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Nomer Yuzon aims to be first-ever Mr. Gay World from Phl

There’s never been an Asian winner in the seven-year history of the Mr. Gay World pageant. Nomer Yuzon, a 5-feet-10-inch and 42-year-old educator from Occidental Mindoro, aspires to be the Philippines’ newest export to the ‘global LGBT beauty arena’ at the pageant’s conclusion in South Africa on the first Sunday of May.



Nomer Yuzon

Six hours before Manny Pacquiao fights Floyd Mayweather Jr. inside the boxing ring of MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 3, Sunday (Philippine time), another Filipino will first take up the challenge of “knocking out” 21 gay men from different countries on stage at the Knysna Mall Exhibition Area in South Africa, to be the first-ever Filipino Mr. Gay World titleholder.

His name is Nomer Munar Yuzon, an educator who hails from Occidental Mindoro.

Early this year, local franchise holders Noemi Alberto, Mr. Gay World for Asia regional director, and Mac Bordallo, Winnstruck Productions president handpicked him due to time restrictions. But the 42-year-old, 5-feet-10-inch native of Occidental Mindoro is no stranger to beauty pageants. He was David Noel Bosley’s second runner-up in the Mr. Gay Philippines 2009 tilt, also winning the Darling of the Press and Best in Formal Wear special awards. He also represented Hawaii in Manhunt International 2006 world finals staged in Jinjiang, China.

Neither a Filipino nor an Asian has won the Mr. Gay World crown. Nomer Yuzon, the Philippines’ bet this year, believes that it’s about time.

Neither a Filipino nor an Asian has won the Mr. Gay World crown. Nomer Yuzon, the Philippines’ bet this year, believes that it’s about time.

“This will be my last (international) pageant, and I really hope that ‘this is it’,” he said in an interview with Outrage Magazine at the Mr. Gay World Asia Regional Office in Pasig City. “I’m the (oldest candidate) in Mr. Gay World this year. (But) I consider my age as an edge, since I have more experiences (in life) which made me a stronger, more matured and disciplined person that I am today.”

Yuzon is the fifth and youngest child of the late Mariano Yuzon from Batangas, and the former Peg Munar, a retired school teacher who hails from Pangasinan. He completed his bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the Far Eastern University and pursued his postgraduate studies in development communication at the University of the Philippines in Diliman. He left for the US in 1997 where he worked as hotelier at the Holiday Inn San Francisco, part-time model and then flight steward for the United Airlines for 14 years.

After grabbing an early retirement package from the airline company, he entered the academe last year. He started teaching airline business and public speaking subjects at the Lyceum of the Philippines University and Asia Pacific College, respectively. He also works as a part-time actor and appeared in ABS-CBN’s fantasy-comedy-drama TV series Inday Bote where he portrayed the role of an investor recently. Yuzon is also a member of the Maharlika Drakon Dragon Boat Racers under the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation.


The global competition aimed at inspiring and empowering gay men to come together in a public performance that will showcase the world that being gay encompasses a broad spectrum is back after eight months. Its founding president, Eric Butter, is again on the lookout for the successor of Stuart Hatton Jr. of the UK, who will also advance gay human rights in his country and throughout the world.

Now in its seventh year, Mr. Gay World will be held in Knysna, a town in South Africa renowned for its wildlife, magnificent oysters, and golf courses, between April 26 and May 4. It’s also the first time that delegates will join the Pink Loerie Mardi Gras and Arts Festival street parade on the day of the finals.

“I don’t want to think of the pressure, I’d rather focus on the excitement. I was a flight attendant for so many years, but I’ve never been to South Africa or the African continent on the whole. I’ll have new friends (there) for sure and I’ll do my very best, of course,” he said.

But one thing is sure about his “road to success” in South Africa, it wouldn’t be easy as there are 12 likely victors—all staying aligned and holding tight to their vision—who will surely stop him from winning the Mr. Gay World crown.

