Many heterosexual college males say 'That's so gay,' but why?

Jan 30, 2013 by Jared Wadley
Many heterosexual college males say 'That's so gay,' but why?

(Phys.org)—"That's so gay" is a popular expression on campuses nationwide among heterosexual students, especially young men. But why do they say it? A new University of Michigan study sheds light on this question.

"That's so gay," although not necessarily said to harm lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) students, can create a hostile environment, say U-M researchers. Inherent in this saying—frequently used to declare something, some behavior or someone as "stupid" or "uncool"—is the assumption that being gay is inferior and that being heterosexual is desirable.

Regardless of the underlying intent, these messages can negatively affect LGB students, says Michael Woodford, assistant professor at the U-M School of Social Work and the study's lead author. The findings suggest that heterosexual ' tendency toward saying "that's so gay" is partially explained by certain attitudes and factors.

"Studies find that perpetuating LGB hate crimes and gay bullying is strongly correlated with homophobia. Therefore, it is commonly assumed that is linked to saying 'that's so gay,'" Woodford said. "However, our results suggest otherwise."

Among the heterosexual male undergraduates surveyed, attitudes about the of same-sexuality were unrelated to using the phrase, but levels of discomfort with feminine men were related. The more respondents were uncomfortable around feminine men, the more likely they were to report saying the phrase.

The study also found that when respondents heard the phrase frequently, they tended to say it more often.

"We're all affected by the social context we're in," Woodford said. "Our results suggest that students may replicate what they hear others say. Some students who use the phrase simply may be following the dominant language norms or are unconsciously replicating others' behaviors."

Most (65 percent) reported saying "that's so gay" at least once on campus in the past 12 months, and 31 percent reported using the phrase 10-plus times. Nearly 90 percent of the students reported hearing "that's so gay" at least once on campus; 63 percent indicated hearing the phrase 10 or more times.

"The high rate of usage suggests that using the phrase is part of the campus's implicit culture," Woodford said. "It's a cultural norm, one that the campus culture has allowed to develop and continue. As a result, students perceive it is okay to use the phrase."

In contrast to previous research, the current study found that being exposed to lesbians, gays and bisexuals, specifically acquaintances, may reduce the number of times a person uses the phrase.

Earlier research conducted by Woodford and colleagues found that LGB students are at increased risk for feeling unaccepted on campus as well as experiencing physical health problems, such as headaches, the more they hear "that's so gay."

"Since these problems can interfere with students' academic performance, eliminating the use of the expression from college campuses is important in fostering lesbian, gay and bisexual students' well-being and potential," Woodford said.

Data were collected using an anonymous online survey that asked about experiencing and witnessing harassment and other forms of interpersonal mistreatment on campus, as well as students' attitudes.

The study used data from 378 male undergraduates between 18 and 25 years of age who identified as "completely heterosexual." Participants were asked how many times in the past 12 months they had "said the phrase 'that's so gay' to suggest something was stupid or undesirable." They were asked about the frequency of hearing the phrase used in the same way.

The study suggests that to eliminate the phrase from college campuses, education focusing on increasing male students' comfort with, and ultimately acceptance of, atypical male gender expression will make a difference. Also, it is critical for staff, faculty and to intervene when they hear the phrase, thereby conveying that such language is inappropriate and ultimately beginning to change the and interrupt a potentially harmful social norm.

The study's other authors were Michael Howell, assistant professor of social work at Appalachian State University; Alex Kulick, a U-M undergraduate student in Women's Studies and research assistant in the School of Social Work; and Perry Silverschanz, a U-M lecturer in the School of and the Department of Psychology.

The findings appear in the January issue of Journal of Interpersonal Violence.

Explore further: Group identity emphasized more by those who just make the cut

More information: Journal of Interpersonal Violence: jiv.sagepub.com/content/28/2.toc

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Shootist
1.9 / 5 (35) Jan 30, 2013
"That's so gay" is a popular expression on campuses nationwide among heterosexual students, especially young men. But why do they say it? A new University of Michigan study sheds light on this question.


Because the behavior of 1% to 2% of the population is abnormal, and clearly pathological, when compared to 98% of the population?

It is analogous to saying, "that's so stupid", or "that's so lame". Or, "looser", with the "L" on the forehead.

