Who do you suppose tend to have better functioning gaydars, conservatives or liberals? Personally, I’m a liberal, but my gaydar game is all out of whack, on account of my roguish good looks and devil-may-care internet personal brand. They make everyone who meets me, gay or straight, male or female, want to get to know me better (via inside my pants), so I don’t even know what’s going on anymore. Fortunately we have scientists to ask the hard questions for us, which is great because then we can post about it on blogs.
A group of researchers from New York University and the University of Toronto have done just that, and published their findings in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, as Mother Jones has brought to my attention. My first impression would be that conservatives have worse gaydars, but only because they use them so much, walking down the street, hiding under their covers at night, fortifying themselves in crudely-fashioned gay apocalypse bunkers, constantly petrified they might come into contact with a gay, that they’re running low on battery all the time. Liberals, on the other hand, are supposed to not care who’s gay or not, but we’re obsessed with sex and identity politics, so ours get a pretty thorough work out on the regular, too. In order to cut through that stereotyping, the researchers used another, slightly more well thought-out type of stereotyping, showing subjects pictures of 30 faces, 15 of whom were gay, 15 straight, that were pre-determined to appear either “feminine” or “masculine.”
The research subjects were asked to decide, based on nothing more than looking at each face, whether the individual was gay or straight. Later, the subjects were also asked for their political views. Thus emerged evidence that conservatives, but not liberals, tend to rate more “feminine” male faces—e.g., having high cheekbones or a more slender face—as gay. Conservatives also made up their minds about an individual’s sexual preference much more quickly than liberals did, overall—again, relying on nothing more than facial features.
Who was better? No one, really. Conservatives did a better job guessing which of the totally gay-looking faces belonged to actually totally gay people, but liberals didn’t fair much better. My takeaway from the whole thing isn’t that conservatives or liberals are better at guessing who is gay or not, but rather that conservatives are more likely to rely on good old fashioned gut instinct, and liberals tend to over-think things and bounce back and forth before settling on an answer. Who could’ve guessed that?
Side note: One thing I wish we could develop, gaydar aside, is conservadar. What’s more depressing than meeting somebody cool, thinking you might end up being friends, then realizing, a little bit too late, that they’re actually a conservative? I don’t care if you’re gay or not, as long as you’re not the type of person that cares if someone is gay or not.