In a pair of studies on the intimacy of interactions between over heterosexual women and their male conversation partners, researchers found that the women had friendlier, more open interactions with gay men who disclosed their sexual orientation compared to men who revealed that they were straight. Women often avoid intimately engaging with male acquaintances due to concerns that the man may misinterpret friendliness as flirtation or even sexual interest, said Eric M. Russell, a research associate at the University of Texas at Arlington. In the first study, heterosexual female college students completed an online survey in which they were asked to imagine sitting alone in a waiting room with either a straight or gay male stranger. On average, women reported feeling slightly more at ease after learning the man was straight, but significantly more comfortable when the man turned out to be gay. The student dyads, who were told they were participating in a study on how strangers convey information about different topics, were covertly filmed throughout three distinct interaction periods. In the second period, the research assistant had one of the participants draw a slip of paper from the box, all of which asked them to describe his or her ideal romantic partner.
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