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Gay and straight men may have different facial shapes, new study suggests

Researchers have found that homosexual and heterosexual men have distinguishable facial shapes

Heather Saul
Friday 08 November 2013 10:36

A new study analysing the facial differences between homosexual and heterosexual men has found "significant morphological differences".

A study conducted by researchers from the Center for Theoretical Study at Charles University in Prague and The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic examined the possible differences in facial shape between homosexual and heterosexual individuals and found "significant" shape differences in faces of heterosexual and homosexual men.

Their results found that homosexual men were rated as more stereotypically 'masculine' than heterosexual men, which they said undermined stereotypical notions of gay men as more feminine looking.

In the first part of their study, researchers looked at the morphological differences between gay and straight men.

In the second part, the team looked at whether an individual's sexual orientation can be correctly determined solely based on facial features.

The team, led by Jarka Valentova, recruited 40 gay and 40 straight white, Czech men for the first study and 33 gay and 33 straight men aged in their early 20s for the second.

Eighty pictures were taken of the men in the first study using a Canon camera. Over 11,000 coordinates were established to allow for comparison using geometric morphometrics.

Homosexual men showed relatively wider and shorter faces, smaller and shorter noses, and rather massive and more rounded jaws, "resulting in a mosaic of both feminine and masculine features", the authors of the study found.

Forty female and 40 male students from Charles University were then asked to rate the sexual orientation of the 66 participants in the second study by ranking their masculinity or femininity on a scale on one to seven. One indicated very masculine and seven indicated very feminine.

The face shapes of homosexual men were deemed more masculine on this scale, and raters were unable to correctly identify each participants sexual orientation just from looking at their face. The authors argue this provides evidence that "sexual orientation judgment based on stereotyped gender specific traits leads to frequent misjudgment".

Speaking to the Huffington Post, Valentova stressed: “It's necessary to point out to possible misunderstandings of our results. The fact that we have found some significant morphological differences between homosexual and heterosexual men does not mean that any of the groups is easily recognizable on the street (and our Study 2 actually shows that it's not that easy to guess anyone's sexual orientation without knowing it), or that anything like that should be done (like pointing on people with our illustrations and guessing who is who).”

She added that the study would need be replicated within different ethnic groups and in bigger sample sizes in order to strengthen its validity.

The authors concluded: "Our results showed that differences in facial morphology of homosexual and heterosexual men do not simply mirror variation in femininity, and the stereotypic association of feminine looking men as homosexual may confound judgments of sexual orientation."

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