Culture

Study: Straight Men More Open to Gay Sex When Drunk

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Researchers from Johns Hopkins University caused a stir when they released a study last August denying that people are “born gay or transgender.” But another recent study seemed to back up the idea that homosexuality isn’t ingrained — copious amounts of alcohol make men more open to sexual relations with other men.

“Most notably, alcohol intake was related to increased sexual willingness of men with a same-sex partner, suggesting a potential shift in normative casual sexual behavior among heterosexual men,” researchers wrote last month in The Journal of Social Psychology.

Wayne State University’s Breanne R. Helmers teamed up with Western Illinois University’s Colin Harbke and Julie C. Herbstrith, Ph.D. The three psychologists recruited 83 straight men and women who were bar-hopping in the Midwest at night. They asked each participant to complete a survey about how many drinks they’d had, and to watch a 40-second video of either a physically attractive man or woman drinking at a bar and chatting with the bartender.

Then, the participants rated their sexual interest in the person in the video, from buying them a drink to going home together to have sex.

It would come as no surprise to hear that men showed high interest in the attractive woman and that women generally were more attracted to the man. Men also expressed more sexual interest in the women, regardless of how much alcohol they had — a finding that coincides with previous research showing men tend to be more lax about casual sex than women.

But the more alcohol the men drank, the more they became interested in the man in the video. If they hadn’t drank anything, men showed no interest, but those who consumed over 10 drinks were more likely to entertain the idea of gay sex.

Women became more interested in sex, both with men and with other women, the more they had to drink.

These findings suggest that the sexual categories of straight and gay might be imperfect — that to some degree sexuality might be “fluid.” According to Medical Daily’s Lizette Borreli, researchers have proposed that women’s sexuality evolved to be more fluid than men’s, as a mechanism to reduce conflict and tension among co-wives in polygynous marriages.

In men, Borreli reported that many straight men watch gay porn and have gay sexual fantasies. She added that researchers believe homosexuality evolved in humans to help men bond with one another.

But this study in particular merely illustrated the impact of copious amounts of alcohol, which has been warned about as far back as the Bible’s book of Proverbs and many Ancient Near Eastern texts. Alcohol’s ability to hold back people’s inhibitions is extremely well-known, and this extends to sex as well as other social phenomena.

Enough alcohol may make straight people more interested in same-sex partners, and perhaps it might make gay people more similarly inclined to try something new. But this might have more to do with alcohol and less to do with natural human sexual preferences.

None of this is to say alcohol is bad. Indeed, it arguably built civilization. But like any drug that has had a positive impact, it can be abused.

Too much alcohol can supercharge sexuality, making straight men and women consider homosexual activity — but it does not suggest this drug will make people “turn” gay or bisexual. Once the alcohol wears off, inhibitions resurface, along with a massive hangover.