Body Image Satisfaction in Heterosexual, Gay, and Lesbian Adults
- 1.9k Downloads
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.
KeywordsBody image Body mass index Quality of sex life Sexual orientation
We thank Elle magazine for access to the data from the ELLE/msnbc.com 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.
- Brown, L. (1987). Lesbians, weight, and eating: New analyses and perspectives. In Boston Lesbian Psychologies Collective (Eds.), Lesbian psychologies (pp. 294–310). Chicago: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
- Cash, T. F. (2000). The multidimensional body-self relations questionnaire users’ manual: 3rd revision. Available at http://www.body-images.com/assessments.
- Cash, T. F., Maikkula, C. L., & Yamamiya, Y. (2004). “Baring the body in the bedroom”: Body image, sexual self-schemas, and sexual functioning among college women and men. Electronic Journal of Human Sexuality, 7. Available at http://www.ejhs.org/volume7/bodyimage.html.
- Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis for the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Forbes, G. B., Adams-Curtis, L., Jobe, R. L., White, K. B., Revak, J., Zivcic-Becirevic, I., et al. (2005). Body dissatisfaction in college women and their mothers: Cohort effects, developmental effects, and the influences of body size, sexism, and the thin body ideal. Sex Roles, 53, 281–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
- Laumann, E. O., Gagnon, J. H., Michael, R. T., & Michaels, S. (1994). The social organization of sexuality: Sexual practices in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- National Institutes of Health. (1998, September). Clinical guidelines on the identification, evaluation, and treatment of overweight and obesity in adults (No. 98-4083). Bethesda, MD: Author.Google Scholar
- Pew. (2005). How the Internet has woven itself into American life. Retrieved February 13, 2005, from http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/Internet_Status_2005.pdf.
- Pitman, G. E. (1999). Body image, compulsory heterosexuality, and internalized homophobia. Journal of Lesbian Studies, 3, 129–139.Google Scholar
- Rothblum, E. D. (1994). Lesbians and physical appearance: Which model applies? In B. Greene & G. M. Herek (Eds.), Psychological perspectives on lesbian and gay issues (pp. 84–97). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
- Wiederman, M. W. (2000). Women’s body image self-consciousness during physical intimacy with a partner. Journal of Sex Research, 37, 60–68.Google Scholar
- Wiederman, M. W. (2002). Body image and sexual functioning. In T. F. Cash & T. Pruzinsky (Eds.), Body image: A handbook of theory, research, and clinical practice (pp. 287–294). New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar