Do We Look Like A Man, But Walk Like A Woman?

Research Into “Gay” Traits Continues

September’s Journal of Personality and Social Psychology walks around the gay research block:

[Scientists] 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.

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.

These findings prove the late, great Dr. JC Penny’s long-held light in the loafer theory.

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  • Tallskin

    Hmmm, no research into the gay-altruism gene then? I mean why are so many gays nurses and social workers, carers etc? (I am assuming that this is the same in the US as it is over here in Yerp)

    And nothing about the non-violence gay-gene. Namely our tendency not to resort to violence despite outrageous provocation. I have always been convinced that a terrorist campaign here in the UK would’ve achieved results in law reform far more quickly than the time it actually took – which is not to say I would done this or supported such a campaign, but we all know how straights LOVE and respect violence.

    And nothing about gay hatred of tedious and worthless activities like sport which straight boys waste so much time on. (And I do not mean actively participating in keeping fit and maintaining a good body)

    I am sure there are other uniquely gay aspects that I have missed here, but others can add to, which should be investigated.

  • Mr. B

    Tallskin, I’m pretty sure many domestic violence shelters and organizations report that there are plenty of people beating up their same-sex partners. And another for instance–what of the men who have sex with men but then beat up faggots (or who have same-sex attractions that they’re not acknowledging)? By the logic that it’s innate in people with homosexual inclinations, those people should be inherently nonviolent, let alone their fear of being gay.

    I think it’s important to consider what has been covered here before–not being heterosexual isn’t always the same as being out as queer, and that certainly has to affect any kind of research–whether into nonviolence or the way we walk.

    All of that aside, I’ve always been really uncomfortable with these kinds of biologically essentialist arguments that try to determine inherent gayness or straightness based on physical or mental characteristics. We’re not all the same.

  • Qjersey

    Honey if the volunteer walkers came from NYU, NO DUH that they got picked out as homos.

    It’s just a another conflation of gender and sexuality. Gay men don’t have to swagger like straight men (who always seem to ironically be walking with a stick up their ass), but that doesn’t mean gay men walk like women either (otherwise 8th ave in Chelsea would be like playing bumper cars with guy’s hips).

  • speedsausage

    I wouldn’t draw any conclusions based on this research, the sample of volunteers is far too small to draw any reasonable conclusions. The sample size has to be large enough to generalize it across an entire group and four mo’s isn’t big enough. If they used 50 randomly selected people for each group (gay men, lesbian, straight men, straight women) and then did the observations, you MAY be able to draw some conclusion.

  • hisurfer

    I agree with speedsausage. This is such a ridiculously small sample that I’m surprised the study got published.

  • buko

    Furthermore – this is more a statement on masculinity versus femininity. It would interesting to see if they were asked what the sex of the person was. They said they measured body size…was that to say gay men are built like women? This whole study is bunk.

  • Robguy

    I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s bunk – but the sample size is small. It’s kind of amazing that so little is invested in scientifically understanding sexuality, yet decisions are made in the religious and political arenas that cost more than can be imagined.

  • hisurfer

    I’m thinking you would need to correct for ethnicity also. The Irish side of my family have hips that don’t move, ever, gay or straight. The Latin side? Can’t keep ’em still.

    I think it’s an interesting idea, but not a proper study. Something in most gay men, even the butchest, will still ping our gaydar. Why not in the way we move?

  • jphilby

    50 percent correct is chance, so 60 percent’s just a little better than chance. AND I bet if they did the same study in other places it’d be 40 percent correct — depending on neighborhood. IOW, more stereotyping.;

  • Mr. B

    People raise all sorts of good points as to why this study is bunk. Like body proportions, for instance–if you’re a woman with a total hourglass figure, for instance, it’s going to affect your walking a hell of a lot more than whether you’re on your way to try to pick up a fella or a gal.

    And social factors? Heck, yeah. I’d imagine that a gay man who grew up learning to be a scrapper to defend himself (or who is caught up in the cult of hypermasculinity and/or beyond musclebound from spending every day at the gym and on steroids) is going to walk differently than the proud nancy boy who came of age fearlessly swishing about. So we’re up to body type, social upbringing, class status…and not a whole lot in the way of genetics.

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