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Gay Men Attracted to Masculine Features

By Janie M. Tankard, Contributing Writer

Gay men have the strongest sexual attraction to the most masculinized male faces, according to a study recently published online in the journal “Archives of Sexual Behavior.”

Led by Aaron N. Glassenberg, a doctoral student in organizational behavior at the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and Harvard Business School, the study found that facial attraction depends on a person’s gender rather than his or her sexual orientation.

According to the results, gay men prefer the most masculine faces and straight men prefer the most feminine faces.

In contrast, straight women are not necessarily attracted to the most masculinized male faces and lesbians are not always drawn to the most feminized faces, Glassenberg said.

Other research has shown that female preferences are influenced by a mixture of factors including ovulation, contraceptive use, self-esteem, and sex drive, he added.

The fact that homosexual males are attracted to markedly masculine men could mislead people to suspect that their sexuality is most similar to that of heterosexual women, but based on what is currently known about the preferences of straight women, Glassenberg’s study actually disproves this assumption, according to Carole K. Hooven, a Harvard Human and Evolutionary Biology and Anthropology lecturer.

The study, which was conducted online, asked 900 female and male participants to identify which faces they thought were most attractive from a pool of facial images digitally manipulated to be more masculine or feminine.

Features of the most masculine faces included a broader jaw, broader forehead, and more pronounced brow ridge, while the most feminine faces had a more tapered chin, larger lips, and a narrower forehead.

Glassenberg’s study, he said, marks the first time facial preferences for gay men and lesbian women have been examined.

“There’s a lot of research on heterosexual attraction in the literature, so it was important to fill in what was missing in order to understand attraction better overall,” Glassenberg said.

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