Do women have better gaydar when ovulating?

Gaydar is an important skill that many gay men possess to determine whether the men they wish to ask out are, in fact, gay. Because gay men have greater sensitivity to specific social behaviors and mannerisms of other homosexual individuals1, it isn’t surprising that some gay men claim their gaydar is always spot on. However, straight women’s gaydar may be just as good if not better than gay men’s gaydar when they are at peak ovulation.

woman-looking-longingly-at-man

A team of researchers investigated whether women are better at sniffing out a man’s sexual orientation when they were ovulating2. The researchers presented women with faces of self-identified straight men and gay men, and the women were asked whether the man that they viewed was gay or straight. Based on the results, women were better able to distinguish between gay male faces and straight male faces around peak ovulation. However, women were not able to identify lesbian female faces from straight female faces as well.

In the second part of their study, women were either asked to imagine themselves in a romantic encounter or they were asked to think about something else entirely (control condition). After the women were randomly assigned to these two conditions, they were presented faces of homosexual and heterosexual individuals and asked to indicate whether they were gay or straight. Women who were asked to think about a romantic encounter were significantly more likely to distinguish between gay male faces and straight male faces. Again however, the women were not able to clearly identify lesbian female faces.

Although women are not very good at figuring out other women’s sexual orientation, women appear to be very good at determining whether a man is gay or straight depending on their ovulatory cycle and mating interest. These findings suggest that a woman’s gaydar may function to help her determine whether a potential partner is straight when the probability of a relationship or conception is high.

References:

1. Rule, N. O., Ambady, N., Adams, R. B., & Macrae, C. N. (2007). Us and them: Memory advantages in perceptually ambiguous groups. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14, 687-692.

2. Rule, N. O., Rosen, K. S., Slepian, M. L., & Ambady, N. (2011). Mating interest improves women’s accuracy in judging male sexual orientation. Psychological Science, 22, 881-886.

The “Gay or Straight?” Game

One interesting thing about straight women and gay men is their mutual attraction to the same gender. Not do they share an appreciation for attractive men, but they are usually willing to talk about them for hours. When women and gay men get together over coffee, lunch, or dinner, men never seem to get left out of their conversation. While it is true that gay men and straight women can be seen discussing other topics, a great chunk of their time together may be discussing how to snag a guy that they are both checking out.

gay straight game

The Game. For gay men and straight women, one of the more unique and fun aspects about “playing the field” is deciphering the sexual orientation of a cute guy.  When an attractive guy passes this couple on the street, you can almost always expect them to ask one another: “Whoa, do you think he’s gay or straight?” This simple question may turn into a little game for gay men and straight women. Although it is not uncommon for gay men to hope that the attractive man in question is homosexual, rarely do gay men impinge on their female friend’s romantic opportunity if the male in question is in fact heterosexual. The reverse is also true.  Females usually do not encroach on their gay friend’s romantic opportunity with another gay man. In fact, women may find joy in being able to set up their gay friend with another gay man who is attractive1.

“When we walk down the street together, a gay friend will often say, ‘Oh, that guy was checking you out,’ and I’ll say, ‘No, I think he was looking at you,’ and we’ll both walk away feeling better about ourselves.”  (Hopcke & Rafaty, 1999)

Hating the Player and Not the Game. Even though this game can easily be played between two gay men (which is done pretty frequently), a couple of complications may arise. First, gay men may take the game too competitively with other gay men. Imagine an attractive man walking past two single gay friends at the mall. Naturally, both gay men may lock their eyes on him. However, rather than mutually expressing their attraction to this man to each other, one of them may hold back while the other might insinuate asking him out. This may become problematic if both gay men desire this particular man.

Second, gay men may experience hints of jealousy when they play the game with one another.  Because gay men’s mating opportunities are quite limited compared to straight men’s mating opportunities2, gay men may place exceptionally high value on an attractive guy, especially if they are attractive themselves.  If one gay friend is slightly more attractive than the other, the gay friend that is more attractive may have a better chance at “winning” the game. Ultimately, this may cause a sense of tension and jealousy between these two gay men.

References:

  1. Hopcke, R. H. & Rafaty, L. (1999). Straight women, gay men: Absolutely fabulous friendships. Berkeley, California: Wildcat Canyon Press.
  2. Russell, E.M., DelPriore, D. J., Butterfield, M. E., & Hill, S. E. (2013). Friends with benefits, but without the sex: Straight women and gay men exchange trustworthy mating advice. Evolutionary Psychology, 11, 132-147.