Why some people oppose same-sex marriage

Why do opponents of same-sex marriage really oppose it? A UCLA psychology study published online today in the journal Psychological Science concludes that many people believe gay men and women are more sexually promiscuous than heterosexuals, which they may fear could threaten their own marriages and their way of life.

"Many people who oppose are uncomfortable with casual sex and feel threatened by sexual promiscuity," said David Pinsof, a UCLA graduate student of psychology and lead author of the study.

Such people often marry at a younger age, have more children and believe in traditional gender roles in which men are the breadwinners and women are housewives.

"Sexual promiscuity may be threatening to these people because it provides more temptations for spouses to cheat on one another," Pinsof said. "On the other hand, for people who are comfortable with women being more economically independent, marrying at a later age and having more sexual partners, sexual promiscuity is not as much of a threat because women do not depend on men for financial support." The researchers measured people's attitudes, regardless of their accuracy.

People who feel their way of life is most threatened by sexual promiscuity tend to be socially conservative and strongly believe in traditional gender roles. Among them are women who prioritize family over career and who view their marital vows as sacred, said Martie Haselton, a UCLA professor of psychology and communication studies, and the study's senior author.

The researchers surveyed 523 men and 562 women, 27 percent of whom oppose same-sex marriage. In one part of the study, subjects took a test designed to reveal whether and to what extent they associate images of gay couples with words and phrases like "promiscuous" or "one-night stand." On sensitive topics, people often tell researchers what they think they should say, rather than what they really believe. This first test enabled researchers to avoid this problem because participants can't easily control or fake the results, Haselton said.

Participants were shown a series of words associated with the adjective "promiscuous"—such as "casual sex" and "one-night stand"—as well as words associated with "monogamous"—such as "faithful" and "loving"—and images of either or . They were instructed to match the words to either "promiscuous" or "monogamous," while also categorizing the couples as gay or straight.

Participants were instructed to press a button whenever they saw a photo of a gay couple or a word associated with "promiscuous," and then to do the same whenever they saw a gay couple or a word associated with "monogamous." The researchers measured how quickly participants responded in each scenario.

"If you have a hard time disassociating 'gay' and 'promiscuous,' it will take you longer to respond when 'gay' and 'monogamous' are paired," Haselton said.

The test showed that many people tend to strongly associate the concepts "gay" and "promiscuous."

Next, researchers asked people the extent to which they agree or disagree with statements such as:

  • Marriage is between a man and a woman.
  • Same-sex marriage undermines the meaning of the traditional family.
  • I oppose the legalization of same-sex marriage.
  • I support a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
  • Same-sex couples should have the same legal rights to get married as heterosexual couples.

The researchers determined subjects' level of "sexual conservatism" based on how much they agreed or disagreed with statements like "Sex without love is okay" and "I can easily imagine myself being comfortable and enjoying with different partners." Those who agreed more strongly with those statements were likely to support same-sex marriage.

"What people are willing to say about links between sexual promiscuity and sexual orientation and their reaction times tell a very similar story," Haselton said.

The challenge of the study was whether Pinsof's statistical analysis could predict whether participants support or oppose same-sex marriage strongly, moderately or slightly, based on their response times and their answers to the series of statements.

On a seven point-scale from "strongly oppose" to "strongly support" same-sex marriage, he was able to account for 42.3 percent of the variation in people's attitudes, and able to accurately predict their attitudes about same-sex marriage substantially better than chance.

"That is remarkable; in psychological research, explaining 42 percent is huge," Haselton said.

"Opposition to same-sex marriage may be strategic by people who are seeking to protect their marriages and the marriages in their communities, and are fearful that changing the definition of marriage is threatening to their way of life," Pinsof said. "Because they view gay people as promiscuous, they view the idea of same-sex marriage as undermining the institution of ."

