Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 713–725 | Cite as

Body Image Satisfaction in Heterosexual, Gay, and Lesbian Adults

  • Letitia Anne PeplauEmail author
  • David A. Frederick
  • Curtis Yee
  • Natalya Maisel
  • Janet Lever
  • Negin Ghavami
Original Paper


Does the prevalence and degree of body dissatisfaction differ among heterosexual and homosexual men and women? Some theorists have suggested that, compared to their heterosexual peers, gay men are at greater risk for body dissatisfaction and lesbians at lower risk. Past studies examining this issue have generally relied on small samples recruited from gay or lesbian groups. Further, these studies have sometimes produced conflicting results, particularly for comparisons of lesbian and heterosexual women. In the present research, we compared body satisfaction and comfort with one’s body during sexual activity among lesbian women, gay men, heterosexual women, and heterosexual men through two large online studies (Ns = 2,512 and 54,865). Compared to all other groups, heterosexual men reported more positive evaluations of their appearance, less preoccupation with their weight, more positive effects of their body image on their quality of life and the quality of their sex life, more comfort wearing a swimsuit in public, and greater willingness to reveal aspects of their body to their partner during sexual activity. Few significant differences were found among gay men, lesbian women, and heterosexual women. Many gay men (42%) reported that their feelings about their body had negative effects on the quality of their sex life, as did some lesbian women (27%), heterosexual women (30%), and heterosexual men (22%). Overall, the findings supported the hypothesis that gay men are at greater risk than heterosexual men for experiencing body dissatisfaction. There was little evidence that lesbian women experience greater body satisfaction than heterosexual women.


Body image Body mass index Quality of sex life Sexual orientation 



We thank Elle magazine for access to the data from the ELLE/ Sex and Body Image Survey and Carol Edwards, who helped to create the database. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided to David Frederick by the UCLA Graduate Division; the Center for Culture, Brain, and Development; the Departments of Psychology and Communication Studies; and National Institute of Health Grant No. 1F31MH072384-01. Thanks to Courtney Borden, Youssef Boroumand, Beth Daniels, Brenda Duarte, Yael Filossof, Adam Fingerhut, Andrew Galperin, Andrea Niles, Danny Osborne, Taylor Rhoades, Kelly Turner, and Proud Usahacharoenporn for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this article. We are also grateful for the helpful comments by anonymous reviewers for this journal.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Letitia Anne Peplau
    • 1
    Email author
  • David A. Frederick
    • 1
  • Curtis Yee
    • 1
  • Natalya Maisel
    • 1
  • Janet Lever
    • 2
  • Negin Ghavami
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Department of SociologyCalifornia State UniversityLos AngelesUSA

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