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The tight friendships between gay men and straight women have long been portrayed on screen, from BFFs Eric McCormack and Debra Messing on “Will & Grace” to Daniel Franzese, Lizzy Caplan and Lindsay Lohan in “Mean Girls” to Ellie Kemper and Tituss Burgess in “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.”
The trend has been clearly documented over the years, with films such as “GBF (Gay Best Friend)” even focusing on women’s desire to have a gay best friend. So now the question is simply: Why? What is it about that relationship that works so well?
A 2015 study by psychology researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington seemed to offer an explanation. In one study, 128 women were asked to read one of two articles, one of which emphasized competition women were experiencing in dating on campus since there were more women than men. Afterwards, they completed tasks regarding media profiles belonging to a gay man and a straight woman.
Researchers found that when mating competition was high, women were more likely to trust a gay man’s advice than other straight women’s.
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In another study, in which women evaluated mock social media profiles, they found gay men to be more sincere than straight men or women, especially when it came to potentially deceptive information that could lead to competition for a mate or sexual partner.
The study was comprised of nearly 700 women from a public university in the Southwest U.S. and was split almost evenly between women who identified as Caucasian, African American, Hispanic, Asian or of another ethnic group.
It makes sense that straight women would align themselves with a gay man for friendship and/or dating advice, as straight women and gay men are typically not competing for the same partners. Though researchers revealed that they had expected as much, there had not been an empirical study of the reasoning behind such relationships until the University of Texas at Arlington study.
Senior Lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Lisa Aronson Fontes, Ph.D., concurred with the results of the study, explaining that “sexual tension and suspicions often get in the way” when it comes to adult friendships.
“Take out the sexual tension and the other elements that make up a solid friendship can blossom,” she told ENTITY, citing “relaxed time together, shared confidences and fun” as examples.
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Fontes also noted that gay men and straight women can bond over the fact that they “are both subject to the male gaze and too often feel judged based on their appearance in general and specifically their weight, their clothing choice and their hair style.”
However, she was sure not to stereotype, noting, “plenty of gay men/straight women friends bond around the kinds of things all friends bond around – politics, community events, families, etc.”
So why do straight women and gay men make such good friends. It’s simply easier to bond with someone you are not in competition with. And sexual tension – as widely discussed in “When Harry Met Sally” – doesn’t get in the way, either.
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