The Science Behind Why Women Want to Befriend Gay Men

For years, friendships between straight women and gay men have been a subject of pop culture fascination. Books, television shows and feature length films have all highlighted this unique relationship, noted for its closeness and depth.

But with society’s attitudes toward gays and lesbians changing, it’s become all the more important to build a holistic understanding of the relationships between gay and straight people.

As a researcher in social psychology, I’ve often wondered: why do straight female-gay male relationships work so well? Why are straight women so drawn to having gay men as friends? And when do these relationships typically form?

During the course of my research, I’ve discovered that the most interesting, compelling – and, arguably, most theoretically coherent – explanation is through the lens of evolution.

Specifically, I believe evolutionary psychology and human mating can help explain why relationships between straight women and gay men tend to flourish.

A safe bet

At first glance, this explanation may seem quite counterintuitive. (After all, straight women and gay men don’t mate with one another.)

However, this is precisely the reasoning behind my approach. Because gay men don’t mate with women – or compete with them for mates – women feel a certain level of comfort with gay men, and the process of forming a close friendship can occur relatively quickly. With heterosexual men (who, by definition, are sexually attracted to women), the process is longer – and potentially more fraught – because men may be grappling with their own sexual impulses.

In other words, because gay men are attracted to their own gender, they’re a “safe bet” for women – at least, from a sociobiological standpoint.

About three years ago, I initially tested this theory in a series of experiments that have served as the foundation of my research program on gay-straight relationships.

In these experiments, straight female participants were shown fictitious Facebook profiles depicting either a straight woman, straight man or gay man. The female participants were then asked how likely they would be to trust the individual’s dating advice.

I also recruited gay male participants, and had them complete the same task (with the gay men viewing Facebook profiles depicting a straight female, gay male or lesbian female).

The experiments, published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, demonstrated that straight women and gay men perceived one another to be trustworthy sources of relationship and dating advice. In other words, when it came to dating-related matters, there was an almost instantaneous level of implicit trust.

Still, more needed to be done to support the hypothesis.

Cracking the why and when

Recently, my colleagues and I at the University of Texas at Arlington developed a series of four related studies.

We titled the four studies “Why (and When) Straight Women Trust Gay Men: Ulterior Mating Motives and Female Competition,” with the hope of better establishing why straight women trust gay men and when straight women would be most likely to seek out gay men for friendship and guidance.

For the first study, I wanted to replicate the finding that women trust gay men more than straight men or straight women. This time, however, I wanted to see if women would only trust gay men’s dating-related advice as opposed to other types of advice.

It turns out straight women only trusted a gay man’s advice about a potential boyfriend more than the same advice from, say, a straight man or another straight woman. In other words, it’s not like straight women totally trusted gay men on all matters. It really only had to do with one thing: dating and relationships.

To further examine why this might be the case, we had women imagine receiving information from either a straight woman, straight man, or a gay man about their physical appearance and the dateability of potential boyfriends. We then asked the women how sincere they felt the responses were.

As expected, the female subjects seemed to perceive the judgments coming from the gay man to be more sincere because they knew that he wouldn’t have any ulterior motives – whether that meant wooing the subject (which they might suspect of straight men) or competing for the same romantic partner (straight women).

For the final two studies, we wanted to figure out when women were most likely to befriend and place their trust in gay men. We predicted that this would most often occur in highly competitive dating environments, where a trustworthy source like a gay friend would be valued by women jockeying with one another for a boyfriend.

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To test this, we created a fake news article that detailed extremely skewed sex ratios, indicating that women in college were competing over a very small pool of men. We had women read this news article and then indicate how much they would trust a straight woman or a gay man in various dating-related scenarios.

When women read the news article about the increased competition, their trust in gay men was amplified. Not only were women more apt to trust gay men under this condition, but we also found that they became more willing to make gay male friends.

Beyond dating advice

The downside is that if a straight woman values her gay male friends only for dating advice, the relationship could become quite superficial (see Chris Riotta’s essay “I’m Gay, Not Your Accessory”).

However, the strong trust that women initially form with gay men can serve as a primer; eventually, this trust could extend to other areas, with the friendship blossoming over time.

Other findings – combined with our own – show that there seems to be an extremely strong psychological underpinning for why women are so drawn to gay men.

For instance, a recent study in the Journal of Business and Psychology revealed that straight women tend to hire gay men over other heterosexual individuals because they perceive gay men to be more competent and warmer. Furthermore, marketing researchers have suggested that straight women prefer to work with gay male sales associates over others in consumer retail settings.

