The gay best friend, or GBF, may be a cliché, but it’s a powerful one. Powerful enough — at least in the minds of straight girls — that a helpful article from Wikihow feels obligated to warn GBF seekers that, “Even if you believe you must have that flamboyant gay man to be your BFF, consider first the person inside — what you are looking for is a soul mate friend, not a decorative accessory.”
But when it avoids teetering into decorative accessory territory, the “unique and important bond shared between straight women and gay men” is both observable and understudied. So researchers at the University of Texas at Austin designed an experiment aimed at empirically evaluating how, exactly, both parties benefit from being soul mate friends.
To do so the researchers designed a fake internet persona — “Jordan” — and evaluated participants’ ability to form a relationship with him based solely on his Facebook profile.
Not that Jordan was always a “he”: The 88 heterosexual women who signed up for the study experienced Jordan as either a straight woman, a straight man, or a gay man. For the 58 homosexual men who participated in a similar experiment, Jordan was either a straight woman, a gay man, or, in a “novel ‘lesbian female’ target condition,” a gay woman. All other factors of Jordan’s personality, aside from gender and sexuality, remained constant, and both the male and female profile pictures were consistently rated as “average” in terms of attractiveness.
After getting to know Jordan by reading his (or her) profile, the subjects were asked to imagine themselves in a number of hypothetical scenarios with their new, hypothetical friend. The situations took place at a party, in which Jordan would offer them “mating-relevant advice,” such as commenting on their interaction with a potential romantic interest. How trustworthy did they theoretically find their fake friend’s advice to be? And how likely did they think Jordan was to help them in nailing down “a fling,” “a date,” or even “a potential relationship”?