intellectual vanities… about close to everything

Gay Or Straight? Body Language Reveals Sexual Orientation

with 18 comments

An individual’s body motion and body type can offer subtle cues about their sexual orientation, but casual observers seem better able to read those cues in gay men than in lesbians, according to a new study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Good data, biased interpretation. As probably the researchers have been straight, they missed the term “gay-dar” used for this sensing ability within the community. As such, this study shows much less about allegedly treacherous body language but about perception stereotypes: “gender-atypical combinations were perceived generally to be homosexual”, as the authors put it. Or more frankly: what seems queer is classified as queer. What is rendering itself to interpretation here is hence less the body type and motion, but the old odd social role expectancies ventilated and shaped by tradition and visual media more, than real everyday triage experience. That is why casual undergraduate students are more diligent in performing this kind of apprehensional task.

Volunteers were filmed and analyzed as they walked on a treadmill for two minutes. Researchers noted that gay subjects tended to have more gender-incongruent body types than their straight counterparts (hourglass figures for men, tubular bodies for women) and body motions (hip-swaying for men, shoulder-swaggering for women) than their straight counterparts. (Credit: Image provided courtesy of APA)

“We already know that men and women are built differently and walk differently from each other and that casual observers use this information as clues in making a range of social judgments,” said lead author Kerri Johnson, UCLA assistant professor of communication studies. “Now we’ve found that casual observers can use gait and body shape to judge whether a stranger is gay or straight with a small but perceptible amount of accuracy.”

Johnson and colleagues at New York University and Texas A&M measured the hips, waists and shoulders of eight male and eight female volunteers, half of whom were gay and half straight. The volunteers then walked on a treadmill for two minutes as a three-dimensional motion-capture system similar to those used by the movie industry to create animated figures from living models made measurements of the their motions, allowing researchers to track the precise amount of shoulder swagger and hip sway in their gaits.

Based on these measurements, the researchers determined that the gay subjects tended to have more gender-incongruent body types than their straight counterparts (hourglass figures for men, tubular bodies for women) and body motions (hip-swaying for men, shoulder-swaggering for women) than their straight counterparts.

In addition, 112 undergraduate observers were shown videos of the backsides of the volunteers as they walked at various speeds on the treadmill. The observers were able to determine the volunteers’ sexual orientation with an overall rate of accuracy that exceeded chance, even though they could not see the volunteers’ faces or the details of their clothing. Interestingly, the casual observers were much more accurate in judging the orientation of males than females; they correctly categorized the sexual orientation of men with more than 60 percent accuracy, but their categorization of women did not exceeded chance.

The findings build on recent research that shows that casual observers can often correctly identify sexual orientation with very limited information. A 1999 Harvard study, for example, found that just by looking at the photographs of seated strangers, college undergraduates were able to judge sexual orientation accurately 55 percent of the time.

“Studies like ours are raising questions about the value of the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” Johnson said. “If casual observers can determine sexual orientation with minimal information, then the value in concealing this information certainly appears questionable. Given that we all appear to be able to deduce this information to some degree with just a glance, more comprehensive policies may be required to protect gays against discrimination based on their sexual orientation.”

The findings also are part of mounting evidence suggesting that sexual orientation may actually be what social scientists call a “master status category,” or a defining characteristic that observers cannot help but notice and which has been scientifically shown to color all subsequent social dealings with others.

“Once you know a person’s sexual orientation, the fact has consequences for all subsequent interactions, and our findings suggest that this category of information can be deduced from subtle clues in body movement,” Johnson said.

Video available at:

J Pers Soc Psychol. 2007 Sep;93(3):321-34.

Swagger, sway, and sexuality: Judging sexual orientation from body motion and morphology.

Johnson KL, Gill S, Reichman V, Tassinary LG.

Department of Psychology, New York University, USA.

People can accurately judge the sexual orientation of others, but the cues they use have remained elusive. In 3 studies, the authors examined how body shape and motion affect perceived sexual orientation. In 2 studies, participants judged the sexual orientation of computer-generated animations in which body shape and motion were manipulated. Gender-typical combinations (e.g., tubular body moving with shoulder swagger or hourglass body moving with hip sway) were perceived generally to be heterosexual; . These effects were stronger for male targets. Body shape affected perceived sexual orientation of women, but motion affected perceived sexual orientation of both men and women. Study 3 replicated and extended these findings. Participants judged dynamic outlines of real people (men and women, both gay and straight) in which body shape and motion were measured. Again, gender-atypical body motion affected perceived sexual orientation and, importantly, affected accuracy as well. (c) 2007 APA, all rights reserved

see also the following articles. they read though as the quoted studies were undertaken by straight guys of rather psychoanalytical conceptional background LOL

hegemonic masculinity ideology…. what a term. see what happens when one first applies mathematical tools and then tries to fit the queer results with any denominator that might fit. 😉

at least one aspect did escape the researcher’s notice: body image ideal might be as well shaped by the ideal, a gay guy might fancy as his desired sex partner.

