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What Factors Affect Body Image in Males?

Article Details
  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Body image in males is affected by many of the same factors that affect body image in females, including the media. The primary difference is that the ideal male form perpetuated by the media often requires very different physical maintenance than the ideal female body. Social factors as well as emotional abuse can also affect body image in males. Depending on the situation, a man might be influenced by many different sources of social pressure.

One of the main factors affecting body image in males is the media. Images of extremely muscular men are very common, though men who can achieve this appearance naturally are rare. It has been demonstrated in various experiments that viewing males who are framed as highly masculine creates dissatisfaction in a fairly direct relationship. The source of male role models for body image can include models, sports players, and even cartoons. These characters teach men what a male body should look like, and divergences from this norm can create dangerous expectations for men.

Social pressure directly from peers can also affect body image in males. Men who are short, heavy, or have other features considered inappropriate for men often experience taunting based on physical appearance that is frequently tolerated more readily than teasing aimed at women. Comments about physical appearance from both men and women can cause a man to experience negative body image. Feeling rejected due to bodily appearance can also cause issues with body image.

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Males often have a functional aspect to body image, in which strength relates to perceived appearance. Being able to lift large amounts of weight, for example, can improve body image both because it builds muscles and because the male feels more confident or manly. This focus on actual use of the body does not make problems with body image in males any less dangerous than the analogous problem in females, because obsessive exercise or use of steroids can be very unhealthy. It is important to note that diseases like anorexia and bulimia can also exist in men depending on the standards of male beauty in their social group.

Sometimes, male body image problems are not caused entirely by external pressures. Depression and problems in other areas of life can cause a man to develop a negative body image. Divorce or sexual rejection by a spouse, for example, can make a man feel less attractive even if the rejection had nothing to do with appearance. Depression can also cause a person to suffer from poor body image, although the problems caused by depression and other mental illnesses are typically broader than physical appearance.

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