Magazines trash men's body image, too

A new study shows that men, like women, feel insecure about their bodies after looking at photos of impossibly beautiful female models.

By Kate Harding
Published November 10, 2008 9:10PM (UTC)
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Here's the kind of gender equality I'm not happy to see. A recent study led by University of Missouri professor Jennifer Aubrey found that reading "lad mags" can make men feel lousy about their bodies, just as reading Cosmo and Glamour can tank the average woman's self-esteem. But there's a curious twist: Men feel more insecure after viewing images of female models -- the kind magazines like FHM, Maxim and Stuff are full of -- but don't report much of a change in body consciousness after viewing fashion spreads featuring male models.

Apparently, women fret about not being able to look like the female models, but men (straight ones, anyway) just fret about not being able to get them into bed. To test this theory, the researchers broke the men into two groups and showed half of them images of gorgeous women cavorting with regular schlubs. Says Aubrey, "When the men felt that the model in the ad liked average-looking guys, it took the pressure off of them and made them less self-conscious about their own bodies."

I'm guessing that dropping Joe the Model into the shot wouldn't make the average woman feel any less insecure, though. So it seems clear to me that if a large percentage of both men and women feel shitty about themselves while looking at impossibly beautiful female models, yet not at male ones, the best solution is to start saturating our popular culture with images of really, really ridiculously good-looking men, posthaste. Seriously, y'all. Think of the children. 

(Via Destra at the Feministing Community site.)

Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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