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The enemy within.


in other people is the thing you hate in yourself. It doesn't take

Freud to figure out that those who hate gay people with the

most passion may be suppressing a considerable amount of gay

passion of their own.

The idea was never scientifically tested, however, until last

year, when Henry Adams, a professor of clinical psychology

at the University of Georgia, conducted the first study to

measure quite literally--the homosexuality of homophobes.

Adams recruited 64 straight white male college students,

rated their level of homophobia according to a standard

psychological test, and divided the men into two groups:

those who were homophobic and those who were not. Then

came the good part. He hooked up the men to devices called

penile plethysmographs, which measure arousal, and showed

them three different kinds of porn videos: heterosexual,

lesbian, and gay male. And you'll never guess what. The men

who tested nonhomophobic were, for the most part, left cold

by the gay porn. But the men in the homophobic group were


How turned-on? Well, plethysmographs can measure

physical changes in tiny, otherwise undetectable increments,

but in this case they didn't have to. "With college students,

they mostly get full erections," says Adams. "Here you're

talking about averages of 60% to 80% of full erection within

four minutes." Impressive. And what kind of porn videos

produced this priapic surge? "We used commercially available

videos," says Adams, ones that were judged to be highly

erotic, at least to people who respond to the sex of the


Adams seems a pretty rigorous, scientific fellow, and he

doesn't want people poking holes in his work. Since anxiety

has been known to lead to hominess, some critics have

proposed that the phobes may have developed their

impressive tumescences out of panic or disgust. So just to be

sure, Adams is conducting a new study that will be just like

the first but will also measure something called "startle

responge," using another standard test that registers shock,

upset, revulsion. But Adams does

not expect that this will change his result, and

neither did any other experts I spoke to.

People who are habitually anxious may be

more easily aroused, but people who are

grossed out or startled by something do not usually respond

with full-fledged erections in four minutes. Not even college


This study raised a host of questions, not least of which is

why it was never done before. According to Adams, penile

plethysmographs are frequently used to study the sexual

response of rapists and other sexual aggressors, and such

studies are easy to conduct, inexpensive, and considered

highly accurate. So why did it take decades? And why haven't

similar studies been mounted to clear up other simmering

controversies? Like, for example, all those claims about

therapies that supposedly "cure" homosexuality. If the penis

never lies, why not wire up a bunch of "cured" ex-gays and let

their phalluses do the talking?

But the study also has troubling implications. Many gay

people seemed thrilled with the result, since it bolsters the

idea that homophobia is indeed a phobia, a maladjustment to

something deep inside yourself. That's certainly true, and I

suppose I should be happy that someone has finally proved

that many of those

parading fanatics, religious-minded prudes, and censorious

busybodies are in the throes of repression and self-revulsion

and are merely projecting onto me and those I love the thing

they hate in themselves. In a way I am. But not that happy.

Because what Adams's study also means is that many of the

most maladjusted homophobes are really homosexual men.

And that means that when we get dissed and discriminated

against and bashed, we are often getting bashed by ourselves.

That the men who hate us the most are us.

This hardly seems like a victory. It seems terribly sad.

Homophobia has many victims--indeed, we're all its

victims--but it hardly makes me jump for joy to realize that

among those victims are the homophobes themselves. I

can barely imagine how it must feel to be so repulsed

by my own desire that my only response is to hate

those who have come to terms with

themselves. Back in the swinging '60s there was a

popular bumper sticker: CHASTITY IS ITS OWN PUNISHMENT.

I guess you could say the same

for this. In that sense the final goal of gay liberation

ought not be the liberation of just the openly gay

but the antigay as well. We need liberation from

them. And they need liberation

from themselves.

I wouldn't trade places

in a second.
COPYRIGHT 1997 Liberation Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:homophobia
Author:Rotello, Gabriel
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Column
Date:Apr 1, 1997
Previous Article:Female Perversions.
Next Article:Upscale, downscale.

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