1: J Homosex. 2001;42(1):1-28.Links
Marginalization among the marginalized: gay men’s anti-effeminacy attitudes.
Taywaditep KJ.

Counseling Center, University of Illinois at Chicago, 60607-7164, USA.

Contemporary research has shown that a significant portion of gay men have traits, interests, occupations, and behaviors that are consistent with the stereotype of gay men as effeminate, androgynous, or unmasculine. A great number of gay men exhibit gender nonconformity during childhood; most, however, “defeminize” during adolescence, possibly in response to stigmatization and society’s gender-role prescription. Only a relatively small percentage of gay men continue to be gender-nonconforming in their adulthood, often at a price, as they also tend to have lower psychological well-being. Although gay culture historically appreciated camp and drag, which subvert the gender-based power hierarchy and celebrate gender nonconformity, anti-effeminacy prejudice is widespread among gay men. Ironically, gender-nonconforming gay men may suffer from discrimination not only from society at large, but from other gay men, who are most likely to have experienced stigmatization and may have been effeminate earlier in their lives. Drawing from anecdotes and findings from various sources, this article suggests that beyond many gay men’s erotic preference for masculinity lies contempt and hostility toward effeminacy and effeminate men on sociopolitical and personal levels. Two correlates of gay men’s anti-effeminacy attitudes are proposed: (a) hegemonic masculinity ideology, or the degree to which one subscribes to the value system in which masculinity is an asset, and men and masculinity are considered superior to women and femininity; and (b) masculinity consciousness, or the saliency of masculinity in one’s self-monitoring, public self-consciousness, and self-concept. These two variables are hypothesized to interact with gay men’s self-perceived masculinity-femininity and their history of defeminization in predicting attitudes toward effeminacy. Research is underway to measure levels of anti-effeminacy attitudes and explore hypothesized correlates.

PMID: 11991561 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Body image concerns of gay men: the roles of minority stress and conformity to masculine norms.

Kimmel SB, Mahalik JR.

Mental Health Services, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.

The authors hypothesized that gay men’s experiences of minority stress and their conformity to masculine norms would be associated with increased body image dissatisfaction and masculine body ideal distress. For this cross-sectional study, 357 gay males completed a Web-based survey, and 2 multiple regression analyses indicated that minority stress factors ( i.e., internalized homophobia, expected stigma for being gay, and experiences of physical attack) were associated with body image dissatisfaction and masculine body ideal distress, accounting for 5% and 13% of the variance, respectively. Gay men’s conformity to masculine norms was not associated with body image dissatisfaction but did uniquely explain an additional 3% of variance in masculine body ideal distress scores. The utility of the minority stress model, how traditional masculinity may contribute to gender-related presenting concerns, suggestions for developing and evaluating remedial and preventive interventions, limitations, and future research issues are discussed.

PMID: 16392992 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]


1: J Homosex. 2004;47(3-4):45-58.Links
Body image, eating disorders, and the drive for muscularity in gay and heterosexual men: the influence of media images.
Duggan SJ, McCreary DR.

OISE/University of Toronto, 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1V6, Canada.

This Internet research project examined the relationship between consumption of muscle and fitness magazines and/or various indices of pornography and body satisfaction in gay and heterosexual men. Participants (N = 101) were asked to complete body satisfaction questionnaires that addressed maladaptive eating attitudes, the drive for muscularity, and social physique anxiety. Participants also completed scales measuring self-esteem, depression, and socially desirable responding. Finally, respondents were asked about their consumption of muscle and fitness magazines and pornography. Results indicated that viewing and purchasing of muscle and fitness magazines correlated positively with levels of body dissatisfaction for both gay and heterosexual men. Pornography exposure was positively correlated with social physique anxiety for gay men. The limitations of this study and directions for future research are outlined.

PMID: 15451703 [PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE] �

Written by huehueteotl

September 12, 2007 at 1:57 pm

Posted in Psychology

18 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Studies like this simply illustrate the scientific method of phenomena interpretation. Studies like this put into question the endeavor of science. Why bother conducting a study to explain something that doesn’t need to be explained. A phenomenon is a phenomenon and whether or not it’s “validated” by science is completely irrelevant to me.

    What a waste of time and money!

    And then all this other effort to actually use the concept of homosexuality/heterosexuality as a basis for arriving at any conclusion is totally pointless, as homosexuality and heterosexuality are not real. Essentialized, constructed identities authored by modern science cannot encompass the nuances of nature.


    November 19, 2007 at 9:27 pm

  2. Sounds to me like the person who developed this study just wanted to get a “three-dimensional motion-capture system similar to those used by the movie industry to create animated figures from living models,” and figured out a way to get a grant to pay for it. More of this goes on than one might think… just saying.


