Body image is a contested battleground throughout the developed world. A bevvy of states are issuing laws that demand models be of particular dimensions in order to combat perceptions that are unrealistic to the average person. Organizations are fighting against bulimia and other body image mental illnesses.
Much of this activity has focused on women—young women particularly. This is because women may be valued in Western society more for their appearance and beauty than their other attributes. Of course, people are trying to change this, but change has come slowly given the momentum of centuries behind these biases.
It turns out, as is the case with women, body dissatisfaction is ranked highly among the top issues that men have to deal with. This is true whether or not the man is homosexual or heterosexual. This Chapman University study is the largest of its kind to date.
Over one hundred thousand men were participants in this study which took place throughout five various nationwide studies. A shocking twenty to forty percent of the study’s participants felt unsatisfied with their physique (this may regard how they generally look, the tone on their muscles, their weight, or their body size). Men, by majority margins, were conscious of how other men looked at social events and compared themselves with them.
Men who weighed the normal amount felt happy about their body; especially when compared to those who were obese. The most interesting elements of the study, however, were in the division between heterosexual and homosexual men. Homosexual men felt as though the media put a much greater pressure on them looking good than did heterosexual men. They also were more likely to try not to have sex because of their negative perceptions of their body and even wanted cosmetic surgery at a higher rate.
Homosexual men were likelier to have negative perceptions and beliefs about their body image than heterosexual men and this showed across the various questions asked. For example, homosexual men were likelier to be dissatisfied with their muscle tone, how they looked, and were even more uncomfortable wearing a swimsuit in public. Heterosexual men were less likely than homosexual men to report being on a diet the previous year or on their use of diet pills.
Interestingly, both groups reported within two percentage points of the other when asked about exercising to lose weight. This study unleashes more questions about weight perception, the role of the media, and gender and sexual orientation expectations. What has been shown definitively though, is that everyone is worried about how they look.