Are homosexuals attacked more than straights? Stories like that of Matthew Shepard are used to teach Americans that homophobia is rampant, and that it is often manifested in hate crimes. Homosexuals are attacked, we are told, because they are hated. If this is true, gay men and lesbians should have higher rates of being attacked than straights, since they face more than the usual number of reasons for being victims of violence. So what does the General Social Survey say?
Percent ever punched or beaten up
Straight men 56.0
Gay men 47.1
Staight women 27.4
Gay women 57.9
Now, you might look at the numbers for lesbians and conclude that homophobia is rampant since their rates of violent victimization are more than double that of straight women. But such an interpretation doesn't hold up, because if it were true, gay men would be assaulted more than straight guys.
This pattern of numbers is consistent with the fact that most violence is mutual combat that starts with verbal aggression and escalates. Victims often provoke violence, and straight women and gay men are less aggressive than their counterparts. If homosexuals are attacked, chances are it is motivated by the same kinds of things that cause attacks against heterosexuals: you tell some guy that his girlfriend is an ugly slut, and you get punched in the face.
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