    September 12, 2009 at 6:31 pm

  3. plz provide me via mail that how to reconize man that he also like to do sex with same gender by seeing its hand, head, finger nail, eyes etc

    Bikram Baruah

    October 21, 2009 at 12:49 pm

    • there is no way to recognize sexual preference in such personal traits…


      October 22, 2009 at 7:30 am

  4. Note the incredibly small sample sizes used in these studies – was there sampling bias in who decided to be in these tests? Were they sure that the people were walking naturally, or might they have been primed by their expected role? Clearly there were variables that weren’t being controlled for, so no author of this study should claim to have gleaned any wider pattern. What they described was a very local event. A true event, but a local one that they paid attention to in a biased way. But, then again, so much of social science these days is simply theory generated based on the biased interpretations of many local events. But truth doesn’t come like that – it’s slippery, difficult to recognize, and rarely grasped (because, gay, straight, or whatever, we’re all biased).


    January 8, 2010 at 5:01 am

  5. I actually think this is a pretty interesting study. I’ve been known for my spot-on “gay dar” and now I know why. In a weird way it kind of makes sense.


    February 13, 2010 at 10:07 pm

  6. In a queer way it makes sense cos people tend to see your sexuality by your body especially if you are effeminate and seductive.They deduce you are gay and nothing changes that.It happens to me.


    May 25, 2010 at 9:49 pm

  7. I think that some folks are already born gays but ass stimulation in heterossexuals can make their brain perceive it as good (pleasure!)and that stimulation can come on the infancy or childhood.
    Stimulation practice can make some people become cock eater asses.

  8. What the western culture and therefore western science is ignoring here is the concept of ‘third gender.’
    the concept of a separate category for “males who like men” has been started and populated by mostly feminine gendered males, who are a different gender species than masculine gendered males. The entire world, at all points of history recognized this. Every non-western culture has a ‘third gender’ identity — which is what the essence of western ‘homosexual’ category really is.
    Males with a strong male identity in the west still pressurise themselves to be exclusively heterosexual, even if they have no desire for women, because they are under immense pressure to do this, esp. because, if they don’t they will be isolated from the ‘real men’s’ category (i.e. straight) and categorized alongwith the ‘third gendered’ homosexuals.
    So, when you do a study with the third genders for ‘men who like men’ and with masculine gendered males for ‘men who like women’ then you’re going to misinterpret the ‘gender orientation’ of the third genders as their ‘sexual orientation.’ The fact, is whether its the hypothalamus theory or the ‘gay gait’ theory, if you compare the heterosexual third genders you’d find the same bioloigical traits, while ‘straight males who like men” will share the same biolgoical traits as other straight males.
    The hetero-homo divide is invalid. The only real, bioloigcal divide is that of ‘men’ (only masculine gendered males) and ‘third genders.’

    Unfortunately, there is an age old conspiracy against men in the West, to break men from men, and science is knee deep into that conspiracy:

    • I defintely disagrre, I am a very masculine gay male. I dont find woman attractive at all. I am like a gay alpha male, anyone would defintely be surprised, especially in christian America. However, I have never felt “tempted” to try women or hide my preferernce. The younger generations come out now like at 5-10 years old on average. Things are defintely changing for the better.

      Edward Nigretthi

      January 24, 2012 at 8:45 am

  9. I am a gay female that has no gay dar at all.Also all of my friends tell me that I fall under the dar so most people think I am not gay. I would like to learn how to not fall under the dar. Any suggestions ?


    September 22, 2010 at 5:44 pm

    • Look like the gender based stereotype, then you would definitely not fall under the dar!


      February 16, 2011 at 9:11 pm

  10. As a (somewhat) effeminate gay man who has long since come to terms with
    his effeminacy, I wonder why femininity and masculinity are so very important
    among humans? Is it simply because we’re a tribal species, and any variance
    from the group, anything which stamps us as “the other” is automatically
    suspect, and therefore worthy of contempt?

    Having recently participated in an Effeminacy Study, this is a
    subject which I find utterly fascinating, on both a personal and
    an intellectual level.

    Dan Collier

    June 21, 2011 at 1:39 pm

    • I think its because; just how you feel strongly about not caring about masculinity or femeninity, others care very strongly, because thats what they IDENTIFY with. For example, a very masculine man may strongly identify with his masculinity. He may love challenges, competition, athletics, high apetite. So said man would basically have nothing in common with more feminine individuals, being them women or effeminate men. Masculine guys like to associate with other masculine guys because they have a lot in common, it is seen as male bonding and is a good way of keeping sane in a crazy world or whatever reason they have etc. This is not to say that men who are inherently masculine could not be gay. I am a very masculine man, and I am 100% gay. Hope this helps.

      Edward Nigretthi

      January 24, 2012 at 8:52 am

      • @Edward:Masculine men who like men are not the same as gays because gays are third-genders who like men.The study referred to here is about effemimate males, who are not men but are third genders. This is exactly what another poster above has said.
        Masculine men liking men is actually universal.


        May 17, 2012 at 10:19 pm

  11. The body-language thing only works for dykes and feminine gays. Feminine lesbians still move like regular women, and masculine gays still move like regular men.


    December 15, 2019 at 9:42 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: