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The prevalence of breast augmentation and breast lift surgery suggests that many women are dissatisfied with their breasts. This study analyzed women's and men's views about breast size and shape among 52,227 heterosexual adults, ages 18–65, who responded to an online survey. Although most women (70%) were dissatisfied with the size or shape of their breasts, most men (56%) were satisfied with their partner's breasts. Younger and thinner women worried that their breasts were too small; older and heavier women were more concerned with breast droopiness. Women who were dissatisfied with their breasts were more likely to report lower body satisfaction and to express concern about wearing a bathing suit in public. Further, dissatisfied women were also less willing to undress in front of their partner and were more likely to conceal their breasts from their partner during sex. These findings suggest that dissatisfaction with breasts is widespread among adult women.
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The Barbie Mystique: Satisfaction with Breast Size
and Shape across the Lifespan
David A. Frederick
Anne Peplau
Janet Lever
ABSTRACT. The prevalence of breast augmentation and breast lift surgery suggests that many women
are dissatisfied with their breasts. This study analyzed women’s and men’s views about breast size and
shape among 52,227 heterosexual adults, ages 18–65, who responded to an online survey. Although
most women (70%) were dissatisfied with the size or shape of their breasts, most men (56%) were
satisfied with their partner’s breasts. Younger and thinner women worried that their breasts were too
small; older and heavier women were more concerned with breast droopiness. Women who were
dissatisfied with their breasts were more likely to report lower body satisfaction and to express concern
about wearing a bathing suit in public. Further, dissatisfied women were also less willing to undress in
front of their partner and were more likely to conceal their breasts from their partner during sex. These
findings suggest that dissatisfaction with breasts is widespread among adult women.
KEYWORDS. Body image, breasts, men, women, physical attractiveness
Tremendous pressure is placed on women to
attain the ideal body. The popular Barbie doll,
with her slender body, narrow hips, and large
breasts, epitomizes this ideal. The proportions
represented by Barbie are, however, so extreme
that only one of every 100,000 women pos-
sesses Barbie’s body type (Norton, Olds, Olive,
& Dank, 1996). The pervasiveness of the busty
ideal has led some researchers to posit that
women’s concerns about their breast size and
shape can affect their self-esteem, feelings of
attractiveness, and sense of femininity. For ex-
ample, Millsted and Frith (2003, p. 455) claimed
that “Women’s breasts are invested with social,
cultural, and political meanings. ...Breasts are
seen simultaneously as a marker of woman-
hood, as a visual signifier of female sexualisa-
David A. Frederick Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, UCLA Center for
Culture, Brain, and Development and UCLA Center for Behavior, Evolution, and Culture
Anne Peplau Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles and UCLA Interdisciplinary
Relationship Science Program
Janet Lever, Department of Sociology, California State University, Los Angeles.
Address correspondence to: David Frederick, 1285 Franz Hall, 405 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90095.
Author website: http://dfred.bol.ucla.edu
tion, [and] as synonymous with femininity. De-
spite the assumed importance of breast size and
shape to women’s views of their bodies, surpris-
ingly little research has systematically examined
how women’s breast satisfaction might influence
women’s overall body satisfaction in populations
beyond college students and breast augmenta-
tion patients. Further, information about men’s
actual satisfaction with their real-life partner’s
breasts is largely absent from research conducted
to date.
Women’s Attitudes Toward Their Own
Breasts
Feminists and others have frequently claimed
that the media and many men treat women as
200
International Journal of Sexual Health, Vol. 20(3), 2008
Available online at http://www.haworthpress.com
C
2008 by The Haworth Press. All rights reserved.
doi: 10.1080/19317610802240170
David A. Frederick et al. 201
if they exist simply to provide sexual gratifi-
cation for men (Bordo, 1993; Fredrickson &
Roberts, 1997). Fredrickson and Roberts (1997)
formalized this idea in Objectification Theory,
which proposes that women’s bodies are fre-
quently scrutinized and evaluated by men. One
consequence of these evaluations is that women
internalize an observer’s perspective on their
bodies and assess their own value as a func-
tion of how they believe others view their
bodies.
Women’s breasts, perhaps more than any
other aspect of women’s bodies, are widely
presented for evaluation in television, movies,
and popular magazines (e.g., Seifert, 2005). The
media are often criticized for contributing to
women’s dissatisfaction with their breasts, and
there is some empirical evidence that women
who a re more regular consumers of media that
present idealized female bodies are more con-
cerned about their own breasts (e.g., Harrison,
2003). A further contributor to women’s at-
titudes about their breasts may be the con-
cern that their romantic partner would pre-
fer a woman with larger or “more shapely”
breasts.
Consistent with the idea that women feel pres-
sure to possess large breasts, several studies have
found that many college women would like to
have larger breasts (e.g., Arkoff & Weaver, 1966;
Forbes & Frederick, 2008; Harrison, 2003; Ja-
cobi & Cash, 1994; Jourard & Secord, 1955;
Tantleff-Dunn & Thompson, 2000; Thompson
& Tantleff, 1992). In an illustrative study of 123
college women, 46% of the participants reported
that they desired larger breasts (Forbes, Jobe,
& Revak, 2006). Similarly, in a study of 587
college women (Forbes & Frederick, in press),
most women desired larger breasts (61%) while
a minority desired smaller breasts (14%) or no
change in their breast size (25%). Overall, 25%
of the women reported being often to always dis-
satisfied with their breast size, and women who
reported an A cup size were most likely to
feel this way (50%) and to desire larger breasts
(90%). Research also shows that women who are
dissatisfied with their breasts reported greater
general body dissatisfaction (Forbes & Freder-
ick, in press; Jourard & Secord, 1955; Koff &
Benavage, 1998). This appears to be true not
only for women who would like larger breasts,
but also for the minority of women who de-
sire smaller breasts (e.g., Koff & Benavage,
1998).
One clear indication of women’s dissatis-
faction with their breasts is the growing num-
ber of women seeking to change their breasts
with surgical interventions. By one estimate,
as many as 2 million women in the United
States had obtained breast implants in the years
prior to 2000 (Sarwer, Nordmann, & Herbert,
2000), and over 1 million (1,782,041) received
breast implants between 2000 and 2006 (Amer-
ican Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2007). In
2006, 329,000 women had breast augmentation
surgery, making it the most popular cosmetic
surgery for the first time (American Society
of Plastic Surgeons, 2007). Breast augmenta-
tion is most often pursued by women in their
20s or early 30s (Rohrich, Adams, & Potter,
2007). Further, not all women wish to have
larger breasts. For both cosmetic and health
reasons, some women elect to have breast re-
duction surgery. In 2006, 103,990 breast reduc-
tion surgeries were performed, making this the
fourth most popular reconstructive surgery that
year (American Society of Plastic Surgeons,
2007).
In addition to concerns about the size of
their breasts, women may also worry about the
shape of their breasts. The cultural icon Barbie’s
breasts are not only large, but also firm and perky.
Breasts that sag or droop (i.e., “breast ptosis”)
deviate from prevailing ideals of beauty. As a
consequence, some women now pursue breast
lifts (mastopexy) in order to make their breasts
appear less droopy. In 2006, at least 101,122
women had a breast lift surgery in the U.S.
(American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 2007).
Although it is likely that breasts become droop-
ier with age, breast lifts were performed on
women of all ages. To our knowledge, little re-
search has systematically examined satisfaction
with this aspect of breast shape among a cross-
section of women.
Men’s Attitudes Toward Women’s Breasts
In several studies, many men report a prefer-
ence for women with larger rather than smaller
202 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SEXUAL HEALTH
breasts (e.g., Harrison, 2003; Thompson &
Tantleff, 1992), although not all research finds
this pattern of results (e.g., Furnham, Swami, &
Shah, 2006). One important limitation of these
studies is that they asked men to characterize
their breast preferences in the abstract, rather
than assessing men’s beliefs about the breasts of
their current or past romantic partners. It is pos-
sible, for example, that even if some men prefer
women with large breasts, they might also find
women with smaller breasts very attractive and
be very satisfied with their romantic partner’s
smaller breast size. Further, some men may pre-
fer women with a smaller breast size. Finally,
although some research has examined men’s at-
titudes towards breast size, researchers have not
assessed men’s satisfaction with other aspects
of their romantic partner’s breasts, particularly
breast droopiness.
The Present Study
The present study reports findings from a
large-scale survey about body image among
adults ages 18 to 65. The first goal of this sur-
vey was to examine women’s overall satisfac-
tion with their breast size and droopiness. Two
unusual features of this project are noteworthy.
First, because our sample was large and ranged
in age across the lifespan, we were able to test
whether breast concerns differed by age. Given
changes in women’s bodies and breasts as they
age, we predicted that younger women would be
more concerned with size and that older women
would be more concerned with droopiness.
Another unusual feature of this data set was
the inclusion of a standardized approximation
of body fat level, the Body Mass Index (BMI),
which enabled us to assess the association be-
tween weight and breast concerns. Past research
has shown that heavier women tend to have
larger breasts as assessed by bra cup size (e.g.,
r= .36, Hall et al., 1999; r= .46, Forbes &
Frederick, in press). Therefore, we predicted that
thinner women, who have smaller breasts, would
be more likely than heavier women to desire
larger breasts. In contrast, heavier women would
be more likely to desire smaller breasts or to re-
port that their breasts were too droopy.
The second goal of this study was to exam-
ine whether women who reported dissatisfaction
with their breasts were more likely to experience
general dissatisfaction with their bodies. In par-
ticular, do women who are dissatisfied with their
breasts rate themselves as less attractive and feel
less comfortable in public venues in which their
body might be evaluated by others (e.g., when
wearing a swimsuit in public)?
The third goal of this study was to examine
whether these concerns regarding body exposure
also extend to the bedroom. Are women who
are dissatisfied with their breasts less willing to
reveal their bodies to their sexual partner? In
particular, are they less willing to undress in front
of their partner and more likely to try to conceal
their breasts from their partner during s ex?
Our fourth goal was to investigate men’s
attitudes towards their partner’s breast size
and droopiness. Given that one likely cause
of women’s breast dissatisfaction is a concern
that their male dating partners prefer partners
with larger breasts, it is important to document
whether men actually are dissatisfied with their
partner’s breasts.
METHOD
A 27-item survey was posted on the
MSNBC.com and Elle.com websites in February
of 2003. Participants were visitors who volun-
teered for a “Sex and Body Image Survey. To
prevent individuals from responding to the sur-
vey more than once, a computer program pre-
vented multiple responses from any given com-
puter. The present study is based on secondary
and more detailed analyses of this large dataset.
Participants and Demographics
Most respondents (98%) were from the
MSNBC.com website and only 2% were from
the Elle.com website. The analyzed sample con-
sisted of 25,524 heterosexual men and 26,703
heterosexual women between the ages of 18 to
65, weighing 90 to 295 pounds, with body mass
index scores ranging from 14.5 to 40.5, and
heights ranging from 5
0

to 6
2

for women
and 5
2

to 6
6

for men. Individuals outside of
David A. Frederick et al. 203
these age, weight and height ranges were ex-
cluded because of small sample sizes. For more
details regarding the sample, refer to Frederick,
Peplau, and Lever (2006). We were forced to
exclude lesbian participants from the analyzed
samples because the wording of the breast satis-
faction question precluded us from determining
whether lesbians were indicating their attitudes
about their own breasts or about their female
partner’s breasts.
Age
The mean age of participants was 33.5 (SD =
10.9) for women and 36.9 (SD = 11.8) for men.
Women and men were fairly well represented
across the age spectrum. For some analyses, age
groups were created. The percentages of women
and men in each category were as follows: 18–
25 (30% of men, 20% of women), 26–35 (31%,
29%), 36–45 (22%, 24%), 46–55 (14%, 18%),
and 56–65 (3%, 8%).
Height
The mean height was 5
5.1

(SD = 2.7

)for
women and 5
10.7

(SD = 2.8

) for men. The
men and women in this sample were about an
inch taller in height than the national data pro-
vided by the National Center for Health Statis-
tics (2004). This may reflect actual differences
in height between the samples, or it indicates
that the participants in our sample exaggerated
slightly when self-reporting their own height.
Body Mass Index (BMI)
BMI is commonly used as an estimate of
body fat, although other factors beside body fat
level can influence BMI scores (e.g., muscular-
ity). BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s
weight in kilograms by their squared height in
meters. A BMI score was computed for each
respondent. The mean BMI of participants was
24.2 (SD = 4.8) for women and 26.6 (SD =
4.0) for the men. Standard BMI cut-off points
described in the National Health and Nutrition
Examination Survey (2000) were used to cre-
ate four categories: Underweight (14.5–18.49),
Healthy Weight (18.5–24.99), Overweight (25–
29.99), and Obese (30–40.5).
Psychological Measures
Breast satisfaction
Breast satisfaction was assessed with a single
item, Are you satisfied with the size of your
own (or your partner’s) breasts?” Participants
could select one of four response options re-
flecting either satisfaction with their breasts or
dissatisfaction with their breast size or shape:
Satisfied (“yes, I like everything about them),
Desire Larger (“no, I wish they were bigger”),
Desire Smaller (“no, I wish they were smaller”),
or Too Droopy (“yes, I’m okay with the size but
unhappy they droop”). This variable was treated
as a categorical (nominal) variable in all analy-
ses. For some analyses, the Desire Larger, De-
sire Smaller, and Too Droopy categories were
collapsed into one category (“Dissatisfied”) to
create a dichotomous variable where Dissatis-
fied = 0 and Satisfied = 1.
Body exposure concerns
Respondents were asked about their possible
concerns with showing their body to a roman-
tic partner. Subjects without a current partner
were instructed to answer the questions think-
ing about the last partner they had. One question
asked,“Do you undress in front of your partner?”
with the response options being yes or no. Most
women (82%) reported undressing in front of
their partner. For some analyses, undressing in
front of one’s partner was coded as 1 and not
undressing was coded as 0. Another question
asked,“Do you ever try to hide a least favorite
physical feature during sex? Select all that ap-
ply. One of the six response options was “yes,
my breasts/chest. This response was selected
by 9% of women. For some analyses, reveal-
ing one’s breasts was coded as 1 and concealing
one’s breasts was coded as 0.
Body image: Self-rated attractiveness
Satisfaction with one’s appearance, or “body
image, was assessed with the item, “How do
you feel about your body?” Response options
were scored on the following Likert scale: 4 =
Great (“I have a great body”), 3 = Good (“I
have a good body”), 2 = Okay (“My body is just
okay”), and 1 = Unattractive (“I find my body
204 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SEXUAL HEALTH
unattractive”). We elected to treat this variable
as interval for several reasons. First, we rea-
soned that participants would view these four
response choices as different from each other at
roughly equal intervals. Second, responses were
normally distributed (skewness < 1.0): The per-
centage of women responding in each category
was Great (5%), Good (38%), Okay (36%), and
Unattractive (21%). Third, in a separate sample
of 313 college women, responses to this one-
item measure of body image were strongly corre-
lated with Cash’s (2000) widely-used seven-item
Appearance Evaluation scale (Pearson’s r= .75,
p< .01; Frederick, Peplau, & Lever, 2006). This
strong correlation provided increased confidence
in this item as a measure of body satisfaction.
Body image: Comfort in a swimsuit
Body image satisfaction was also assessed
with the item, “How do you think you look in
a swimsuit?” Response options were scored on
the following Likert scale: 3 = Good (“Good;
I’m proud/not at all embarrassed to be seen in a
swimsuit”), 2 = Okay (“Okay; I don’t flaunt it
but my self-consciousness doesn’t keep me from
wearing a swimsuit”), and 1 = Uncomfortable
(“So uncomfortable that I avoid wearing one in
public”). For the reasons stated above, this vari-
able was also treated as interval. The percent-
age of women responding in each category was:
Good (12%), Okay (57%), and Uncomfortable
(31%). This measure was also significantly cor-
related with the Appearance Evaluation Scale
in the aforementioned study of college students
(r = .58, p<.01).