Oh, and I don't give a rat's butt about creating a "hostile environment". Do you find my environment hostile? Leave, go make your own environment.
Eikka
3.9 / 5 (26) Jan 30, 2013
Do you find my environment hostile? Leave, go make your own environment.


Why not the other way around?

What makes it -your- environment, but not -their- environment as well?
FrankHerbert2
3.6 / 5 (26) Jan 30, 2013
There's your fascism coming out again, Shootist. In the US fascism will come draped in the flag, carrying a bible.
BSD
3 / 5 (20) Jan 30, 2013
John Wayne(Marion Morrison)was a closet homosexual. Something that Shootist must know about but prefers to ignore. He/She also has a strange hatred for science, considering science is what enables him/her to post his/her right wing bile in this forum. What's the matter Shootist, homosexuality offends your bullshit religious principles?
jalmy
1.7 / 5 (24) Jan 30, 2013
Shootist is 100% correct. He used logic and made an intelligent arguement for his belief. YOU did not. I find it analogous to the word anorexic. If a system is starving itself of vital nutrients in an atempt to correct a related but seperate problem you may call that system anorexic. Again actual anorexics are a small percentage of the population and clearly pathological, abnormal, odd and therefore gay. Language is fluid, it evolves. Words that meant one thing a hundred years ago, may not mean the same thing today, nor will they 100 years from now. 100 years from now "gay" might mean super duper awesome.
BSD
2.5 / 5 (15) Jan 30, 2013
Shootist is 100% correct. He used logic and made an intelligent arguement for his belief. YOU did not. I find it analogous to the word anorexic. If a system is starving itself of vital nutrients in an atempt to correct a related but seperate problem you may call that system anorexic. Again actual anorexics are a small percentage of the population and clearly pathological, abnormal, odd and therefore gay. Language is fluid, it evolves. Words that meant one thing a hundred years ago, may not mean the same thing today, nor will they 100 years from now. 100 years from now "gay" might mean super duper awesome.


I'm taking it on face value that you are being sarcastic. :P
jalmy
2.2 / 5 (13) Jan 30, 2013
Well I would prefer the term satirical over sarcastic. I actually belive what I wrote, but it was meant to be light and humorous in delivery.
Maggnus
3.1 / 5 (11) Jan 30, 2013
John Wayne(Marion Morrison)was a closet homosexual.


There is no proof of that. Certainly he never admitted to being gay, and no one has ever come forward to say he was involved with him in a gay relationship.

@jalmy you cannot seriously believe that Shootist made an intellegent argument? It was a rant, nothing more.
zaxxon451
4.3 / 5 (12) Jan 30, 2013

Oh, and I don't give a rat's butt about creating a "hostile environment". Do you find my environment hostile? Leave, go make your own environment.


I think the environment here is getting pretty hostile to bigots such as yourself. Perhaps you should leave and go make your own environment?
kochevnik
1.8 / 5 (15) Jan 30, 2013
If something is gay than what is the harm in pointing it out? This is the stupid western PC syndrome, where gay bathhouses and bars are be considered EXACTLY the same as their hetero counterparts. Apparently this cultural schism manifested after the rise of zionism where secular Jews felt detached from their cultural roots, and so took to hunting "anti semites" to prove they were ironclad with Judaism. This despite the fact that America has almost no anti-semitism at all, while other groups endure genuine stigmas. Orthodox Jews have no such need as practicing Judaism suffices. Gays are apparently angry that Jews are the top power economic and political class and are jousting for the number one spot on the persecution bandwagon
Husky
2.3 / 5 (3) Jan 30, 2013
that was fake, staged, shot with a sideways potatoe and purple with pink stripes
ROBTHEGOB
2 / 5 (6) Jan 31, 2013
Try watching South Park; they tell it like it is.
lewando
1.8 / 5 (12) Feb 02, 2013
I think the phrase "that's so gay" is used to describe something that a heterosexual would want to avoid in order to increase their likelihood of engaging in sex. Normal sex, that is.
grondilu
3 / 5 (6) Feb 02, 2013
Why do people say the s..t word? Why do they swear, more generally? Because they want or feel like vocalizing something that, for one reason or an other, they consider ugly, disgusting or whatever. And whether you like it or not, for many heterosexual young people, homosexuality is disgusting and revulsing.
VendicarE
2.3 / 5 (8) Feb 02, 2013
This article is very gay.
MandoZink
4.3 / 5 (6) Feb 02, 2013
I have hear that said a lot, but only by people who don't have any gay friends, or don't think they do. I have never asked them what the hell that phrase really means. I still don't know.
MandoZink
4 / 5 (4) Feb 02, 2013
I have HEARD... (see above typo)
ValeriaT
1.5 / 5 (8) Feb 03, 2013
The whining about calling something gay is gayish too. Real men don't whine at the case of offense, but they simply strike back with punch into face.
praos
1.3 / 5 (9) Feb 03, 2013
John Wayne(Marion Morrison)was a closet homosexual.