Explore further

Study: Gay couples face pressure to marry, conform to relationship status quo

Journal information: Psychological Science

Citation: Why some people oppose same-sex marriage (2016, February 26) retrieved 17 October 2019 from https://phys.org/news/2016-02-people-oppose-same-sex-marriage.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Feb 26, 2016
I could could not care less who marries who, if they would take away all the freebies associated with marriage, we as citizens pay for.
Why should married couples get a tax break (which increases everyone else tax our burden) if anyone can marry anyone?
Insurance and health care are the same way. Along with every other monetary break given to married couples including social security. (Our $ burden goes up for these freebies to.)
Giveing these freebies only to couples with children would make much more sense.

Feb 26, 2016
I probably should have said "Giving these freebies only to couples with MINOR CHILDREN LIVING AT HOME would make much more sense."
I like the idea of everyone paying their fair share. :-)

Feb 26, 2016
A common tactic of the New World Order, try to fight the truth by offering an alternative "explanation" and having a "scientist" back it up. Another common tactic, the alternative "explanation" is moronic in the extreme.
How many people say to themselves they have to protect their marriage so they will condemn homosexuals getting married? Their reaction is based on their realization that homosexuality is a deviant behavior and they don't want to sanction anything to do with it. If homosexuals wanted to name a street "Homosexual", those who oppose "marriage" would oppose that, too!
Consider that many of these described as wanting to save their marriage and chafing at the idea of promiscuity are also those who read Playboy and watch pornography on cable. They're people who would appreciate being unmarried. And if wives are moved to leave by the promise of promiscuity, the men wouldn't have to pay alimony!

Feb 26, 2016
And consider the cravenness of "interpretation". The description of those mostly opposing homosexual "marriage" describes them as people who "have more children" and "believe in traditional gender roles". That also describes people who married years ago and have some years on them! That's the distinction the lying "scientists" were trying to invoke, but they wouldn't admit it! They were looking for individuals with years on them because the "scientists" knew they would realize homosexuality is sexual deviance by narcissistic sociopaths; they would realize that homosexual "marriage" would mean the "government" paying huge amounts of taxpayer money to fraud "couples" who didn't intend to be monogamous or faithful to any extent; they would realize the conniving "government" wouldn't carry out any investigations of the homosexual "couples"!

Feb 27, 2016
The study only finds a correlation between linking homosexuality with promiscuity and opposition to gay marriage. It then pops like a rabbit out of a hat that this is due to people "seeking to protect their marriages". At no point do the authors consider whether or not it is a fact that homosexuals (particularly male) are more or less promiscuous than heterosexuals. Would a male heterosexual be more or less likely to engage in promiscuous sex if they faced in the readiness of a potential female partner to have sex the readiness of another man--the situation faced by male homosexuals in other men. Whether it is factually the case or not, hypothesis linked to this should have been raised and discussed by the researchers. The paper "Political Divide Over Same-Sex Marriage Mating Strategies in Conflict?" David Pinsof and Martie Haselton (paywall) http://pss.sagepu...abstract

Feb 28, 2016
Instead of suggesting people have wrong or unrealistic ideas, it would be more constructive to show the 'promiscuity' numbers for the relevant categories.

Feb 28, 2016
Marriage made sense only when women were property

Feb 29, 2016
Many people who oppose same-sex marriage are uncomfortable with casual sex and feel threatened by sexual promiscuity

Which is the weird thing: If you don't allow gay people to marry - what other type of sex are they supposed to have?
Or do you want to forbid them from having sex at all?

Allowing them to marry would actually lessen the (irrational) cause for their fears - as when they are married they no longer have the need for this imagined "promiscuous sexual behavior"

"Sexual promiscuity may be threatening to these people because it provides more temptations for spouses to cheat on one another,"

And how exactly would HETEROsexual couples be threatened by HOMOsexual promiscuity? Someone explain that to me.
How exactly do heterosexuals cheat with homosexuals on their spouses? Where is the 'threat'?

This type of stance is beyond bizarre.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more