Academic journal article Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality

Young Men, Religion and Attitudes towards Homosexuality

Academic journal article Journal of Men, Masculinities and Spirituality

Young Men, Religion and Attitudes towards Homosexuality

Article excerpt

This paper explains attitudes towards gays and lesbians, and explores the complex relationship of religiosity, youth, masculinity and support for gay rights. Based on a large, reliable and nationally representative study (n=1405) from PEW Center carried out in 2006, we estimate three logistic regression models predicting approval for gay marriage, gay adoption and gays in the military, which helps us to observe the differences. We conclude that while religiosity and fundamentalism negatively affect support for all three issues, the relationship varies by age and gender. Generally, young men do not show differences in their views of gay marriage, but men, especially religious, young men do show more negative attitudes than their female counterparts in support for gay adoption. Finally, men show more positive attitudes towards gays in the military.

Attitudes toward gays and lesbians are an important topic for social scientists, politicians and policy makers. Many recent studies have documented the increasing acceptance of gays and lesbians in the United States (Greenberg and Bystryn, 1982; Loftus, 2001; Werum and Winders, 2001).

While many organizations have become more accepting and supportive of gay rights, religions and religious institutions have in general been unsupportive. Young people have therefore come of age caught between increasing support for and acceptance of gays from secular authorities and a strong counter-mobilization from the religious right. Young men in particular constitute an interesting research area, as they show less acceptance and tolerance towards gays than their female counterparts, despite the fact that young people on the whole are more tolerant than the rest of the population. Young men, therefore, seem to be situated at the intersection of two forces: one making them more tolerant, the other less. This paper focuses on young men and explores the effects of age, gender and particularly religiosity on their attitudes towards gay men and lesbians. We investigate the complex relationship of religiosity, masculinity and gay rights and unravel the effects of these seemingly contrasting influences.

Prior research

Prior research consistently shows that attitudes towards gay men and women have generally tended to be negative (Louderback and Whitley Jr., 1997). This anti-gay prejudice has been distinct and well documented in research done with convenience samples from college students (Herek, 1984, 1986; Kite, 1994) as well as large scale, representative surveys (Herek 1991; Herek and Capitanio, 1996; Herek and Glunt, 1993). Overall, attitudes towards gay men and lesbians seem to be improving consistently over time as Americans become increasingly liberal in their opinions about civil liberties (Brooks, 2000). They have gained social acceptance from some parts of the U.S. population, but face opposition from others (Loftus, 2001; Werum and Winders 2001).

Attitudes towards gay men and lesbians have been explained by numerous factors. Individuals holding negative attitudes towards gay men and women tend to be more authoritarian, less educated, more traditional in sex roles and show negative attitudes towards minority groups (Herek, 1984 and 1991).


One of the most central factors in attitudes towards homosexuality is the sex of the respondent. Many studies show that men on average have more negative attitudes towards gays and lesbians than women (Glenn and Weaver, 1979; Lottes and Kuriloff, 1992; Herek and Glunt, 1993; Kirkpatrick, 1993; Louderback and Whitley, 1997; Marsiglio, 1993; Kerns and Fine, 1994; Kite and Whitley, 1996; LaMar and Kite, 1998; Aberson, Swan and Emerson, 1999; Cotten-Huston and Waite, 2000; Wills and Crawford, 2000; Brown and Amoroso, 1975; Kite and Whitley, 1996; Glassner and Owen, 1976; Gurwitz and Marcus, 1978; Hansen, 1982; Kite, 1984; Laner and Laner, 1979; Millham et al., 1976; Minnigerode, 1976; Steffensmeier and Steffensmeier, 1974; Storms, 1978; Weiss and Dein, 1979). …

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