The tale is as old as time – or at least romantic comedies: girl meets guy, they get along, they fall in love, she realizes that they really can’t “just be friends.” But research published in Psychological Science suggests that women who like gay men might be right - so long as they don’t expect a lot more.
The researchers invited 154 heterosexual women to participate in the study. They were asked to report on the number of homosexual male, straight male and female friends they had, how close those relationships were (on a scale of 1 to 5), as well as their body image concerns and their level of self-perceived sexual attractiveness. They also completed a questionnaire measuring their level of depressive symptoms and a measure of empathy.
In two separate studies, the researchers then asked the women to engage in either imagined or actual initial interactions with a man. In both cases, the women reported greater anticipated comfort when they were informed that their hypothetical conversation partner was gay rather than straight. This was primarily a function of the removal of the women’s worries that the man may misinterpret friendly behavior as flirtation or even sexual interest.
This is a very important finding, says one of the researchers, Eric Russell of the University of Texas at Arlington. “Because gay men don’t mate with women or compete for mates, they’re a relatively safe bet for women,” he explains. And, as a result, their conversations can be much more open and involving.