  1. Australia’s Scott Fletcher, 27, was born and raised in New Zealand, but migrated to Melbourne three years ago to start a career in software development. He is a principal security consultant for a company that specializes in helping organizations secure their information technology systems. His bodybuilder-like physique is a strong contender for the Best in Swimsuit special award.
  2. From a young teenager who weighed 120 kilograms, had no friends, became a laughingstock, and was sick all the time during swimming lessons, Jordy de Smedt, 20, from Belgium, evolved from “chunk to hunk.” He studied to become a personal trainer, to inspire many people who find it too hard to lose pounds fast.
  3. Finland’s Tomi Mikael Lappi, 24, is a professional show/ballroom dancer and show coordinator for Finnish designer Antti Asplund’s “Heterophobia” clothing line. He joined the pageant “to share knowledge, confidence and youthful energy to become both a face and an accessible voice to the LGBT community worldwide.”
  4. Klaus Burkart, 20, is a milk technologist blessed with an angelic face. He was Austria’s envoy in last year’s contest. He is back with a vengeance, but this time representing Germany where he’s born. Burkart is a shoo-in for the Mr. Gay Photogenic special award.
  5. Iceland’s Troy Michael Jónsson, 27, bartender and gay rights activist, is another Mr. Gay World repeater. He isn’t happy with his top 10 finish last August: He wants no less than the crown so he can lead “The Bleeding Love Project,” a global mission that hopes to “end the ban on gay men donating blood.”
  6. Marcos Vinicius Barboza, 27, a fitness professional from Ireland. This Brazilian immigrant would like to become Mr. Gay World, so he could represent the gay community and push for the “YES vote” at a time when his newfound home is about to hold a referendum for marriage equality.
  7. Italy’s Arziom Cristofaro, 22, is pursuing his degree in political science major in international relations at the University of Bari Aldo Moro. He believes that, “Freedom is an inviolable right: It’s about marriage, adoption or the simple fact of being gay.”
  8. Wayne Grech, 28, professional hairstylist and salon owner, is Malta’s first entrant in the global pageant’s history. He started modelling at 16, and represented his country at the Manhunt International pageant staged in South Korea a decade ago.
  9. Gabriel Jesus Naal Fernandez, 33, completed his bachelor’s degree in autonomy economics at the University of Yucatan. He works as an assistant manager of an entertainment team in Riviera Maya, a tourism and resort district in Mexico.
  10. Twenty-four year-old Matt Andrija Fistonich has a diploma in business and management, national certificates in real estate and firefighting, and awarded with advanced diploma in public safety (emergency management). He worked as a firefighter in New Zealand’s Defense Force for six years.
  11. Craig Maggs, 25, obtained his diploma in sports science at the Stellenbosch University in South Africa. This year’s “hometown gay” works for an HIV and Ebola research nongovernment organization during the day and is a restaurant waiter in Johannesburg at night.
  12. Jesus Martin Marquez, 30, is an “untouchable fixture” in Spain’s modeling industry. The gorgeous dancer, runway and commercial model hasn’t stepped into the South African soil yet, but the “Spanish Adonis” is already deemed to give the other delegates a run for their money.

The other contestants are Colombia’s Jorge Escribano Pelaez, 32, host and actor; Leonardo Piloto Gonzalez, 35, disc jockey, composer and music producer from Cuba; Czech Republic’s Daniel Frohlich, 20, shipping crew and call center agent; Alejandro Torres-Solanot Martinez, 26, university student from the Dominican Republic; Hong Kong’s Emmanuel Mass Luciano, 35, fashion designer, stylist and blogger; Sweden’s Carl Anton Ljungberg, 21, waiter and bartender; Luis Jorge Vicente, 29, runway model from Uruguay; and Zambia’s Siyathokoza Thabani Khumalo, 28, retail company buyer and planning coordinator.


Filipinos all over the world can help Nomer Yuzon win the Mr. Gay Popularity special award to possibly advance in the semifinal round by clicking MGW 2015 and voting once every 24 hours until 6 AM of May 1, Friday (Manila time).

The Philippines is a very promising non-winning country in Mr. Gay World. Wilbert Tolentino was named Mr. Gay Popularity and won Best in National Costume in 2009. And for half a decade now, all the Philippines’ gay emissaries made it to the semifinal round: David Noel Bosley in 2010; Marc Ernest Biala, also awarded Best in National Costume and Mr. Gay Popularity in 2011; Carlito Rosadiño, also adjudged Best in National Costume and Mr. Gay Popularity in 2012; Erimar Ortigas, named Mr. Gay Popularity in 2013; and Randolph Val Palma, sixth place overall in 2014. Hence, the pressure to equal if not exceed the feats of his predecessors is definitely on for Yuzon.

