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Study Explores Explicit and Implicit Assessments of Nonheterosexuality and Androphilia

Reviewed by the medical professionals of the ISSM’s Communication Committee

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Implicit measurements of sexual preferences among men yield different results than explicit ones, according to a recent Journal of Sexual Medicine study.

Researchers found that the prevalence of nonheterosexuality determined through explicit methods is lower than the prevalence of androphilia (defined as “the sexual attraction and arousal toward adult males”) determined through implicit methods.

They noted that sexual orientation is a personal matter and that social and cultural factors might influence men’s responses on explicit assessments, even when they are completed anonymously. However, this information, when accurate, can help experts design health programs for men who have sex with men (MSMs).

In contrast, implicit measures of androphilia might provide a viable assessment alternative, as they account for deeper factors that aren’t as likely to be culturally or socially influenced.

The authors explained that heterosexuality and homosexuality are two end points on a continuum and that androphilia is “a proxy” of measuring nonheterosexuality. “[Androphilia] probably represents the only measurable indicator underlying the different degrees of nonheterosexuality,” they wrote.

For this study, the researchers used explicit and implicit methods to determine and compare the prevalence of androphilia and nonheterosexuality in a group of men from around the world.

  • They recruited 1,050 men to participate. Almost three-quarters of the men were in the 18-30 age category. About 35% came from Europe, and 23% came from North America. Others lived in Africa, South America, Asia, and Oceania.
  • Implicit sexual preferences were assessed with the Sexual Preference-Implicit Association test. Participants viewed mildly erotic images designed to represent “male” and “female” categories and rated them as “sexually attractive” or “sexually repulsive.”
  • Explicit measures of sexual orientation were conducted with the Kinsey Scale, which asks participants to rate their orientation on a scale of 0 to 6, with 0 indicating “completely heterosexual” and 6 representing “completely homosexual” orientations.
  • Based on Kinsey Scale results, homosexuality rates ranged from 6.3% to 11.4% for the entire group, with percentages varying by location. For example, 88.6% of the men from South America identified as heterosexual; for men in Asia, the rate was 93.7%.
  • Similarly, 1.3% of the men in South America identified as bisexual, compared to 6.2% of the men in Oceania. And while 3% of the men in Africa identified as homosexual, 10.1% of the men in South America categorized themselves that way.
  • Whereas, the prevalence of androphilia was similar across areas, ranging from 14.4% in Europe to 17.6% to Oceania. One group of Asian men living in Asia had an androphilia rate of 27.4%, and was the only group that fell out of the range. However, the results for Asian men living abroad were similar to the other groups. The authors noted that written characters used in the assessments might have been different, which could explain this result.

They also acknowledged several limitations of the research. For example, the men’s sexual behaviors were not known. This information could provide greater understanding and help with the development of men’s health programs.

Future research in this area is planned. The researchers also intend to examine implicit sexual preferences among women worldwide.


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