Everyone knows the stereotype – gay men are said to speak with a lisp and have a high-pitched voice, while lesbians are thought to have a deep, low-pitched voice.
Using these stereotypes to guess whether a person is gay or straight is something researchers call 'auditory gaydar'. Curious about auditory gaydar, a team of European researchers tracked down 250 Italian and Portuguese men and women of different sexual orientations.
First, the researchers had each participant record a short audio clip. Next, they were asked if they thought other people could tell their sexual orientation by the sound of their voice, and whether they even cared.
The surprising results
They definitely did care, the researchers learned. Participants who identified as gay or lesbian didn’t want their voice to reveal their sexual orientation. As the researchers explained, they likely didn’t want to be targets of prejudice.
On the other hand, straight men – especially those who considered themselves to be very masculine – did want others to think they had a manly voice and believe they were straight as a result.
In general, men feel their voices are more revealing of their sexual orientation than women do, the research also showed.
This may lead to some gay men trying to alter the sound of their voice to sound more masculine in an attempt to avoid discrimination, explain the researchers.
Changing the way they sound
This study is the first to ask people how they feel about others being able to tell whether they’re gay or straight by the sound of their voice.
The participants did care – to the point of perhaps trying to change the way they sound. This shows that, unfortunately, the stereotypes about the sound of a person’s voice and their sexual orientation are still prevalent, especially among men, say the researchers.
Reference: Fasoli, F., Hegarty, P, Maass, A. & Antonio, R. (2018). Who wants to sound straight? Sexual majority and minority stereotypes, beliefs and desires about auditory gaydar. Personality and Individual Differences.
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