Straight people still think gay men are ‘dirty’, according to new research.
According to experiments undertaken across the world, the participants felt the need to ‘physically cleanse’ themselves after imagining contact with a gay person.
Researchers believe it proves some people think gay men can ‘contaminate’ them in their subconscious mind.
If the participant considered themselves to be conservative in their social views, then they were far more likely to need to consider gay men to be ‘dirty’.
The researchers have described the results as ‘shocking’ and ‘alarming’.
In the study, which involved more than 200 participants in the UK, Portugal and Poland, the researchers conducted four experiments all with the same outcome.
One of the experiments in Portugal asked 55 participants to do a word completion task with a mix of cleanness related words, neutral words and words around cleansing.
Participants who imagined borrowing a phone from a gay man generated significantly more words about cleansing than those who had imagined borrowing the phone of a heterosexual man.
Following the experiment, they were offered either a yellow pencil or yellow disinfecting wipe. Those who borrowed the phone from a gay man chose cleansing wipes far more often.
Agnieszka Golec de Zavala, one of the lead researchers, said: ‘Labelling people as impure is a culturally universal way of expressing prejudice.
Just look at the language of hostile propaganda throughout history and you will see targeted groups described as unclean.
‘Physical cleansing is used as a way to euphemise through actions such as excluding from social life, depriving of human rights, imprisoning or finally exterminating.’
She added: ‘It’s alarming that…prejudice can be still found on a subconscious level. It may be difficult to reduce prejudice people are unaware they hold.
‘But our findings, particularly around the political conservatives, show that this prejudice is still in part determined by socio-cultural world views.
‘Therefore there is still hope that more can be changed with education to limit and eradicate prejudice.’