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Jul 09, 2013 02:35 PM EDT

Unwanted Sexual Attention Drives Homosexual Prejudice and Homophobia


A new psychology study suggests that homophobia among college students is based mostly on the fear of being hit on by the same sex, the Huffington Post reported.

Lead author Angela G. Pirlott, psycology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (UW), teamed up with Steven L. Neuberg, psycology professor at Arizona State University (ASU) on the study published in the journal Social Psychology and Personality Science.

Pirlott told the Huffington Post via e-mail that they discovered there was more to sexual prejudice than the more traditional theories suggested.

"We began exploring the idea of a 'sexual interest mismatch' -- that the sexual interests of the perceivers and their perceptions of the sexual interests of the different sexual orientation groups differed," Pirlott said. "In particular, that some sexual orientation groups might be perceived as directing unwanted sexual interest toward them."

According to, the study was conducted with a sample size of 533 heterosexual students questioned on their sexual prejudice.

"To assess this, we had participants rate their sexual interest in each of the six target groups (straight men, straight women, bisexual men, bisexual women, gay men, and lesbians)," Pirlott told PsyPost. "We then assessed their perceptions of the extent to which each of the those six target groups were interested in heterosexual men and women."

For the results, the psychologists used a difference score to determine which groups drove the most unwanted sexual attention. Women expressed unwanted sexual attention from bisexual men and women and lesbian women, but felt neutral toward gay men. Men expressed prejudice toward bisexual and gay men, but not bisexual women.

Pirlott and Neuberg acknowledged that unwanted sexual attention was not the only cause for prejudice and also concluded that their research was done to better understand the matter and ultimately to remedy it.

"Thinking about sexual prejudices, like thinking about all prejudices, requires we consider the perceived tangible challenges and opportunities people perceive others to pose," Pirlott and Neuberg concluded in their study. "Finally, to explain sexual prejudice is not to justify it. Our goal was to enhance our understanding of why certain heterosexuals are prejudiced against sexual orientation minorities in the nuanced ways they are. Only through such understanding can effective means of reducing prejudices be designed and implemented."

(The author of this article changed two instances of a mispelling of "psychology" from "phychology," which was originally written.)

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