These two findings alone could have many positive implications for gay men in the workplace. Because many women seem to value input and contributions of gay men in these settings, it’s likely that we’ll see a more inclusive workplace environment for gay men.

Although much of this research focuses on why women are drawn to friendships with gay men, another obvious avenue of exploration is whether or not gay men are similarly keen to form friendships with straight women.

Unfortunately, there’s been very little research on this. However, it’s possible that gay men connect with straight women for some of the same reasons. For example, in a study I conducted in 2013, I found that gay men also look to women for trustworthy dating advice or tips for finding a prospective boyfriend. Other researchers have suggested that gay men value the positive attitudes towards homosexuality that women tend to have (relative to straight men).

In this case, the implicit trust seems to be a two-way street.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read more on the straight female-gay male friendship at GayStraight.com.

Comments

  1. Lisa

    Eric,
    From a psychological perspective, you are correct about many of your assumptions. I think the main feature is that the straight women don’t feel preyed upon nor do they feel pressured to have sex with their gay male friend. Straight women tell me that their gay “boyfriend” likes dinners, Broadway shows, fashion, snuggling, shopping, gabbing on the phone (sorry if this sounds stereotypical, I know not all gay males enjoy these things), and still they provide the Prince Charming aspect of the relationship. Women say that their gay male friends are good looking, well groomed, and smell nice, characteristics they found lacking in their straight male associates.

    With gay male friends the straight women still enjoy male company but there is no sexual agenda. They get to enjoy hanging out with a good looking guy. They say it’s nice to be seen out in public with him.

    The jealousy factor is greatly decreased as well. The straight women don’t have to check phones or stalk their gay male friend to be sure he’s not cheating. On the contrary, she can be a support for him in his romantic relationships.

    You seem to have discovered these things in your research so far.

    Sadly, this matching site may not be the way to cultivate such relationships. These types of friendships seem to form more organically. I bet there are plenty of straight women on this site and significantly less gay men looking for their company.

    I hope your research goes well. I think publications in social psychology and evolutionary biology would benefit from your insights.

    Best,
    Prof Lisa

  2. Jules

    This makes a lot of sense and from my experience from hanging out with a few, it’s pretty close to the truth!

    1. Gloria

      Exactly! That’s why I joined this site. Straight men never just want to hang out. They’re always trying to find ways to get in your pants .

  3. Trevor Wood

    Coming from a gay guy who has mostly straight male friends, nothing beats spending time with girls!! It annoying hearing about all of there girl problems when I need people to talk about my man problems!! Haha

    1. Michael G

      Yeah same here, I have mostly straight male friends. I guess I’m shy socially and not extroverted in a “flamboyant” manner. Probably mostly because I’m an introvert lol. Yeah there’s a whole dynamic that comes with socializing with girls that just isn’t provided elsewhere.

  4. Lena

    I for one have some gay friends. I enjoy their company an conversations. Unfortunately they don’t live close by. Yes it’s fun to talk about your relationships etc. BUT there is so much more. I’d like a friend I can to about . the arts, fashion, politics ( I know that’s a nono) but with intelligent people who are willing to discuss issues without grudges or judgements it can a be a lot fun. It would be nice to hike be goofy, dance etc.
    That’s all for now.

  5. Morrin

    I have some of my best conversations with gay men, but its always when I’m rushing off somewhere or they are, like standing on line at a store.

  6. Andrea

    I’m married now but I used to go to Hollywood all the time with my gay friends and party it up dance to Britney all night sweat up a storm I even had my bachelorette party at a gay club in Hollywood 🤗

    1. Kamil

      That’s really awesome! Too bad I’m not from US tho. :/ That sucks a bit but we can chat here if you want.

  7. Pat

    I worked with a group of women many years ago and I had some of my best and most authentic conversations with them. At the time I was only just coming out and it was so liberating to be able to speak openly about my sexuality and attraction to other men and to be encouraged and supported instead of judged. When so much was lacking authenticity in my life, these relationships sustained me and gave me confidence to be who I am.

    I think it’s that warmth and authenticity that really makes the difference. For the straight women and the gay men there is an almost natural ease to the relationship and when so many relationships are hard work and feel like a tactical game, it’s just really nice to connect with another human being of the opposite sex without all of the worry and concern about game playing and ulterior motives.

