A new study suggests there are distinguishable differences in the facial shape of gay and straight men, and the results indicate the faces of gay men may be deemed more masculine. The findings stand in stark contrast to some stereotypical notions about the gay male community.
Researchers from the Center for Theoretical Study at Charles University in Prague and The Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic decided to study the facial characteristics of gay and straight men and determine if morphological differences can cue sexual orientation. Two studies were conducted: One analyzed whether gay men have noticeably different facial features than straight men; the other examined whether sexual orientation could be determined based solely on these features.
In the first study, researchers gathered 40 gay and 40 straight white, Czech men. After taking 80 portraits with a Canon camera, more than 11,000 coordinates were set to establish a comparison.
"Gay men showed relatively wider and shorter faces, smaller and shorter noses, and rather massive and more rounded jaws, resulting in a mosaic of both feminine and masculine features," according to the study.
The second study consisted of 33 gay and 33 straight men in their early 20s. Forty female and 40 male students from Charles University were asked to rate the sexual orientation of the 66 participants on a scale of one to seven, with one indicating a very straight look and seven indicating a very gay look. Raters were also asked to rank masculinity and femininity from one to seven, with one indicting very masculine and seven indicating very feminine.
The face shapes of gay men were rated as more masculine than those of straight men. In addition, raters were not able to correctly determine sexual orientation from the pictures. "This shows that sexual orientation judgment based on stereotyped gender specific traits leads to frequent misjudgment," the authors wrote.
Jarka Valentova, a researcher on the Czech study, elaborated on the results in an email to The Huffington Post Thursday.
"It's necessary to point out to possible misunderstandings of our results," she said. "The fact that we have found some significant morphological differences between homosexual and heterosexual men does not mean that any of the groups is easily recognizable on the street (and our Study 2 actually shows that it's not that easy to guess anyone's sexual orientation without knowing it), or that anything like that should be done (like pointing on people with our illustrations and guessing who is who)."
She also added that the sample size used was small and, in order for this study to ascertain more validity, it would need to be replicated within different populations.
Still, researchers suggest the differences in facial shapes may indicate certain prenatal environmental factors, which is a topic sexologist Anthony Bogaert began delving into in September.
One of his previous studies dealt with the increased likelihood of being gay if one has multiple older brothers, and a portion of his research highlighted the possibility of a biological mechanism influencing sexual orientation -- something nature and nurture proponents have been debating for decades.
"I think there's strong evidence that people who believe that there's a biological basis to sexual orientation tend to be more tolerant to sexual minorities, and that's one of the more positive [possible] social outcomes," he previously told HuffPost about his new research.