The dynamic duo of the straight woman and gay best friend seen in television shows such as Sex & the City (Carrie and Stanford), Ugly Betty (Wilhelmina and Marc), and Will and Grace (Jack and Karen), has captured the age-old unique relationship between these two groups. The completely platonic relationship between straight women and gay men is considered to be the most natural, mutually-beneficial, serving a biologically adaptive function, especially helpful when it comes to finding a romantic partner. According to a recent study, straight women and homosexual men perceive each other as trustworthy for dating advice due to a lack of romantic interest or sexual competition.
The pairing between straight women and gay men is believed to thrive because of several key components. Usually, these groups do not feel any sexual tension with one another, which allows both parties to let their guards down, be themselves, and share their feelings openly, according to Psychology Today. This lends itself to a healthy and positive relationship between a straight woman and gay man because it consists of true emotional compatibility and respect for one another when both parties are focused on being friends. While not every straight woman has a gay best friend, and not every gay man has a straight woman as their trusted confidant, researchers at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, think they should.
Published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, a group of scientists sought to delve into the mysteries of the straight woman and gay man relationship to unveil why they choose to form close bonds with one another in a series of two experiments. The experiments explore the study authors’ hypothesis on the potential benefit uniquely available to straight women and gay men in the context of their friendships: trustworthy dating advice.
Eighty-eight straight undergraduate females participated in the first experiment where they were asked to imagine that they had recently been invited to a party by their friend. The night of the party, the friend becomes ill, which leads to the host suggesting the participants attend the party with one of their neighbors. The participants do not know the person but look them up on Facebook prior to the party.
According to Scientific American, the researchers showed the female participants a fake Facebook profile of the college-aged neighbor, including a photo and clear information about the person being: (a) a gay male; (b) a straight male; or (c) a straight female. The women were asked a range of questions to decipher how much they would trust the guy, “Jordan”, when it came to making several dating-related decisions. One such question was: “How likely would you [be to] trust Jordan to tell you that you have something stuck in your teeth before talking to an attractive man at the party?”
The findings of the first experiment revealed straight women perceive mating advice from gay men as more trustworthy compared to similar advice offered by a straight man or woman. Eric Russell, author of the study and the team of researchers, believes “because straight women's relationships with straight men and other straight women are often tainted by deceptive motives related to mating interest or competition, respectively, we predicted that straight women would perceive mating-relevant information provided by a gay male to be more trustworthy than similar advice provided by a straight male or straight female.”
To see if the effect held true when the roles were reversed, researchers replicated the party/Facebook experiment with the participants being gay men rather than straight women. “Straight male Jordan” was also replaced with “lesbian Jordan” in this scenario. The results of the second experiment demonstrated gay men perceive dating advice offered by a straight woman to be more trustworthy than advice offered by a lesbian woman or another gay man.
Although lesbians and gay men have homosexuality in common, and lack ulterior sexual motives, they do not perceive each other to be more trustworthy. The study authors believe gay men are more likely to trust straight women with relationship and dating advice because gay men and lesbians are attracted to different genders, which lacks the presence of a common sexual interest, the Daily Mail reports.
Straight women and gay men are not potential romantic partners nor mating competition for each other despite being sexually attracted to the same gender. This, therefore, positions both groups to provide one another with dating-related advice and support that is not plagued with ulterior motives that may stem from intrasexual rivalry or competition, the researchers wrote.
These results highlight the scientific evidence that relationships between these two groups are characterized by a lack of romantic interest or sexual competition. Russell’s study does present some limitations, such as only investigating the perceptions of trustworthiness in dating advice and whether this trustworthiness could be applied to other aspects of life involving decision-making.
Butterfield ME, DelPriore DJ, Hill SE et al. Friends with benefits, but without the sex: Straight women and gay men exchange trustworthy mating advice. Evolutionary Psychology. 2013.