“If I would become Mr. Gay World, it will be easier for me to network. As an educator, an ‘openly gay’ teacher, I believe that I have the responsibility. I can easily reach out to a lot of students. I want to spearhead a project, ‘It’s OKAY to be GAY,’ because a lot of young gays still find it hard to come out these days. There’s still widespread discrimination in our society (also due to our traditional beliefs) that being gay is a disease, (or) it’s a shame. It’s just one of the things I want to change,” he concluded.

Past Filipino reps in Mr. Gay World who made it to the semifinal round include (from left) David Noel Bosley in 2010, Marc Ernest Biala in 2011, Carlito Rosadiño in 2012, Erimar Ortigas in 2013 and Randolph Val Palma in 2014.

Past Filipino reps in Mr. Gay World who made it to the semifinal round include (from left) David Noel Bosley in 2010, Marc Ernest Biala in 2011, Carlito Rosadiño in 2012, Erimar Ortigas in 2013 and Randolph Val Palma in 2014.



Giovanni Paolo J. Yazon is just your average journalist who can't live without a huge plate of cheesy spaghetti, three cups of brewed coffee, and high-speed Internet every single day. A graduate of mass communication at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, he chased loads of actors, beauty queens, pop artists and even college basketball players until the wee hours of the morning to write their stories eight years. Ivan (how those close to him call him) presently works as a full-time search engine optimization copywriter and an image consultant. He splurges his take-home pay in motivational books and spends his free time touring different heritage towns in the country.


LGB online daters report positive experiences… plus harassment

LGB online daters are also more likely than their straight counterparts to experience a range of negative behaviors on dating platforms, varying from name-calling to physical threats. Among those who have ever used an online dating site or app, they reported experiencing at least one of the forms of harassment measured in this survey on those sites and apps (69%, compared with 52% of their straight counterparts).



Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) adults who use online dating sites and apps generally report that their experiences with online dating have been positive – even more than straight online daters (65% said their experience was very or somewhat positive, versus 56% of straight online daters).

This is according to a Pew Research Center survey, which found that a majority of LGB adults (55%) report that they have used an online dating site or app at some point, roughly twice the share of straight adults (28%) who say the same.

Among LGB adults who are married, living with a partner, or in a committed relationship, 28% say they met their current partner online. This is more than double when compared with 11% of partnered straight adults.

Also, among LGB people who are now single and looking for a relationship or dates, 37% are currently online dating (versus 24% of straight people who are single and looking).

However – and this is worth highlighting – LGB online daters are also more likely than their straight counterparts to experience a range of negative behaviors on dating platforms, varying from name-calling to physical threats. Among those who have ever used an online dating site or app, they reported experiencing at least one of the forms of harassment measured in this survey on those sites and apps (69%, compared with 52% of their straight counterparts).

More than half of LGB online daters (56%) say they have received a sexually explicit message or image they did not ask for, compared with 32% of straight online daters who say the same.

Stalking was also raised as an issue, with roughly half of LGB online daters (48%) saying that someone continued to contact them after they said they weren’t interested, compared with 35% of their straight counterparts.

About four in 10 LGB online daters (41%) say someone called them an offensive name on one of these sites or apps – 16 percentage points higher than the share of straight online daters (25%) who say the same.

Lastly, 17% of LGB online daters said that someone on a dating site or app threatened to physically harm them. This is more than twice the share of straight online daters (7%).

Perhaps not surprisingly, according to the Pew Research Center survey, LGB adults who have ever online dated are more likely than straight online daters to think harassment and bullying is a “common problem” on dating sites and apps (70%, compared to 61% of non-LGBs).

No matter the drawbacks, don’t expect online daters – LGBT or straight – to just dump it.

As per the Pew Research Center survey, even among those who experienced at least one of the asked-about forms of harassment on dating sites and apps, they still said that online dating is safe for the most part. Three-quarters of LGB people who have experienced at least one of the harassing behaviors saying it’s a very or somewhat safe way to meet someone, with 64% of straight online daters who have been harassed agreeing.

And with 78% of LGBT online daters (and 69% of their straight counterparts) still believing that dating sites and apps are a very or somewhat safe way to meet people, this trend isn’t going anywhere soon…

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56% are horny, but 70% of gay & bi men, and trans people are abstaining from sex due to Covid-19 – study

Under Covid-19 lockdown, 40% of respondents are feeling hot and bothered in lockdown. This increases to 55% in 18-24’s. But 70% are not meeting for dates or sex.



