October 20, 2002
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Neuroendocrinology Letters incl. Psychoneuroimmunology & Chronobiology

NEUROENDOCRINOLOGY LETTERS
including Psychoneuroimmunology, Neuro
psychopharmacology,
Reproductive Medicine, Chronobiology
and Human Ethology
ISSN 0172–780X


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9-Sep-2002

Full text in the August issue

Vol.23 No. 5, 2002

Preferred Partner Characteristics in Homosexual Men in Relation to Speculated Patterns of Brain Differentiation
(Frank Muscarella)


Research from several disciplines suggests that certain areas of the human brain develop one way in males and another way in females. The differences in brain organization are believed to contribute to sex differences in behavior and also to the development of sexual orientation. One theory holds that heterosexual men have a brain organization which leads to interest in partners that are younger and more feminine than themselves while homosexual men have a brain organization which leads to interest in partners that are younger and more masculine than themselves. The theory also holds that heterosexual adolescents have a brain organization which leads to interest in partners older and more feminine than themselves while homosexual adolescents have a brain organization which leads to interest in partners that are older and more masculine than themselves.
Psychological research on partner preferences supports some of these predictions. However, several predictions have limited or mixed evidence. One, it is not clear that homosexual men prefer men more masculine than themselves. Two, it is not clear that homosexual men place the same emphasis that heterosexual men do on the youthfulness of their partners. Three, it is not clear that adolescent homosexual males prefer older partners to same-age or younger partners. Four, it is not clear that with development from adolescence to adulthood homosexual males demonstrate a transition in age preference from partners older than themselves to partners younger than themselves.
To test these predictions a study was conducted with 48 gay male couples (N = 96). The men made ratings on several ethologically relevant physical characteristics of masculinity (e.g., level of muscle development) and on a behavioral description of stereotypic male sexuality (e.g., sexually dominant). The men made the ratings four times: for themselves in the present as adults, for themselves in the past as adolescents, for their real partners, and for their idealized fantasy partners.

The results of the study supported most of the predictions. The men rated their ideal partners as more masculine than themselves and their real partners on several characteristics. The ideal partners were taller, heavier, more muscular, had more facial hair, and exhibited a higher degree of stereotypic male sexual behavior. The men did not express interest in partners younger than themselves, rather, they expressed interest in partners the same age as themselves. As adolescents, the men preferred partners, on the average, more than seven years older than themselves. They also preferred partners more masculine than themselves. With the developmental transition from adolescence to adulthood, the age preference of the ideal partners moved from older than themselves to the same age as themselves. However, the ideal partners remained more masculine than the men themselves. The results of the study are consistent with the speculation that in homosexual men there may be some feminization in the area of the brain which contributes to interest in sexual partners. The results also suggest that future studies attempting to link speculated patterns of brain differentiation and psychosexual behavior in humans may be worthwhile.

Full text published in the August issue,
Vol. 23 No.4, 2002
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