We've all heard that visibility matters. Here's proof--scientific proof--as reported in Scientific American.
According to Harvard University psychologist Yoel Inbar and his colleagues in a recent issue of the journal Emotion, even people who say they are fine with displays of affection by gay male couples may harbor subconscious negative attitudes.
Jesse Bering, the openly gay author of the SciAm article and the director of the Institute of Cognition and Culture at Queen's University Belfast in Northern Ireland, explains: "because these implicit (often unconscious) moral judgments are often in conflict with social prescriptions of fairness and equality for gay couples, such individuals are usually completely unaware of their own prejudiced attitudes."
The good news? Bering observes:
Studies have shown that people can be habituated to stimuli that trigger disgust over time. . . . The key to gay people feeling comfortable expressing their affection for one another in public places, therefore, is simply to engage in such behavior more routinely.
One might fantasize about a sort of reverse Clockwork Orange
procedure here: sit people down and make them watch episodes of The L Word
or Queer As Folk
until their nausea subsides. (Except for Season Three of The L Word
, which still makes even me slightly queasy.)
The real solution is simpler, of course: take your sweetie's hand in the park. Kiss her goodbye when you drop her off for work. (Don't do this, of course, if you feel you would risk physical harm or loss of a job.)
While I should add that this was only a single study with a limited sample size (and I wonder if people have the same sense of disgust with lesbians as with gay men), it seems as good an excuse as any for planting a big wet one on your honey in the produce aisle.