Science has known for a long time that there is nothing unusual about same-sex attraction. There are hundreds of species, including humans, that exhibit homosexual behavior in nature, and an extensive body of research attempting to explain it.
But a new paper, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, has come up with an explanation for same-sex attraction – at least in human women – that is sure to raise some eyebrows.
Gay and bi women, according to the team led by University of Nicosia researcher Menelaos Apostolou, exist because men want them to.
And how did they discover this? By asking a large sample of… heterosexual men.
Apostolou's team analyzed data from 949 Chinese participants and 305 British participants – all heterosexual – and concluded that men from both cultural backgrounds prefer partners who exhibit same-sex attraction. Specifically, about one in four men in the Chinese sample and two-thirds of the men in the UK sample expressed a desire for a female partner who has sexual attraction to, and contact with, other women. Meanwhile, a much lower proportion of women surveyed said the same thing.
"A male preference for same-sex attraction in women constitutes a normal variation of male sexual preferences and should not be considered abnormal," Apostolou told PsyPost. "This preference is probably one of the reasons why many women have evolved same-sex attraction in the first place."
This is not the first time Apostolou has made such claims. Before he was finding out what the men of Reddit blame for their being single, he was facing criticism from the LGBT+ and scientific communities after surveying over 1,500 heterosexual and zero homosexual participants in an effort to discover the "evolutionary origins" of female same-sex attraction – his answer, again, being "to attract men".
"I think this paper is showing the effect of pornography. Men see a lot of porn where a woman has sex with another woman, and then a man gets to have sex with that women," Diana Fleischman, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, told IBTimes at the time. "Two women having sex with one man is such a common theme in pornography that I think it is very difficult to parse out that particular variable."
Comparing the new survey with previous results from Greek-Cypriot subjects, Apostolou found that preference for same-sex activity in partners was highest in the UK, where "lesbian" is far and away the most commonly searched porn category. Second-highest was the preference from Cyprus, where lesbian porn is still pretty popular, but the Cypriot Orthodox-dominated culture is only very recently accepting same-sex relationships as something less than a "moral downfall". Finally, the lowest preferences came from China, where all porn is strictly forbidden and homosexuality is socially proscribed.
“The way I interpret this finding is that cultural factors influence how an evolved mechanism is expressed,” Apostolou told IFLScience. “For instance, British people are more open about their sexuality and they may be more willing to acknowledge that they find same-sex attractions in a partner desirable.”
The research does not claim to explain same-sex attraction in men – though the argument that this exists to attract male attention is possibly more justified in that case – and does not address the common complaint that homosexuality in women is simply not taken very seriously by society – something Apostolou was personally accused of when his previous research was published.
The paper does report an intention to carry out future research on the role of cultural factors on preferences for same-sex attraction. Until then, however, it’s probably best to bear in mind that, no, men – lesbians really just aren’t that into you.