New research has suggested that prejudice against gays and lesbians could be linked to the fear by straight people of becoming the subjects of sexual advances by members of these groups.

Researchers found, in a thee part study, that heterosexual men generally believe that bisexual and gay men may direct unwanted sexual interest towards them.

Heterosexual women, on the other hand, generally believe bisexual men, bisexual women, and lesbians may direct unwanted sexual interest towards them.

The research, published by Social Psychological and Personality Science, was also able to link these beliefs with patterns of negativity toward the different sexual orientation groups.

“In all, our paper demonstrated robustly that perceptions of unwanted sexual interest by certain sexual orientation groups predict sexual prejudice quite well among college students, and that other alternative explanations (e.g., that non-heterosexuals violate gender norms or threaten one’s sexual identity) cannot explain patterns of sexual prejudice,” Angela G. Pirlott of University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire, the lead author of the study, told PsyPost.

The study, which was co-authored by Steven L. Neuberg from Arizona State University, was conducted among a sample group of 533 heterosexual university students.

The research does not directly prove a causal link between fear of unwanted sexual advances and sexual orientation prejudice but suggests that this could well be one of the factors behind homophobia.

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