When straight men look at two men kissing each other, their physiological response is the same as when they look at pictures of rotting flesh, maggots and spoiled food, according to new research.
A group of 120 men watched a series of slideshows of straight and same-sex male couples displaying personal displays of affenction; including holding hands and kissing. They were also shown other basic images, such as paper clips, and disgusting images such as a bucket of maggots.
The researchers collected the participant’s saliva samples, which tested their stress and disgust levels. They found that the men felt more disgust watching two men kissing than the disgusting images.
There was no correlation found between disgust and a person’s self-reported prejudice – even those who had low levels of prejudice reportedly experienced a heightened physiological response.
But the results, according to researcher Karen L. Blair, could mean a few different things. They could have been responding with stress, fear or anger.
It is difficult to specifically state what this means. It could mean that participants found the images of male same-sex couples kissing to be equally disgusting as the disgusting images. It could mean that they had an anxiety response to the male couples kissing and a disgust response to the disgusting images, but that physiologically, we could not tell the difference between these two emotions.
Blair told PsyPost that the findings don’t go as far to explain hate crimes against LGBTQ people.
Clearly, the large majority of individuals who witness same-sex PDAs do not respond with violence, indicating that whatever small physiological response we are noticing here is not evidence for an uncontrollable or overwhelming fit of panic, as suggested by the ‘gay panic’ defense.