Research published in the Journal of Sex Research aimed to determine whether listeners could detect if a man is bisexual from his voice alone. The findings indicate that people are not able to determine if a man identifies as bisexual based on his voice alone. Additionally, when people listened to the voices of gay, straight, and bisexual men, they perceived the bisexual men as the most masculine among all the speakers they heard.
Bisexuality is often overlooked in the discourse about sexual orientation, leading to “bisexual erasure,” where bisexuality is often perceived as a phase or an illegitimate sexual identity. This erasure has led to a lack of research focused on bisexuality and an increased sense of invisibility and isolation among bisexual individuals, which has further implications regarding discrimination and social connection.
Previous research has identified specific voice characteristics that are often associated with gay men. These characteristics include higher pitch, wider pitch range, longer vowels, expanded vowel space, and more precise pronunciation.
However, while these vocal cues could be influenced by social and biological factors linked to sexual orientation, their application to bisexuality has not been studied extensively. Given that previous research has suggested that bisexual men often fall between gay and straight men in terms of self-reported and observer-reported masculinity and femininity, it was hypothesized that bisexual men might sound more feminine than straight men but less feminine than gay men.
The ability to identify a man’s bisexual identity from his voice has critical social implications. It could increase vulnerability to discrimination, but it might also help reduce feelings of erasure and alienation.
For their study, James Morandini of the University of Sydney and his colleagues recruited 160 participants (80 male, 80 female) who were asked to listen to voice samples of 60 men (20 gay-identified, 20 bisexual-identified, and 20 straight-identified) and rate their perceived sexual orientation on a scale from 0 (exclusively heterosexual) to 10 (exclusively homosexual). The listeners also rated the perceived level of femininity or masculinity in the voices on a visual analogue scale.
The male speakers were asked to recite the first two lines of the Australian national anthem and record themselves using their smartphone. The voice samples were then prepared by removing any background noise and normalizing the volume levels to ensure consistency.
The results showed that listeners could distinguish between gay and straight men’s voices with an accuracy rate of 62%, which was consistent with previous research. However, listeners could not distinguish between bisexual and straight men’s voices with any degree of accuracy. The study also found that female listeners were more accurate than male listeners in identifying gay men’s voices.
The researchers found that bisexual men’s voices were perceived as being more exclusively attracted to women compared to both gay and straight men’s voices. Bisexual men’s voices were also rated as more masculine than gay men’s voices and straight men’s voices.
The study’s authors discussed the implications of their findings for understanding the relationship between voice and sexual orientation. They noted that the study’s results suggest that the perceptual voice and speech features that allow listeners to identify gay men’s voices may not be present in bisexual men’s voices. The authors also noted that the study’s findings challenge the assumption that bisexual men’s voices are a blend of gay and straight men’s voices.
The study had several limitations that the authors acknowledged. One limitation was that the study only included Australian participants, which may limit the generalizability of the findings to other cultures. Another limitation was that the study did not control for the recording environment or microphone-to-mouth distance, which could have affected the quality of the voice samples. The authors also noted that the study’s use of smartphone recordings limited the frequency range of the voice samples, which may have excluded important spectral properties of the speakers’ voices.
Overall, this study contributes to our understanding of the relationship between voice and sexual orientation and highlights the need for further research to explore the perceptual voice and speech features that allow listeners to identify gay and bisexual men’s voices. Bisexual men are less likely to be identified through verbal conversations and less vulnerable to discrimination. However, they may have their sexuality misidentified.
The study, “Can listeners detect if a man is bisexual from his voice alone,” was authored by James S. Morandini, Damien Beckman-Scott, Catherine Madill, and Ilan Dar-Nimrod.