November 5, 2008
The Science of Gaydar: The new research on everything from finger length ratio, fingerprints, handedness, voice pitch, hair whorl, & penis size.
If sexual orientation is biological, are the traits that make people seem gay innate, too?
|A small constellation of researchers is specifically analyzing the traits and characteristics that, though more pronounced in some than in others, not only make us gay but also make us appear gay. Some of their research findings are reported below:
FINGER LENGTH RATIO:
The relative lengths of our fingers offer another hint: The index fingers of most straight men are shorter than their ring fingers, while for most women they are closer in length, or even reversed in ratio. But some researchers have noted that gay men are likely to have finger-length ratios more in line with those of straight women, and a study of self-described “butch” lesbians showed significantly masculinized ratios.
A string of other studies, most of them conducted quietly and with small budgets, has offered up a number of other biological indicators. According to this research, for instance, gay men, like straight women, have an increased density of fingerprint ridges on the thumb and the pinkie of the left hand; and overall their arms, legs, and hands are smaller relative to stature (among whites but not blacks).
At first read, their findings seem like a string of unlinked, esoteric observations. Statistically, for instance, gay men and lesbians have about a 50 percent greater chance of being left-handed or ambidextrous than straight men or women.
The same goes for the way we hear, the way we process spatial reasoning, and even the ring of our voices. One study, involving tape-recordings of gay and straight men, found that 75 percent of gay men sounded gay to a general audience.
One study that supports the hyper-masculinity theory of male homosexuality involves penis size. An Ontario-based psychological researcher named Anthony Bogaert re-sorted Kinsey Institute data—in which 5,000 men answered detailed questions about their sex lives, practices, fantasies, and, it turns out, measurements of their erect organs—along sexual-orientation lines. Gay men’s penises were thicker (4.95 inches versus 4.80) and longer (6.32 inches versus 5.99). The measurements, it should be noted, were self-reported and perhaps involve reporting bias, but no one has done a study investigating whether gay men are more prone to exaggerating their assets, so, well, draw your own conclusions.
READ FURTHER ABOUT FINGER SECRETS:
October 5, 2008
Anthropologist Helen Fisher explains what online dating sites can learn from the biology of love and what the length of your ring finger says about your sex life.
|Last year you may have seen ads for Chemistry.com, the ones about people who have been rejected by online matchmaking sites like eHarmony for being gay, depressed, or generally unmarriageable for murkier reasons. In one ad, a young man stares hopefully at heterosexual p o r n, only to conclude, “Nope, still gay.” At Chemistry, spokespeople like to crow, you can “come as you are” (as long as you come as someone who is over 18).
The company is an offshoot of Internet meet-market Match.com, which has been around since 1994. In 2004, Match approached anthropologist Helen Fisher about designing a site where, like at the successful but restricted eHarmony, members would not shop blindly for dates, but would be matched with each other based on personality profiles and compatibility.
Fisher, whose work on s e x, love and the brain had made her an authority on human mating, developed a theory that human beings fall into four categories – negotiators, directors, explorers and builders – and that your type helps determine who you fall for.
Passage in the interview:
RT: What is this thing about your fingers? It’s on the Chemistry questionnaire.
HF: It’s called ‘digit ratio’ (finger length ratio). In the womb – during pregnancy – the brain is washed over by estrogen and testosterone. If you have a lot more testosterone than estrogen in the womb, it is going to build a longer fourth finger than pointer finger. If you’ve got a lot more estrogen in the womb, the pointer finger will be longer.
RT: What does it say about your personality?
HF: If you have more testosterone in the womb and you have a longer fourth finger, you’re more likely to have musical ability, mathematical abilities, to be an engineer or architect or good at computer programming. You tend to have poorer social skills but be direct, decisive, ambitious, competitive.