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LES ECHOS

Are Homophobes Really Just Repressed Homosexuals?

Some provocative studies are cited as the debate heats up in France over a law to legalize gay marriage.

Why all the hate?
Why all the hate?
Laurent Bègue*

Massive demonstrations are set for Sunday across France by opponents of a new government proposal to legalize gay marriage. The protesters say they have nothing against homosexuals, while gay rights activists denounce the homophobic tendencies of opponents of same-sex marriage. Social psychologist Laurent Bègue, author of “Right and Wrong Psychology,” is convinced that the line between homophobia and homosexuality is thin.

PARIS - In Sam Mendes’ film “American Beauty,” a former US marine and convinced conservative expresses his disgust with homosexuality (and humiliation) by ultimately shooting his neighbor – Lester Burnham, played by Kevin Spacey -- who had refused his sexual advances. This strange and tragic paradox may not remain pure cinematographic fantasy since, statistically, where you find communities that can be usually affiliated with homophobia (not necessarily homophobes), the violence of the words don't always correspond with the needs of the flesh.

Pope Benedict XVI was forced to remove German Bishop Walter Mixa, a man who had repeatedly pronounced violent homophobic discourses, even as he was himself homosexual according to the weekly “Der Spiegel.” There are other similar examples, such as American televangelist Ted Haggard.

How to test the theory?

To be taken seriously, the possible link between homophobia and homosexuality needs more substance than some anecdotes and an Oscar-winning movie. To put to the test the latent Freudian theory that repressed homosexual urges lead to homophobia, some mischievous American researchers from the University of Georgia carried out an unusual experiment.

They invented the instrument they dubbed the “plethysmograph,” which is actually a plastic band composed of mercury, meant to measure penis size during erections, that they believed could bring a touch of quantatative modernity to this old idea.

This rather unusual experiment proved that whenever a homosexual scene was shown to a professed homophobic male audience (determined a few days beforehand thanks to a questionnaire), these people had a higher tendency to have an erection than the others.

The numbers revealed that 80% of the homophobes had an increase in penis size compared to 34% of the non-homophobic population. The whole group’s reaction to heterosexual films was exactly the same, though. When the participants were asked if, according to them, they felt turned on by the scenes, the homophobes were the only ones to underestimate their effect on them.

This experiment on repressed homosexual tendencies needs to be renewed to end the controversy it already provoked, but it gives us nonetheless something to think about given how “hot” the topic is right now.

*The writer is a professor in social psychology and author of “Right and Wrong Psychology”

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Ukraine’s Offensive Raises A Big Question: Is It Time To Attack Inside Russia?

The successful Ukrainian counteroffensive in the northeast has brought Kyiv’s troops to the border, now with the artillery capacity to strike inside Russian territory. What are risks of launching a “counter-invasion”? What are risks of not doing so?

Yurii Rylchuk/Ukrinform/ZUMA

Anna Akage

The Ukrainian Armed Forces' startling counter-offensive has entered its fifth day, with overnight news outdated by lunchtime as the advance continues at a pace unprecedented since the start of the war. Since the beginning of September, the Ukrainian army has liberated more than 3,000 square miles of territory in the northeastern Kharkiv region.

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Meanwhile in Moscow, President Vladimir Putin appears to be in denial as his troops collapse and retreat, and his generals panic. Putin spent the weekend presiding over the grand opening of a new Ferris wheel in Moscow, and his spokesman released a statement saying all is going according to plan.

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