Trigger words referencing sexuality: A gender gap?


  • Alexis Marie Swan Bethany College
  • Courtney Rosser
  • Cory Newman
  • Debra Hull
  • John Hull



Undergraduate participants read 10 words associated with sexuality and gender issues, and likely to elicit strong emotional responses, then evaluated them on 1-5 scales measuring negative-positive emotional response, and comfort in hearing them in a virtual class, in a face-to-face class, and comfort in using them in private conversation.Independent sample t tests comparing the responses of self-identified women and men showed that for emotional response, women rated feminist, gender-inclusive, and equality more positively than did men, while men rated fag and sexist less negatively than did women. Women reported feeling significantly more comfortable using feminist and gender-inclusive in private conversation than men did, while men reported feeling less uncomfortable using homo, fag, and butch than women did. Correlated-groups t tests with genders combined showed little difference in comfort depending on where the word was heard, Finally, a factor analysis of the 10 words for emotional response yielded one main factor—related to sexism--with seven items with values higher than .45 or lower than -.45. Items weighted negatively included feminist, gender-inclusive, ally and equality; items weighted positively included fag, sexist, and rape.Future research could include possible covariates with gender, such political views, and the use of a larger set of trigger words, for example, those related to birth control and abortion.

Author Biography

Alexis Marie Swan, Bethany College

Psychology Student at Bethany College




How to Cite

Swan, A. M., Rosser, C., Newman, C., Hull, D., & Hull, J. (2021). Trigger words referencing sexuality: A gender gap?. Proceedings of the West Virginia Academy of Science, 93(1).