June 17, 2024

Bisexual men tend to be viewed as more masculine than both gay and straight men, study finds

Research published in the Journal of Sex Research aimed at determining whether listeners could detect whether a man is bisexual from his own voice. The results suggest that people are unable to determine whether a man identifies as bisexual based on his voice alone. Furthermore, when people listened to the voices of gay, straight and bisexual men, they rated the bisexual men as the most masculine of all the speakers they heard.

Bisexuality is often overlooked in the discourse about sexual orientation, leading to “bisexual erasure,” where bisexuality is often seen as an illegitimate sexual phase or identity. This erasure has resulted in a lack of research focused on bisexuality and an increased sense of invisibility and isolation among bisexual people, which has further implications for discrimination and social connection.

Previous research has identified specific vocal characteristics often associated with gay men. These characteristics include higher pitch, wider pitch range, longer vowels, increased vowel space, and more rounded pronunciation.

However, although these vocal cues may be influenced by social and biological factors related to sexual orientation, their application to bisexuality has not been widely studied. Since previous research has suggested that bisexual men often fall between gay and straight men in terms of self-reported and observer-reported masculinity and femininity, it was hypothesized that bisexual men may be more feminine than straight men but less feminine than gay men.

The ability to identify a man’s bisexual identity from his voice has important social implications. It may increase vulnerability to discrimination, but it may also help reduce feelings of destruction and alienation.

For their study, James Morandini from the University of Sydney and his colleagues recruited 160 participants (80 male, 80 female) who were asked to listen to voice samples of 60 men (20 gay-identified, 20 bisexual-identified, and 20 straight-identified) and rate their perceived sexual orientation on a scale from 0 (exclusively homosexual) to exclusively 10 (exclusively homosexual) but). The listeners also rated the perceived level of femininity or masculinity in the voices on a visual analogue scale.

The male speakers were asked to recite the first two lines of the Australian national anthem and record themselves using their smartphone. The voice samples were then prepared by removing any background noise and normalizing the volume levels to ensure consistency.

The results showed that listeners could distinguish between the voices of gay men and straight men with an accuracy rate of 62%, which was in line with previous research. However, listeners were unable to distinguish bisexual voices from straight male voices with any accuracy. The study also found that female listeners were more accurate than male listeners in identifying the voices of gay men.

​​​​​​The researchers found that the voices of bisexual men were considered more attractive exclusively to women compared to the voices of both gay and straight men. Bisexual men’s voices were considered more masculine than gay men’s voices and straight men’s voices.

The authors of the study discussed the implications of their findings for understanding the relationship between voice and sexual orientation. They noted that the results of the study suggest that the voices of bisexual men may not have the perceptual features of voice and speech that allow listeners to identify the voices of gay men. The authors also noted that the results of the study challenge the assumption that bisexual men’s voices are a mixture of gay and straight men’s voices.

The study had some limitations that the authors acknowledged. One limitation was that the study only included Australian participants, which may limit the generalizability of the findings to other cultures. Another limitation was that the study did not control for the recording environment or microphone-to-mouth distance, which may have affected the quality of the voice samples. The authors also noted that the study’s use of smartphone recordings limited the frequency range of the voice samples, which could exclude important spectral properties of the speakers’ voices.

Overall, this study adds to our understanding of the relationship between voice and sexual orientation and highlights the need for further research to explore the perceptual aspects of voice and speech that allow listeners to identify the voices of gay and bisexual men. Bisexual men are less likely to be identified through word of mouth and less likely to be discriminated against. However, their sexuality may be misrecognized.

The study, “Can listeners tell if a man is bisexual from his own voice,” wrote James S. Morandini, Damien Beckman-Scott, Catherine Madill, and Ilan Dar-Nimrod.

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