Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Jessica Good
Prior literature has found gender differences in willingness to confront heterosexist (homophobic) comments and ratings of offensiveness of heterosexist comments (Dickter, 2012). However, few studies have investigated why these gender differences are present (Weber & Dickter, 2015). The current study utilized a 2 (offensive comment) x 2 (participant gender) experimental design in order to investigate what factors contribute to gender differences related to perceiving and reacting to heterosexist comments. Participants (n = 104) were exposed to either a gender policing heterosexist comment or a sexuality based heterosexist comment in an interpersonal lab setting. The participants interacted with a White male confederate who voiced one of the two comments during their conversation. I hypothesized that non-target (heterosexual) women, as compared to non-target men, would be more reactive to heterosexism because they have higher prior contact with sexual minorities, and they would recognize the elements of gender prejudice that are present in the gender-policing heterosexist comment. Additionally, I anticipated that non-target women would be less concerned with being perceived as gay if they confronted the comment than non-target men, because prior literature suggests that this is a unique social cost of confronting heterosexism for non-target men (Cadieux & Chasteen, 2015). Consistent with past literature, results indicated that non-target women (n = 49) found both heterosexist comments more offensive than non-target men (n = 37) (t(84) = 1.33, p < .01). However, inconsistent with past literature, women did not confront the offensive comments more often than men. Women also did not report more prior contact with sexual minorities, higher perceived perpetrator sexism, or lower concern for appearing gay as compared to men. Participants rated the confederate as significantly more sexist in the gender-policing heterosexist comment condition (t(84) = 2.31, p = .02) and rated the confederate as significantly more homophobic in the sexuality-based heterosexist comment (t(83.68) = -2.44, p = .02). Prior contact with sexual minorities was significantly correlated with confronting the comment both verbally (r = .31, p < .01) and nonverbally (r = .29, p < .01). Future research should investigate what factors contribute to gender differences in responses to homophobia and why recognition of homophobia does not always led to higher rates of confrontation.