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To better understand the unprecedented, global impact of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) on gay, bi men and trans people, ROMEO (PlanetRomeo) released the results from its international COVID-19 outlook survey. The Europe-based dating platform shows a snapshot of how the pandemic is affecting LGBT+ life. 

75,840 ROMEO users responded to 11 questions about health, economy, sex, travel, and how they are coping with the lockdown, and the results are… interesting.


Overall people are positive, 57% state they are feeling good to very good. France is leading the world positive mood with 65% placing themselves in this category, a stark contrast to their UK neighbors who are coming in at just 44%. India’s spirits are the hardest hit with only 23% feeling good.


40% of respondents are feeling hot and bothered in lockdown. This increases to 55% in 18-24’s. When it comes to the horniest countries, Spain is topping the charts in Europe at 49% and India leading the rest of the world at 56%.  


70% of ROMEO users are not meeting for dates or sex. This number increases in countries with stricter rules, Italy and Spain (86%). Germany and Sweden rank lowest at 61% and 62% respectively. 48% of respondents are dating online only during the lockdown. 


On the subject of health and financial future, users are more worried about the economic impact of Covid-19 then health. 43% state they are worried about their health, while 50% fear for their financial future. This spikes in India, 73% worry about what is to come financially. Only 32% of Spain’s respondents are worried about their health. Younger respondents (18-25) fear more for their financial future than the over 65’’s (45% are not worried at all).


With the real economic impact still to be realized, we asked if people feared for the future of their local LGBT+ community. Small businesses and community organizations can be a lifeline for many. Globally 35% said they were concerned. The UK is the least concerned at 20% and Germany the most at 46%. The 45-65 age group are the most worried. 45% of 18-35 are not worried at all. 


40% of the respondents think their country’s measures were just right. 32% felt they could be stricter or were not strict enough. France and the UK are the least satisfied with Government measures, 53% of French and 49% of UK users think their country should have stricter rules. In Sweden, where there was a different approach to lockdown, 56% claim their government got things right. 


COVID-19 is proving to be a mood killer, 21% of respondents stated they have no interest in dating during this period. 35-54 age range accounts for nearly half of this figure. Spanish users are experiencing a dampening of desire the most at 40%. 


Overseas travel is on hold for 2020. 73% of people do not have plans to travel outside their country. Spain leads this at 85%.  Some UK respondents still are hoping for a vacation this year with 29% planning overseas holidays, and 31% undecided. 


Of the 31,899 people with partners, 17% claim that they are getting on better than usual. USA and India top this at 29%, and the UK is just behind at 27%. Italy which has experienced one of the longest periods of lockdown is unsurprisingly behind the global average at 14%. 

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New report documents amplified impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQIA people

While Covid-19 leaves no country and no individual unaffected, the pandemic imposes specific challenges among LGBTQIA people.



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Covid-19 shatters the rainbow.

While Covid-19 leaves no country and no individual unaffected, the pandemic imposes specific challenges among LGBTQIA people. This is according to OutRight Action International’s “Vulnerability Amplified: The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on LGBTIQ people”, which documents the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on LGBTQIA people.

Drawing on almost 60 rapid research interviews conducted with LGBTQIA people in all regions of the world, some of the specific challenges faced by LGBTQIA people identified in the report are:

  • Devastation of livelihoods – rising food and shelter insecurity resulting from job loss, and economic fall out as a result of over-representation of LGBTQIA people in the informal sector and broad employment discrimination;
  • Disruptions in accessing health care, including crucial HIV medication and gender affirming treatments, and reluctance to seek health care due to discrimination, stigma and refusal of services experienced by LGBTQIA people even outside a pandemic;
  • Elevated risk of domestic and family violence – the most prevalent form of violence faced by LGBTQIA people on a day-to-day basis is heightened in circumstances of lockdowns, curfews and lack of access to support services and community resources;
  • Social isolation and increased anxiety which are further heightened by being cut off from chosen families and the LGBTQIA community;
  • Scapegoating, societal discrimination and stigma – there is an unfortunate history of LGBTQIA people being blamed for emergency situations, leading to further stigmatization, marginalization, violence and danger;
  • Abuse of state power – repression, exclusion, and criminalization are all on the rise in countries prone to authoritarianism and regressive gender ideologies, with some states using the emergency situation to clamp down specifically on LGBTQIA people;
  • Concerns about organizational survival – amplifying the effects even further are the impacts on LGBTQIA community organizations and spaces, which are a lifeline to countless LGBTQIA people. Organizations now face an uncertain future with funding cuts, lockdowns, and having to shift activities on line while calls for direct, practical support are on the rise. 

