Gay and Straight Men’s Face Shape Found to Be Different in New Study
Gay men’s faces are shaped differently than those of straight men, and they are perceived by others to be more masculine, according to a peer-reviewed study published in the Oct. 2013 edition of Archives of Sexual Behavior.
Researchers at the Center for Theoretical Study at Charles University in Prague and the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic took photos of 40 straight men and 40 homosexual men, then compared the images using “geometric morphometrics” (a method of examining size and shape). After more than 11,000 coordinates were compared, the study found “significant shape differences in faces of heterosexual and homosexual men.”
“Gay men showed relatively wider and shorter faces, smaller and shorter noses, and rather massive and more rounded jaws, resulting in a mosaic of both feminine and masculine features,” the study reported.
In the second part of the study, researchers asked male and female students to rate the faces of 33 gay men and 33 straight men on a scale from one to seven, with one representing very masculine and seven representing very feminine. The students were unable to correctly identify each man’s sexual orientation, and they rated the gay men’s faces as being more masculine than the straight men’s. The study concluded from these results that “the stereotypic association of feminine looking men as homosexual may confound judgments of sexual orientation.”
Lead researcher Jarka Valentova cautioned that the study’s findings would need to be replicated using a larger sample and with different ethnic groups before its validity could be confirmed. Valentova also stressed in an email to the Huffington Post that the results do “not mean that any of the groups is easily recognizable on the street (and our Study 2 actually shows that it’s not that easy to guess anyone’s sexual orientation without knowing it), or that anything like that should be done (like pointing on people with our illustrations and guessing who is who).”
This study adds to the broader discussion over whether homosexuality is a result of nature or nurture. A 2008 peer-reviewed study on the origin of sexual orientation found that homosexual men’s and women’s brain activity and structure resemble that of the opposite sex, a 2006 study found that having more older brothers increases a man’s chances of being gay, and a 2003 study found that homosexuals can change their sexual orientation, although that claim was retracted by its author, Robert L. Spitzer, in Apr. 2012.
Heather Saul, “Gay and Straight Men May Have Different Facial Shapes, New Study Suggests,” independent.co.uk, Nov. 8, 2013
Dennis E. Slice, et al., “A Glossary for Geometric Morphometrics,” Stony Brook University website, Feb. 12, 2009
Jaroslava Varella Valentova, et al., “Shape Differences Between the Faces of Homosexual and Heterosexual Men,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, Oct. 2013