Monday, April 12, 2010

Sexual orientation and physical attractiveness

ADD Health interviewers rated the physical attractiveness of adolescent study participants and also asked them if they had ever been attracted to a member of the same sex. I'll categorize those who answered "no" as heterosexual, and those who answered "yes" as homosexual. Here are the means for physical attractiveness:

Physical attractiveness mean (N = 4,255, white sample)

Straight males 3.49
Gay males 3.44
Straight females 3.74
Lesbians 3.70

According to ADD Health data, homosexuals do not differ significantly from straights in terms of physical attractiveness. I had guessed that gay males would be more attractive, and lesbians less attractive.


  1. Anonymous1:30 PM

    I think it's a big myth that gay males are more attractive than straight males, Ron.

    It might have originated from many possible sources but especially from our perception of Hollywood sorts--obviously many people who get acting jobs are attractive, gay or straight, and since the performing arts attract a healthy % of gays, people concluded that a lot of gay men are as attractive as those in the movies (like a Rock Hudson sort)when they forget there are plenty who aren't physically attractive, like a Charles Laughton sort or those who are just average, like a Roddy McDowell sort.

  2. Gay men work out more and often have a better fashion and grooming sense than straight males, but that doesn't mean they have more natural good looks than straight men. Notice that the study was of adolescents, when people are more likely to be naturally in good shape.

  3. The stereotype (assuming it is not true) that gay men are more attractive probably comes from sampling bias. Women don't pursue men very hard. Let's call men who do get pursued the hot fraction. They who get persued tend to be both attractive and single. If they're straight don't have to be pursued for long. So straight women see a hot fraction that's part straight and part gay. They don't notice gay men in the undesirable fraction because gay men don't hit on them, and they don't hit on unattractive men.

    A similar mechanism applies to what gay people straight guys notice. If a dude is attractive and has it together, you might wonder if he doesn't have a gf because he's gay. Ugly dudes, you just assume he doesn't try to get women because he's ugly.

    For the adolescent interviews, athletic makes up a reasonable chunk of attractive. Straight guys are probably more athletic up to hs/college, but then let themselves go.

  4. Gay men do take better care of themselves (skin, dress, etc...), but that's probably offset by their feminine qualities (less musculature, bad posture for a male, etc...).

  5. Underachiever2:04 AM

    Gay guys take better care of themselves, but straight guys naturally have more masculine faces and bodies.

  6. What are the %ages of male and female homosexuals in this sample? Given the question, I'm wondering if a lot of the "lesbians" are Anne Heche lesbians rather than Ellen DeGeneris lesbians.


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