According to the executive director of OutRight Action International, Jessica Stern: “COVID-19 and the surrounding containment measures affect everyone, everywhere. But those most marginalized feel it more. Even in the absence of a pandemic, LGBTQIA people experience higher levels of discrimination, violence and deprivation around the world. Now we are at a heightened risk of domestic and family abuse, we lack access to crucial HIV and gender affirming medication, get scapegoated for the pandemic, and excluded from relief efforts, while being cut off from LGBTQIA organizations and support networks. For us the situation is dire. I fear how many LGBTQIA people will lose their lives because of the amplified vulnerability we face. We need immediate action from governments, the UN, and the philanthropic sector to prevent an LGBTQIA humanitarian crisis.”

The results of the research report are reinforced by initial data from applications to OutRight’s COVID-19 Global LGBTIQ Emergency Fund. Within a month of opening for applications, OutRight received over 1,500 requests for help from LGBTIQ organizations across the world, the vast majority requesting resources to alleviate food and shelter insecurity. As ever, LGBTIQ organizations are being called on to step in where other institutions fail to safeguard LGBTIQ people’s health, safety and wellness. 

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‘Remember. And continue acting.’ – BC marks IACM 2020

There are issues that continue to make the lives of PLHIVs, particularly in resource-limited location like the Philippines, difficult. This is stressed by the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, marked to remember lives lost to AIDS.



In September 2015, Stephen Christian Quilacio asked Michael David dela Cruz Tan, editor in chief of Outrage Magazine and concurrent executive director of Bahaghari Center for SOGIE Research, Education and Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center) if he wanted to join a hospital visit to a person “suspected” to have HIV. At that time, Tan was visiting Cagayan de Oro City in Northern Mindanao, documenting HIV-related efforts of faith-based organizations (FBOs) for the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP).

Lor’s case was “suspected” because, while he kept saying he already had himself tested and that he’s HIV-negative, the attending physicians may have known otherwise but were still waiting for the patient’s confirmatory test result (from Metro Manila).

“Lor (not his real name) was having a hard time doing just about everything,” recalled Quilacio, who is also Bahaghari Center’s northern Mindanao coordinator. But “through it all, he was adamant in denying the probability that he may have HIV.”

Two weeks after that hospital visit, Lor passed away; this time, from confirmed AIDS-related complications.

Lor’s case is actually still not rare.

From October to December 2019 in the Philippines, for instance, 116 people died from AIDS-related complications. From January 1984 to end-December 2019, 3,730 Filipinos with HIV already died. And – this is worth stressing – this is only the reported cases, which may be lower than the real figures because of under- or non-reporting.

For Tan, the saddest part of this is that “we’re at a time when we’re often told that HIV is no longer a death sentence.” He added that “for many, it still is.”

And exactly because many lives continue to be lost to HIV and/or AIDS that the world marks the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial (IACM) every 17th of May, as a time for everyone to remember these lives lost. Started in 1983, IACM has since evolved to also honor those who dedicate their lives to helping people living with and affected by HIV.

Themed “We remember – We take action – We live beyond HIV“, this year’s IACM is said to be “much more than just a memorial” as “it serves as a community mobilization campaign to raise social consciousness about HIV and AIDS. With almost 38 million people living with HIV today, (it) serves as an important intervention for global solidarity, breaking down barriers of stigma and discrimination, and giving hope to new generations.”

“This is apt,” said Quilacio, “because even now, we still need to act to really make an impact on HIV.”


There are issues that continue to make the lives of PLHIVs, particularly in resource-limited location like the Philippines, difficult/challenging.

In the Philippines, at least, the HIV situation continues to worsen.

To start, the rate of infection keeps getting higher – i.e. 35 Filipinos now get infected with HIV every day. And from October to December 2019, there were 3,029 newly confirmed HIV-positive individuals reported to the HIV/ AIDS & ART Registry of the Philippines (HARP). Sixteen percent (474) had clinical manifestations of advanced HIV infection at the time of testing.

