Psychology of Homophobia/Sexual Prejudice
Society began to rethink homosexuality in the 1960’s when heterosexual psychologist George Weinberg coined the term “homophobia.” Weinberg used the term to label heterosexuals’ fear of being in contact of homosexuals as well as the self-loathing of homosexuals, meaning that homosexuals hated themselves for being gay. As of the new millennium, there has been a new special term that has been born to define the fear, hate and disgust that people show towards anyone’s sexual orientation called “sexual prejudice.” Like other types of prejudice, there are three main principals that surround sexual prejudice: it is an attitude, it is directed at social groups and its members, and it is negative as involving hostility or dislike. As time goes by there has been differing perspectives on sexual prejudice (homophobia).
In an interview with Karen Franklin, a forensic psychologist and former criminal investigator, which was conducted by PBS’s program “FRONTLINE,” reveals her interest and perspective on anti-gay hate crimes that relate to homophobia. Franklin has interviewed multiple perpetrators of anti-gay hate crimes and with San Francisco Bay Area College students that has lead to the production of important data of the nature and extent to the negative reactions to gays.
When Karen Franklin was asked, “What makes a person become a gay basher?” she answered, “there is no simple answer to that question.” Franklin explains that for a person to commit any violent act one must have had something influence them to be violent and the fact that a gay person is being targeted is another motivation. She explains that there are several motivations for these acts. The first motivation is “peer dynamics,” in which a person tries to prove masculinity, or to prove heterosexuality, or just not to back down and let one’s peers down. The next most common motivation she found was what she called “anti-gay ideology” in which their reasons for their anti-gay feelings are based on morals or religion. Another common motivation was that a person might be thrill-seeking and trying to have a good time at someone else’s expense. Franklin states that, in general, “people are trying to endorse a cultural message that gay people are second class citizens and are not worthy of respect. Franklin feels that this sexual prejudice is a cultural problem and that people see gays as the last social acceptable group to assault because it is no longer acceptable to assault other minorities. Franklin thinks that young people feel that if gays do not have equal rights they feel that itself is a reason that there is something wrong with gay people and that it is okay to hurt them.
When Franklin was at the Bay Area College in San Francisco, she found that one in ten students (non-criminal) reported physically or verbally assaulting gays. Something that Franklin found quite interesting was that these people claim that it’s the gay person’s fault because they feel that gay people are sexual predators and she also said that they perceive the gays as trying to flirt with them. For some bizarre reason, these people claim that they feel as if they have a specific duty and the right to punish a gay person for flirting with them. Franklin says that the results show that young people in school end up doing drugs, alcohol, quitting school and even suicide because they are not being accepted in society and they are violating gender norms. For those who did not assault gays said they wouldn’t because they are not violent but still verbally assaulted them.
A study appearing in the August 1996 issue of the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, entitled Is Homophobia Associated With Homosexual Arousal?, published
By Professor Henry Adams, a member of the American Psychological Association (APA) has provided new evidence supporting the controversial psychoanalytic theory that homophobia, the fear, disgust and anxiety heterosexuals hold for gay individuals, is actually the result of repressed homosexual feelings and urges.
Professor Henry Adams and his colleagues at the University of Georgia conducted a research experiment involving white heterosexual men, 35 whom were homophobic and 29 whom were non-homophobic. Al of the men had reported to be heterosexual in arousal and experience. Each participant was shown how to put on a penile strain gauge, which measures the circumference of the penis. After the gauge was in place, each man was shown three 4-minute videotapes depicting heterosexual activity, male homosexual activity, and lesbian activity. The last video of lesbian activity was included due to the idea that most men have a high interest in lesbian (homosexual) activity.
The researchers found that the homophobic men showed a significant increase in penile circumference to the male homosexual video where as the non-homophobic men did not. “In the homophobic group, 20% showed no significant arousal, 26% showed moderate arousal, and 54% showed definite arousal to the homosexual video. In the non-homophobic group, 66% showed no significant arousal, 10% showed moderate arousal, and 24% showed definite arousal.
After the videos were watched, the men were asked to give their own assessment of how the degree to which they thought they were aroused and the group of men gave answers that seemed to be close to the results but with one major exception, the homophobic men underestimated the degree of which they were aroused by the male homosexual video.
Men in both groups were aroused by about the same degree by the video depicting heterosexual sexual behavior and by the video showing two women engaged in sexual behavior. The only significant difference in degree of arousal between the two groups occurred when they viewed the video depicting male homosexual sex: “The homophobic men showed a significant increase in penile circumference to the male homosexual video, but the control group (non-homophobic) men did not.”
Henry Adams stated that, “there are several possible explanations. One is that homophobia is an attempt to repress or deny one’s own homosexual impulses. Another is that homosexual stimuli cause anxiety non-homophobic men, and anxiety enhances arousal and erection. Further research is needed to clarify the results and to answer questions such as whether these results would generalize to homophobic women and whether homophobic men have poorer heterosexual adjustment than do non-homophobic men.
Now that all of the details, background, and evidence have been laid out, a straightforward synopsis would be appropriate. It has become obvious that heterosexual men are not just afraid of gay men but also of themselves. Men have this major motivation of wanting to prove masculinity to himself and to everyone else. It seems that this can be rooted to something even deeper into the depths of man’s natural instinct and desire for power. Because masculinity is known as the dominance over feminism, it is a natural feeling for men to want to be masculine in order to be more dominant so that they may be on the verge of obtaining some form of power. It seems that some, if not most men, have homosexual feelings and try to deny them whether they are aware of them or not. When men assault homosexual men, because they feel they are constantly being flirted with by them or at least they perceive them to be, the men just claim that they feel it is their duty and right to hurt them. It is appropriate to say that this seems to be a very serious culture problem, because whether we know it or not, we all contribute in even the smallest ways to this problem. For instance, when we go up to our male youth and ask them if they like any girls in their class or when we ask a female if she has a boyfriend, we are contributing to the problem in a subliminal and subconscious manner. We are sending a subliminal message to society; we are trying to tell them who they are supposed to be. It is quite ironic to find that men hate gay men, although, at the same time they love and desire gay women and it is acceptable. Sexual prejudice is very complex, confusing, wrong, misunderstood, and very harmful to society.
2.Psychological Perspective – Henry Adams
3.The Mind of A Gay Basher – Karen Franklin
4.Bigots and Buggers – Peter Tatcheell
5.American Psychological Association – Henry Adams