There's an old joke in the bisexual community that goes: "How can you tell if someone is bisexual? Don't worry, they'll tell you."
A new study, it seems, is built on that premise. But the researchers behind it found, hilariously, that people have an extremely hard time telling if a man is bisexual just from his voice.
Earlier this month, The Journal of Sex and Research published a study examining whether casual listeners could guess the sexuality of men just by hearing their voices — and as it turns out, they found no "gay voice" for men who swing both ways.
Perhaps one of the biggest caveats to the study, which was conducted by psychology researchers at the University of Sydney, is that both the participants and the men whose voices were sampled are Aussies, whose accents have themselves become something of a meme over the last few years.
The Sydney-based researchers asked 70 participants to try to determine the sexual identities of 60 men based on recordings of their voices. Of those recordings, 20 were gay, 20 were bi, and 20 were straight — and while the subjects "could correctly categorize the sexual orientations of the gay and straight speakers at rates greater than chance," the same wasn't true for the samples of the bisexual male voices.
Even more strikingly, the Aussie researchers found that "bisexual voices were consistently misperceived as being the most exclusively female attracted, and, contrary to expectations, were perceived as the most masculine sounding of all the speakers."
In other words, listeners judged the bi guys as being the most masculine out of all voices — which, you have to admit, is pretty funny given that bisexual men are still hounded by very particular stereotypes and prejudice around gender presentation.
This "bidar" study (a reference to the cultural trope of "gaydar," or being able to tell whether or not someone is gay based on the way they speak, dress, move, and behave) seeks to correct the underrepresentation of bisexual people in scientific research and question whether there could be such a thing as "bi voice," or a specific mode of speaking to bisexual people a la "gay voice."
"Consequently," the researchers wrote, "while bisexual men appear to be at lower risk of facing voice-based identification and discrimination than gay men, they may be often misperceived as being straight."
This is definitely not the worst double-edged sword bisexual people (and bi men in particular) face, but it is fascinating — and yes, pretty hilarious — that the participants in this Australian study found bi men to both sound more macho and to think they were straight. More study will, of course, be needed to figure out why.
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