Younger people also continue to be infected with HIV. In HARP’s report, almost half of the October-December 2019 cases (49%, 1,475) were 25-34 years old, and 31% (926) were 15-24 years old at the time of diagnosis.

Then there’s the stigma that leads to discrimination, said Quilacio. “It remains common to hear stories about PLHIVs kicked out of their homes, or from work because of their HIV status.”

Close to Quilacio’s heart is the “disconnect” in the services offered in metropolitan areas versus those in provinces/rural areas. “As a Mindanawon activist, we know that there are supposedly ‘must-have’ services that are not provided to us – e.g. viral load, and even regular/steady supply of anti-retroviral medicines.”

And then there, too, is the profiteering that happens in the HIV community – e.g. organizations supposed to render life-saving services not doing so unless they profit from PLHIVs.

According to Ico Rodulfo Johnson, who helms The Red Ribbon Project, other issues have been emerging, seeming to steal attention away from HIV – e.g. Covid-19.

However, “despite (these), we continue to fight for our rights to improved health care, for awareness and education and against stigma and discrimination related to HIV,” he said. “The challenge is greater but our passion for the HIV advocacy is stronger.”

And this – the stronger passion that pushes people and/or organizations to act – is what’s needed.


Tan urges more action.

“From HIV testing to linking those who test positive to treatment/care/support services to holding non-performing treatment facilities responsible for their failure to do their mandates… a lot still needs to be done,” he said.

For its part, and among its HIV-related efforts, Bahaghari Center – with Outrage Magazine, The Project Red Ribbon, Pinoy Deaf Rainbow and TransDeaf Philippines – trained Deaf Filipinos on community-based HIV screening. This was because of the lack of readily available HIV counselors who know of Filipino Sign Language (FSL). This way, “we empower Deaf Filipinos to start testing among themselves, instead of relying on Hearing people who may not always be there for them.”

And then backed by Youth LEAD and Y-PEER (Asia Pacific Center) – which eyed to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) needs of Young Key Populations (YKPs) in Asia and the Pacific – Bahaghari Center released PSAs on HIV for Deaf Filipinos.

For Fritzie Caybot Estoque, past president of MOCAN – an organization providing support to HIV-infected and -affected Filipinos in Mindanao: “We can’t afford to be complacent. We need to do more.”

Estoque – like Johnson – noted how the Covid-19 pandemic “has taught us one good lesson – that stigma and discrimination can do harm more than the disease itself.” And so she calls for people to “end it.”

“To make us more compassionate, extensive and effective, education is still a must both for HIV… and (in this case, also) Covid-19. We can’t afford to be complacent. Still. All the more,” Estoque said.

And so for Tan, “yes, let’s remember – the people whose lives were cut short by HIV, the advocates who paved the way and those who continue working to curb HIV, etc. But let this also be a call for us not to stop now.”

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Lifestyle & Culture

From Voldemort to Vader, science says we prefer fictional villains who remind us of ourselves

“Perhaps fiction provides a way to engage with the dark aspects of your personality without making you question whether you are a good person in general.”



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As people binge watch TV shows and movies during this period of physical distancing, they may find themselves eerily drawn to fictional villains, from Voldemort and Vader to Maleficent and Moriarty. Rather than being seduced by the so-called dark side, the allure of evil characters has a reassuringly scientific explanation.

According to new research published in the journal Psychological Science, people may find fictional villains surprisingly likeable when they share similarities with the viewer or reader.

This attraction to potentially darker versions of ourselves in stories occurs even though we would be repulsed by real-world individuals who have similarly immoral or unstable behaviors. One reason for this shift, the research indicates, is that fiction acts like a cognitive safety net, allowing us to identify with villainous characters without tainting our self-image.

“Our research suggests that stories and fictional worlds can offer a ‘safe haven’ for comparison to a villainous character that reminds us of ourselves,” [RK1] says Rebecca Krause, a PhD candidate at Northwestern University and lead author on the paper. “When people feel protected by the veil of fiction, they may show greater interest in learning about dark and sinister characters who resemble them.”

Academics have long suggested people recoil from others who are in many ways similar to themselves yet possess negative features such as obnoxiousness, instability, and treachery. Antisocial features in someone with otherwise similar qualities, the thinking goes, may be a threat to a person’s image of themselves.

