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Perceived Erotic Value Of Homosexuality And Sex Role Attitudes As Mediators Of Sex Differences In Heterosexual College Students'

6668 words - 27 pages

Perceived Erotic Value of Homosexuality and Sex-Role Attitudes as Mediators of Sex Differences in Heterosexual College Students' Research on attitudes toward lesbians and gay men commonly shows that heterosexual women hold similar attitudes toward members of the two groups, whereas heterosexual men hold more negative attitudes toward gay men than toward lesbians. We tested the hypothesis that one reason for this sex difference is that heterosexual men attribute a high erotic value to lesbianism and that this erotic value ameliorates their attitudes toward lesbians. Fifty-eight male and 109 female heterosexual college students completed questionnaires that assessed their attitudes toward lesbians and gay men, the erotic value that they attributed to male and female homosexuality, and their sex-role attitudes. The sex differences in attitudes toward lesbians and gay men found in previous research were replicated and, as hypothesized, men attributed more erotic value to lesbianism than to male homosexuality, whereas women attributed low erotic value to both forms of sexuality. However, with perceived erotic value of homosexuality controlled, ratings of gay men were similar to ratings of lesbians for both male and female participants, although men's ratings of both groups were more negative than women's. Controlling for sex-role attitudes removed this residual sex difference. We discuss possible sources of the heterosexual male eroticization of lesbianism and implications of the gender belief system for understanding attitudes toward lesbians and gay men.Two of the most consistent findings in attitude research have been that heterosexuals' attitudes toward lesbians and gay men are negative and that American society finds this negativity to be acceptable. Whether this research is conducted using convenience samples of college students (e.g., Herek, 1984, 1986; Kite, 1994) or national survey samples (e.g., Herek, 1991; Herek & Capitanio, 1996; Herek & Glunt, 1993), it reveals widespread anti-gay prejudice. This line of research has also uncovered a number of factors associated with anti-gay prejudice. For example, people who hold negative attitudes toward lesbians and gay men are typically higher in authoritarianism, more traditional in their sex-role attitudes, less well educated, and more negative toward members of other minority groups than are their less prejudiced peers (see reviews by Herek, 1984, 1991).Research on the factors associated with attitudes toward lesbians and gay men also has shown that heterosexual men hold more negative views than do heterosexual women. (For simplicity, in the rest of this article the terms men and women refer to heterosexual men and women except when it is necessary to distinguish between people of heterosexual and homosexual orientation.) For example, in a meta-analysis of 109 studies of the relationship between sex of respondent and attitudes toward lesbians and gay men, Kite and Whitley (1996) found...

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