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"Do I sound straight?" (Kachel et al., 2018)

posted on 2018-06-27, 18:02 authored by Sven Kachel, Adrian P. Simpson, Melanie C. Steffens
Purpose: This study aims to give an integrative answer on which speech stereotypes exist toward German gay and straight men, whether and how acoustic correlates of actual and perceived sexual orientation are connected, and how this relates to masculinity/femininity. Hence, it tests speech stereotype accuracy in the context of sexual orientation.
Method: Twenty-five gay and 26 straight German speakers provided data for a fine-grained psychological self-assessment (e.g., masculinity/femininity) and explicit speech stereotypes. They were recorded for an extensive set of read and spontaneous speech samples using microphones and nasometry. Recordings were analyzed for a variety of acoustic parameters (e.g., fundamental frequency and nasalance). Seventy-four listeners categorized speakers as gay or straight on the basis of the same sentence.
Results: Most relevant explicitly expressed speech stereotypes encompass voice pitch, nasality, chromaticity, and smoothness. Demonstrating implicit stereotypes, speakers were perceived as sounding straighter, the lower their median f0, center of gravity in /s/, and mean F2. However, based on actual sexual orientation, straight men only showed lower mean F1 than gay men. Additionally, we found evidence that actual masculinity/femininity and the degree of sexual orientation were reflected in gay and straight men’s speech.
Conclusion: Implicit and explicit speech stereotypes about gay and straight men do not contain a kernel of truth, and differences within groups are more important than differences between them.

Supplemental Material S1. Distribution of speakers regarding sexual orientation on Kinsey-like scale (modified version from Kinsey, Pomeroy, & Martin, 1948) in Sessions 1 and 2.

Supplemental Material S2. Schematic sagittal view of the isolation plate and nasal and oral microphones.

Supplemental Material S3. Spectrograms of the second syllable from two tokens of getaucht (“dived”) with (left) and without (right) a stretch of breathy voice following voice onset time (VOT). The breathy voiced stretch is annotated with VOT+.

Supplemental Material S4. Online questionnaire.

Kachel, S., Simpson, A. P., & Steffens, M. C. (2018). “Do I sound straight?”: Acoustic correlates of actual and perceived sexual orientation and masculinity/femininity in men’s speech. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 61, 1560–1578.


The current research was funded by a grant from the German Research Foundation to the last two authors (DFG STE 938/10-2; FOR 1097).