“People want to see themselves in a positive light,” notes Krause. “Finding similarities between oneself and a bad person can be uncomfortable.” In contrast, Krause and her coauthor and advisor Derek Rucker find that putting the bad person in a fictional context can remove that discomfort and even reverse this preference. In essence, this separation from reality attenuates undesirable and uncomfortable feelings.

“When you are no longer uncomfortable with the comparison, there seems to be something alluring and enticing about having similarities with a villain,” explains Rucker.

“For example, people who see themselves as tricky and chaotic may feel especially drawn to the character of The Joker in the Batman movies, while a person who shares Lord Voldemort’s intellect and ambition may feel more drawn to that character in the Harry Potter series,” said Krause.

Rather than being seduced by the so-called dark side, the allure of evil characters has a reassuringly scientific explanation.
Photo by Prettysleepy1 from

To test this idea, the researchers analyzed data from the website CharacTour, an online, character-focused entertainment platform that had approximately 232,500 registered users at the time of analysis. One of the site’s features allows users to take a personality quiz and see their similarity to different characters who had been coded as either villainous or not. Villains included characters such as Maleficent, The Joker, and Darth Vader. Nonvillains included Sherlock Holmes, Joey Tribbiani, and Yoda.

The anonymous data from these quizzes allowed the researchers to test whether people were attracted toward or repulsed by similar villains, using nonvillains as a baseline. Not surprisingly, people were drawn to nonvillains as their similarity increased. However, the results further suggested that users were most drawn to villains who share similarities with them.

The researchers believe that similarities to story villains do not threaten the self in the way real-life villains would.

“Given the common finding that people are uncomfortable with and tend to avoid people who are similar to them and bad in some way, the fact that people actually prefer similar villains over dissimilar villains was surprising to us,” notes Rucker. “Honestly, going into the research, we both were aware of the possibility that we might find the opposite.”

The current data do not identify which behaviors or characteristics the participants found attractive. Further research is needed to explore the psychological pull of villains and whether people are drawn toward similar villains in fiction because people look for chances to explore their own personal dark side.

“Perhaps fiction provides a way to engage with the dark aspects of your personality without making you question whether you are a good person in general,” concludes Krause.

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Gender-based violence in the COVID-19 pandemic

Gender-based violence has been shown to increase during global emergencies. And according to early evidence, it is the same for the COVID-19 pandemic.



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Gender-based violence has been shown to increase during global emergencies. And in a paper published by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, researchers report that according to early evidence it is the same for the COVID-19 pandemic. The findings are online in the journal Bioethics.

Early results from China suggest that domestic violence has dramatically increased. For example, a police station in China’s Hubei Province recorded a tripling of domestic violence reports in February 2020 during the COVID-19 quarantine. Other reports suggest that police have been reluctant to intervene and detain perpetrators due to COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons.

“Gender norms and roles relegating women to the realm of care work puts them on the frontlines in times of crisis, resulting in greater risk of exposure while excluding them from developing the response,” said Terry McGovern, chair of the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health at Columbia Mailman School, director of the Program on Global Health Justice and Governance, and senior author of the study.

For example:

  • Globally women perform three-quarters of unpaid care work, including household disease prevention and care for sick relatives, and there is not a country in the world where men provide an equal share of unpaid care work.
  • In China’s Hubei province, 90% of frontline healthcare workers are women as in many other parts of the world.

However, the researchers make the point that it is not too late to include the voices of women in tackling COVID-19:

  • Governments can incorporate gender considerations into their response.
  • Technology can be leveraged to ensure women continue to receive essential services when they need them most. For example, emergency services and victim support can be maintained via text, phone, and online services.
  • Telemedicine should be considered an alternative and secure way to provide women and girls access to contraceptives and abortion medication.

“Recognizing, valuing, supporting women’s roles and giving them a voice in global health governance can go a long way in avoiding unintended consequences, building resilient healthcare systems, and reducing intersectional inequalities and vulnerabilities across gender, race, class and geography,” noted Neetu John, first author and assistant professor in Columbia Mailman School’s Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health, and the co-authors.

Co-authors of the study include: Sara Casey, Columbia Mailman School; and Giselle Carino, International Planned Parenthood Federation.

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