Sigma Research

Metal signals and labour market disadvantage: Empirical evidence on visible body piercings and gay men in the UK

Equal Opportunities International, 2009, 28(8): 646-659 (doi: 10.1108/02610150911001689).

Authors: Samuel Cameron, Alan Collins, Ford Hickson


Purpose: This study explores the role of visible body piercings (vbp) in explaining the extent of self-reported workplace sexual orientation discrimination.

Design / methodology / approach: Using the 2002 wave of the UK Gay Mens' Sex Survey OLS and logit equations are estimates to analyse the extent of self-reported denial of job opportunities.

Findings: The possession of visible body piercings is shown to increase the level of discriminatory activity. There is evidence that tongue piercings are the major contributory type of body decoration. The overall effect is seemingly ameliorated for those gay men who engage in more extensive concealment effort with regard to their sexual orientation.

Research limitations / implications: The sample is to some extent self-selecting which may affect the results. Further studies using alternative methodologies would be required to explore this issue.

Practical implications: It sheds light on the importance, or otherwise, of presumed visual clues, such as body piercing in triggering discriminatory behaviour towards gay men.

Originality / value: This is the first study to examine the self-reported experience of post-entry discrimination by gay men using a major national survey comprising over 15,000 observations.


Sexual discrimination, sexual orientation, jewellery, homosexuals, United Kingdom

Copyright © 2009 by the Emerald Group Publishing Limited. ISSN: 0261-0159.

Available online