    1. Julia Bullock

      Wow Pat! I really enjoyed your eloquent description of why this sort of relationship is so fulfilling. And necessary. You’re so right that every relationship in life takes work to some degree, but my friendships with gay men are easy and have a flow to them that I don’t have in my other relationships. Jules

  8. ★๖ۣۜƊanaℓou★

    Trust is a huge factor, of course, for some reason it’s always been easier for me to talk to and bond with gay men over straight men and straight women. I’ve always been able to trust my friendships with gay men more than any other. I have always trusted my gay guy friends and for some reason they’ve always been a lot more understanding of my feelings. Also, I could never have as much fun, adventures, and all out laugh fest with anyone, but my gay guy friends. I miss those relationships so much. I’m a tired mama with a hormonal teenager, mama needs some fun nights out.

  9. Tanya19

    Interesting. Are there any articles about why gay men befriend straight women? 🙂

    I’ve worked with gay men and have had friends who had a gay best friend but I’ve never had a friendship with a gay man. My observations though, many gay men seem authentic, straightforward and don’t have time for the BS which are qualities that I look for in all my friends.

  10. Mia

    Firstly you need to treat your gay friend as a first his sexuality shouldn’t define who he is. If you treat his sexuality as the only thing about him then he becomes an accessory to you instead of the true friend that he can be without defining him with his sexuality. Gay guys wanna have that friendship with girls but most just want him as the homosexual pet to brighten up the girls life and that’s it. Please ask the gay guy in your life what he wants he chooses you he’s gay he doesn’t need to no girls count your self lucky he’s talking to you and please do no not treat him as a handbag gay guys have feelings aswell this is coming from a girls perspective you can either take my advice or not

  11. Kathy

    I have had lovely gay besties but one of them moved out of state, another fell off the wagon and I never see him anymore and my current GFF has a rather needy hubby so I hardly get to see him anymore. I have always enjoyed the company of gay men because as specified in the study, I feel comfortable and know there’s no hidden agenda, and I have someone I can talk to and trust. I hope to find some new friends to chat with. 🙂

  12. chris king or Jennifer

    I’m a 23 year old gay male crossdresser and I prefer having a female friend because there more accepting and there’s a lot more in common and it’s cool to talk open and honestly with someone or go look for guys, go shopping, or do ur nails and makeup and feeling free and accepted as who I am and who I like to be without them wanting anything sexual. Just a real true friend whose on the same page as u.

    1. Diane

      Same … trying to figure out how the site works

  13. Diane

    Hello.. I’m Diane, I’m a 46 year old married stay at home momma for 16 years. Was blessed to have been able to be a stay at home full time. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE being a mom. We have 2 teenagers (16 & 13). I was born a quad amputee but it has never stopped me from doing things. I love make up, cooking, shopping, and love to socialize. Even though I’m married I feel my hubby is just so all work, he hangs with coworkers and I just can’t relate to his circle. Ive always just felt I can be myself around the gay men. Women I’ve known are drama seekers and the men are so quick to suggest becoming friends with benefits. I just want a friend(s) where I can be myself without anyone wanting sex. I love talking and I’m pretty outgoing and kind.

  14. Suzanne

    I think women tend to compete with other women and they’re petty. I have had very few close female friends. I’ve always gotten along with men better, but if they’re not married, they’re usually looking to get laid. If they are married their wives (rightly so) don’t want them hanging out with another woman all the time. I don’t seem to be willing to be in a romantic relationship at the moment. I just want a genuine person to be friends with. I’m thinking that this site isn’t large enough to find someone locally. But maybe I can find someone to talk to.

    1. Lisa

      I hear you. I’m not a girlfriends girl either. I prefer guys but you’re right they only want to be our friends for other reasons. That’s why I like gay guys so much. No pressure. Total trust too. I have this one straight male friend he is married with kids and he is hitting on me or I am dumb as box of rocks. I met him as my lawyer few years ago simple lawyer stuff. Recently called him again for referral for different type of lawyer and he hasn’t stopped texting me since. Red flags everywhere. I’ve gone out of my way to not flirt. Treat him like a friend. Don’t think it’s working. Anyone relate

      1. Princess

        I completely agree, it is so much work being friends with girls. I mean don’t get me wrong I have a few girl friends and I love them but after hanging out its like I’m drained. Guys are so chill. And I completely agree things like that happen to me too, but the only I can really deal with is to be direct… Well be direct and lie (no not lie, but exaggerate) straight through my teeth.

  15. Collette Noon

    Craving for a bestie that’s gay whenever I see on social media girls hanging out with male gay friends I sit there and think I wish that was me lol . X

    1. Michael

      I love that photo of the girl with her selfie stick taking a pic of her girlfriends and gay friends that’s on the front page of this site!