There is no proof of that. Certainly he never admitted to being gay, and no one has ever come forward to say he was involved with him in a gay relationship.

@jalmy you cannot seriously believe that Shootist made an intellegent argument? It was a rant, nothing more.


He was packing a gun, but never shot anybody, so he was gay. QED.
robeph
3 / 5 (4) Feb 03, 2013
@shooter I'm sure you fully realize the hostility of your comment and that it is fully intended. You also well understand that such history limits any support or agreement from others. But this doesn't matter, because you're not here to spread your ideals and hatred as it first would seem, rather you're posting such as a defensive diversion to placate your internal struggle with who you really are. It's all to common and fairly obvious.
robeph
3 / 5 (2) Feb 03, 2013
Studies such as this fail to examine what the usage of the term carries with the one using it. while myself and another may use the term "gay" what this term represents to each of us would speak more as to it's linkages to our biases. I suspect tha while at root the expletive gay may be the term "gay" representing homosexuality that most people this day and the view those two terms explicitly as distinct words unrelated in their nature beyond their spelling. Language is a bit deeper and more complex than a couple questions on a small survey and I'd go as far to suggest that it is quote suspect in its statistical value.
ScooterG
2.3 / 5 (11) Feb 03, 2013
"But why do they say it?"

Really???...

Actually,...

Like...

Ya' know,...

Give it another six months and this current verbal fad will change to something new.

-----

Or maybe they use it for the same reasons VendicarE (formerly VendicarD) calls those he disagrees with "tard" - insensitivity, shallow thinking, idiocy...
Subach
1 / 5 (3) Feb 03, 2013
Or, because the word "gay" can take on many different meanings in different contexts-as do a large subset of words in the English language- the meaning of the phrase may have nothing to with homosexuality. Indeed, the authors own research suggests this since the usage of the phrase isn't correlated with attitudes towards homosexual activity.
LastQuestion
1 / 5 (3) Feb 03, 2013
That's Gay. A lot of reasons why it's used, but hardly out of hate. I'd say it's not even used in reference towards homosexuality in and of itself but regarding the personalities of some of those individuals. Such personalities that become upset from people saying "that's gay".

I hold no malice towards guys that want to have sex with other guys. I do business with them; have a few that are friends. Sometimes other males think I'm gay because I'm hanging around them and I don't give two shits and neither do they. When someone directs actual hate towards them they usually don't care but if someone is persistent they're more likely to smash their face in than go cry in a corner about how there are insensitive pricks in the world.

It describes a behavior, the one not for guys doing guys but for males that are effeminate. I would go so far as to state that if the sophists of times past saw such behaviors they might state their observations with the phrase, "that's gay".
ScooterG
2 / 5 (14) Feb 03, 2013
"That's Gay. A lot of reasons why it's used, but hardly out of hate."

I agree there is very little if any hate involved. Thanks to the politically-correct, "hate" is probably the most mis-used word in the English language (right up there with "greed").

The English language does morph, often due to an agenda by a group. "Hate" has become a derogatory label that politically-correct liberals use to demonize others who disagree with them. They use it when more often than not, no (true) hate exists.

"Queer" was once a derogatory word for homosexuals, `til the homos turned it around to use in their favor (remember Queer Nation?). I suspect the (label) "Gay" started out the same way.

It's all about bias and prejudice mixed with humor and ridicule.
FrankHerbertWhines
1.9 / 5 (9) Feb 03, 2013
because some things are just so gay...like me!
trapezoid
1 / 5 (4) Feb 03, 2013
"We're all affected by the social context we're in ... or are unconsciously replicating others' behaviors."

