “It is tiring trying to compete against the same group of women for the few good guys that are out there; sometimes you need a dating service to do the work for you—even then, it is still difficult,” says Sarah who is a single woman that uses Match.com.

Control Article—Study 3

Night Owls Have More Nightmares, Study Claims

By: Alexis Dale

The early bird might catch the worm because it sleeps better than the night owl, not just because it awakens earlier. At least that appears to be the case for humans, according to a new study. Researchers found that night owls—“evening-type individuals”—are significantly more likely to suffer from poor sleep quality, daytime sleepiness and disturbing nightmares than early birds—“morning-type individuals”—or folks whose bedtime falls somewhere between the two. “Evening-type people have more nightmares because of their sleep patterns,” says lead author Yavuz Selvi, assistant professor of psychiatry at Yuzuncu Yil University in Van, Turkey, whose paper was published online Aug. 25 in the journal, Sleep and Biological Rhythms. Staying awake late at night and waking up late in the morning disrupts the relationship between the body’s internal clock and its ability to maintain normal sleep patterns, Selvi explains.

In other words, it really screws up your circadian rhythm. Nightmares usually awaken you, so if they occur frequently, you might begin to fear falling asleep, cutting into your snooze time even more. Epidemiological studies have found that nearly nine in 10 adults reporting having at least one nightmare in the previous year, Selvi says, with 2–6 % reporting weekly nightmares. He and his co-authors studied 264 medical students, ages 17 to 26 years old, who weren’t yet dealing with crazy hours in their training. The researchers administered a battery of tests to assess whether the students were morning or evening types, the quality of their sleep and how frequently they experienced nightmares and how disturbing they were.

The tests revealed that 59 of the students were evening types, 67 morning types and the rest fell in the “intermediate” range. Men were more likely than women to be night owls; vice versa when it came to early birds.

Appendix 3: Perceptions of Female Competition—Study 4

  1. (1)

    I think there is a lot of competition to find someone desirable to date.

  2. (2)

    I think women have to worry about competing with other women to find a decent guy.

  3. (3)

    I feel like some women would lie in order to get a desirable guy.

  4. (4)

    I think women easily get into confrontations over a particular man.

  5. (5)

    I could see women belittling one another in front of an attractive guy.

  6. (6)

    I think it is safe for women to trust one another when looking for men to date.*

  7. (7)

    I don’t think women have to worry much about having mutual interests in the same man.*

  8. (8)

    I would feel threatened if my date started chatting with another woman.

*Indicates items that were reverse-scored.

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Russell, E.M., Ta, V.P., Lewis, D.M.G. et al. Why (and When) Straight Women Trust Gay Men: Ulterior Mating Motives and Female Competition. Arch Sex Behav 46, 763–773 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0648-4

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Keywords

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