  16. Michael

    I love having a close straight girlfriends I can chat with and go out on the town with without all the pressure and expectation sexual attraction brings.

    I’ve taken naps with girl bffs who have occasionally tried giving me a gentle squeeze. She wasn’t deliberate enough to say for sure it was no accident. I can’t say I felt offended or violated, I just found it funny.

    Just as there’s a tendency for gay guys to list after straight men, falsely assuming that more straight = more masculine, I think some women seek the reward of potentially having a gay man see her as an “exception” and notice her beauty.

    1. Leslie

      I think if I were you I would confront your friend about it to make sure that it was just an accident. I’ve had one sexual experience in my life with a gay man. We dated in high school until he told me he could not love me the way I deserved to be loved. Then after we graduated there was an incident I’ll call it where things got very confusing and blurred. I think sometimes we can connect with people on such a level that gender becomes more of a non issue. I’m not saying this happens often, it doesn’t… though lately I’ve started to see gender as more fluid.

    2. Steven

      I have a lot of of straight friends who are girls we are always talking on the phone having girls nights of drinking makeup outfits we sleep in the same bed I’ve seen them naked even squeezed there boobs before and I’ve had dimwits who have blocked me when I told them that because they think I’m straight but never given them a reason to think that we are there emotionally for each other always there for each other girls understand gay guys better then straight guys do and a relation between me and a girl actually can be one because I don’t wanna sleep with her so we can trust each other instantly and no sexual tension either that straight guys have with girls

      1. Adri

        Awesome!!! My hair stylist plastic me into a dress lol! I was all don’t look at my rear! He was laughing the whole time saying oh what cute lil underwear!

  17. Azmarayith

    “With gay male friends the straight women still enjoy male company but there is no sexual agenda ”
    YES! that is why I’m here 🙂

  18. Princess

    I like this, I always wanted a gay best friend growing up. When I was child I legit asked my mom every year for my birthday for one. I agree with Collette, when I sit on my couch and watch a movie or something when they have a totally perfect best friend I sit there and like how can I be her

  19. Ari

    New to the website. Recently divorced and not ready to date anyone yet. My girl friends either judgmental or they are worried. Watched a show on TV the other day and thought give a try hanging out with gay friends 🙂

    1. Adri

      I went out witb 3 other women last night who are in the same boat as you and they said the same thing. They do go out on dates with straight guys but would love a gay bff.

  20. Adri

    I like gay men because they’re so flattering and supportive and usually creative and funny. There’s no sexual tension or guardedness like there is between romantic partners. I also hate watching sports and a lot of gay men don’t watch sports. Straight men are generally either possessive or just want to f me and unless they are very impressive its not happening.

  21. Michael

    I agree with Steven and Adri. Those of us who have straight female friends also tend to appreciate similar traits in men while finding the same ones annoying. I love masculine men who are naturally dominant and I enjoy sex even when I don’t come. And for most guys it’s all about his penis and most men love to fuck. That’s less important to me than an overall connection. I love to orgasm, but if he explodes as a result of being with me and I don’t that’s okay. (The reverse almost always is not!!)

    1. Adri

      Yep. That too Steph! Also like Micheal said, its about connection. Many straight guys are like they want to f you, or you don’t exist to them. There’s no in between with a lot if them. Its crazy because sex is only one aspect of life.

    2. Adri

      I agree its about connection. Many straight guys are like they want to f you, or you don’t exist to them. There’s no in between with a lot if them. Its crazy because sex is only one aspect of life.

  22. Steph

    I have only recently started thinking about finding a gay male friend and my reasons for this might be a bit different. I am a woman who likes male company in all forms, of course I like guys but I tend to be very fussy and I do like having a man just as a friend. I have had various friendships with straight men over the years and at the very start I am very clear and tell them ‘look this is just friendship, I don’t want anything more than just friends’. They usually say ‘yes, that is fine’. But then after a period of time various problems develop, sometimes they have a partner and she gets jealous and starts thinking that something might be going on. I was friends with a gay called ‘Carl’, from my work and the one day another colleague saw us eating in Mcdonalds and then alsorts of rumours spread even though we were nothing more than friends, he felt that he had to hold back on our friendship because of what people were saying. Then there are times where the straight guy, even though I said ‘friends’, starts hoping for something more, something sexual and then I just have to end it because I don’t like them that way. It would be so much easier to be friends with a gay guy so that I can have the male company and friendship without having to worry about jealousy or bad rumours.

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