The authors don't see any irony at all here?

I think the environment here is getting pretty hostile to bigots such as yourself. Perhaps you should leave and go make your own environment?

You mean you're creating an intolerant environment? You don't tolerate people of differing opinion?
Jeweller
1 / 5 (2) Feb 03, 2013
The expression "That's so gay" is not necessarily used in an insulting way. It could be meant in a complimentary way, depending on who is saying it and how they say it.
The crux of the matter is that if it is said and meant in a negative or insulting way, then it's not ok. If it is said and meant in a complimentary way, then it is ok to say.
zaxxon451
5 / 5 (2) Feb 03, 2013

You mean you're creating an intolerant environment? You don't tolerate people of differing opinion?


I don't tolerate bigots. Nor should anyone.

"An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Sigh
5 / 5 (4) Feb 04, 2013
Because the behavior of 1% to 2% of the population is abnormal, and clearly pathological, when compared to 98% of the population?

Abnormal in the sense of uncommon? So is an IQ above 140. If frequency is your only criterion, then abnormal becomes synonymous with exceptional.

Pathological in what sense? That it hurts them or others? What would be your evidence that homosexuality hurts others? And if you want to include in the definition of pathological harm that comes from others' responses, be aware that being educated in Pol Pot's Cambodia would be pathological by that definition.

Oh, and I don't give a rat's butt about creating a "hostile environment".

Courtesy used to be a virtue more valued by conservatives. Then it got repackaged as political correctness to appeal more to liberals, and that succeeded so well that conservatives now scorn it.
antialias_physorg
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 04, 2013
The findings suggest that heterosexual male students' tendency toward saying "that's so gay"

Surprise, surprise. Or did anyone really expect homosexuals to use "that's so gay" more frequently?

Among the heterosexual male undergraduates surveyed, attitudes about the acceptability of same-sexuality were unrelated to using the phrase

And that's really the point. People don't say stuff like that because of resentment/hatred but because it's "the cool thing to say this year". So people shouldn't blow this out of proportion. There's such a thing as being too PC.

Kids need some way to step over the bounds. And if it's just saying something politicaly incorrect - without meaning it in a hateful way - then that's probably the most harmless way to do it. If you regulate them at every turn they'll just find other ways which may not be as harmless.

As for people getting headaches from hearing it: Grow some balls, pussies.
Sinister1811
2.5 / 5 (11) Feb 04, 2013
I don't tend to agree. The killing of gays in some cultures was also considered "mainstream". Words can be used as a form of harassment, or as harmless language, it depends on how it's used. There are other words which are more commonly used, like "fag", "homo", "queer", "poof" etc. I must say that your comment seemed a little unempathetic. I know that, personally, if I were gay, I wouldn't like my sexual orientation to be used as a schoolyard insult and to be persecuted because of it. A lot of kids who are gay do experience a high level of bullying as a result of it. So, for you to say something like "it's harmless", I think shows a certain level of ignorance. Just my opinion.
Sinister1811
2.5 / 5 (11) Feb 04, 2013
But I do get your point. Casually using it as in saying "that's gay". Well, that's pretty harmless. But you'd probably have to ask someone who is gay what their opinion is.
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 04, 2013
Words can be used as a form of harassment, or as harmless language

And when they are then it's a problem. If someone really seeks out gays and uses it in their face in order to cause them psychological harm then that's something different.

It's the differnce btween using the word 'nigger' in the face of an african american or using it in the movie "Django Unchained" (which I happened to catch last night). Sure they use the word a lot. They even use it to disparage characters portrayed in the movie. But do they use it to disparage people outside the movie setting? I didn't get that feeling at all (and hence I don't know what all the hype was about in that respect. In any other respect the movie was darn sweet).
antialias_physorg
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 04, 2013
There's always two sides to a communication channel: sender an receiver.
And what is critical part in whether there's disparagement/offense?
Does a problem exist when the sender actively means to disparage?
Or is the crucial point whether the receiver takes offense or not?

I'd argue it's only the first one.

(And this also goes for any crime: intent is the critical factor. Crime through thoughtlessnes/neglect is still a crime - but it's on a whole other level)
Sinister1811
2.2 / 5 (10) Feb 04, 2013
Now that I've thought more about this, I actually agree with your original comment about not being too politically correct.