Pinsof D, Haselton MG (2017) The effect of the promiscuity stereotype on opposition to gay rights. PLoS ONE 12(7): e0178534. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0178534
Opposition to gay rights is prevalent in countries around the world. Recent correlational research suggests that opposition to gay rights may be driven by an interaction between one’s own short-term mating orientation (i.e. willingness to engage in casual sex) and representations of gay people as sexually promiscuous.
Here, we experimentally manipulated representations of gay men by randomly assigning participants to read one of two versions of a fictitious newspaper article, one of which contained faux scientific evidence confirming the stereotype that gay men are promiscuous, and the other containing faux scientific evidence refuting the stereotype. We found that the manipulation interacted with short-term mating orientation (STMO) to predict opposition to gay rights, such that low-STMO individuals (i.e. more averse to casual sex) exhibited more support for gay rights when assigned to read the stereotype-refuting article compared to the stereotype-confirming article, whereas high-STMO individuals (i.e. less averse to casual sex) were not significantly influenced by the manipulation. We discuss the implications of these findings for the study of antigay attitudes, as well as for recent societal changes in acceptance of homosexuality.
The results support the hypothesis that representations of gay men as promiscuous interact with mating strategies to predict opposition to gay rights. By presenting participants with contrasting versions of a fictitious newspaper article, we were able to successfully manipulate both implicit and explicit representations of gay men as promiscuous. Consistent with predictions, our experimental manipulation interacted with STMO to predict opposition to gay rights. Specifically, low-STMO participants exhibited more support for gay rights in the stereotype-refuting condition than in the stereotype-confirming condition, whereas high-STMO participants exhibited no difference between the two conditions (though we found a relatively small effect among high-STMO individuals under strict exclusion criteria).
Notably, we were able to influence opposition to gay rights solely by manipulating representations of gay men, as opposed to manipulating representations of both gay men and lesbians. Whether representations of gay men generalize to lesbians, or whether representations of gay men are sufficient to drive opposition to gay rights is a question for future research. We note, however, that representations of lesbians as promiscuous appear to be quite common at the implicit level (mean IAT score = 0.62, see Pinsof & Haselton, ), and we find it plausible that such representations could also play a role in opposition to gay rights. Read more via PLOS