What is it in the nature of man that makes us hate and cheat and steal and kill? Why do people get off on bigotry, intolerance and racial intolerance?
– Human Nature, Gary Clail/On-U Sound System

I thought again about the 1990s track by Gary Clail after seeing a Facebook event entitled “I hate gay people day”. Worryingly, 74 people – presumably including the person who set up the group – were attending.

The photo showed a man holding up an “official homophobic membership card”. It got me thinking about why people who have such a problem with gays. One theory is that homophobia hides an insecurity. The person’s actually aroused by homosexuality, and that frightens them, because they don’t want to be.

Researchers at the University of Georgia and published by the American Psychological Association carried out an experiment with 64 men. Just over half were judged to be homophobic based on answers to a questionnaire, with the rest non-homophobic. They were then showed them a range of different porn videos and used equipment to see what aroused them. The results were interesting:

Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.

Political animals

Frequently, politicians appear on TV and say homophobic things. Thankfully, this is dying out in the UK, but in the increasingly right wing US politics, it isn’t. Only a few days ago, New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino said that homosexuality is not “an equally valid or successful option”. The last time the UK homosexuality suffered from such treatment was at the hands of Thatcher’s so-called Section 28, which effectively ensured that teachers could not discuss homosexuality with their students, in case they inferred it was in any way ‘normal’.

So what’s to be scared of? Dating site OkCupid, which has 3.5m active members in North America, has examined the statistics of their users.

In a brilliantly researched report, which makes fascinating reading, they point out that

the subtext to a lot of homophobic thinking is the idea that gays will try to get straight people into bed at the first opportunity, or that gays are looking to ‘convert’ straights. Freud called this concept schwanzangst; the US Army calls it Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

What they discovered was that:

Gay people aren’t sexually interested in straights

In over 4m searches, just

  • 0.6% of gay men have ever searched for straights.
  • 0.1% of lesbians have ever searched for straight matches.
  • 0.13% of straight people’s profile visitors are gay.

Many straight people have gay sex

Almost a quarter of the straight people that they asked, “have you ever had a sexual encounter with someone of the same sex?” answered yes. This is why sexual health agencies, in the UK at least, don’t often refer to gay men – they talk about men who have sex with men (MSM). The two are quite different.

They also show a really interesting graphic showing how the number of straight people who either have had or would like to have a same-sex experience in the continental US and lower Canada. Virtually all of Canada is pretty gay curious, and the further west you go in the US, the more likely you are to find gay curious people.

Auto stop

On Facebook, an automatic system prevents companies and organisations registering as a real person – they’re supposed to have fan pages instead. I know this because it saw the name I was typing (Harmer PR) and stopped me continuing. Maybe they need more automatic algorithms to stop hate filled groups. Because as long as people are happy to join in a hate group, the more likely it is to fuel itself.