RESULTS
In the following sections, we first examine
women’s overall satisfaction with their breast
size and droopiness and whether satisfaction is
related to age, weight (BMI), body dissatisfac-
tion, and concerns with body exposure during
sexual activity. Finally, we report findings about
men’s satisfaction with their partner’s breasts.
Because of our large sample size, we established
p<.001 as our criterion for significance, and
we report effect sizes (Cohen’s d) where appro-
priate. By convention, dvalues of .2, .5, and .8
correspond roughly to small, medium, and large
effects (Cohen, 1988). When reporting results
in percentages, we do not report the results of
all possible Chi Square tests because with our
large sample size, even miniscule effects reach
statistical significance, limiting their usefulness
for identifying important differences. Statistics
on specific comparisons are available from the
authors.
Women’s Breast Satisfaction: Associations
with Age and BMI
Among this large and diverse sample of
women, breast dissatisfaction was widespread.
As shown in Table 1, fully 70% of women were
not satisfied with some aspect of their breasts.
Most women who were dissatisfied wanted less
droopy breasts (33%) or larger breasts (28%). A
small minority (9%) of women desired smaller
breasts. Overall, less than one woman in three
was satisfied with her breasts.
TABLE 1. Women’s and men’s breast satisfaction across age groups
Women Men
Satisfied Desire Desire Too Satisfied Desire Desire Too
% Larger % Smaller % Droopy % % Larger % Smaller % Droopy %
Age Group
18–25 33 38 7 22 63 24 2 11
26–35 29 27 9 35 53 24 3 20
36–45 26 23 9 42 51 21 4 24
46–55 30 18 10 42 58 15 5 22
56–65 31 11 11 47 61 11 7 21
Overall 30 28 9 33 56 20 4 20
David A. Frederick et al. 205
Age
As shown in Table 1, the percentage of women
satisfied with their breasts was similar across age
groups (range = 26%–33%). However, as pre-
dicted, age was related to specific breast con-
cerns. Younger women were most likely to ex-
press a desire for larger breasts, while older
women were most likely to indicate that their
breasts were too droopy. To examine the rela-
tionship between age and type of breast concern
in more detail, the percentage of women desir-
ing breasts that were larger and those wishing
for breasts that were less droopy was calculated
for each age. As shown in Figure 1, the desire for
larger breasts was greatest among young women
while concerns about breast droopiness were
greatest among successive age groups. Starting
at about age 30, concerns with droopiness ex-
ceeded concerns with size.
Body fat level (BMI)
We also predicted that thinner women would
be more concerned with the size of their breasts
compared to heavier women, while heavier
women would be more concerned about their
breast droopiness. As shown in Table 2, the per-
centage of women who were satisfied with their
breasts was similar among underweight, healthy,
and overweight women (28%–33%), but the per-
centage who were satisfied was substantially
lower among obese women (19%). Women’s
specific breast concerns also differed by body
fat level. More than half of underweight and a
third of the healthy weight women desired larger
breasts, compared to only 15% of overweight
women and 9% of obese women. In contrast,
overweight and obese women were considerably
more likely to desire smaller breasts or to view
their breasts as too droopy.
Women’s Breast Satisfaction and Overall
Body Image
The second goal of this study was to test
the association between breast satisfaction and
women’s general appraisal of their body. To
compare the body image of women differing
FIGURE 1. Percentage of women indicating that they desired larger breasts or thought their breasts
were too droopy as a function of age. Note. Younger women were more likely to desire larger breasts,
while older women were more likely to desire less droopy breasts.
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
18 23 28 33 38 43 48 53 58 63
Age
Percent of Women
Desire Larger Breasts Breasts Too Droopy
206 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SEXUAL HEALTH
TABLE 2. Percentage of women who chose each breast satisfaction category by
weight (BMI) category
Breast Satisfaction
BMI Satisfied % Desire Larger % Desire Smaller % Too Droopy %
Category
Underweight 30 53 3 14
Healthy Weight 33 33 6 28
Overweight 28 15 13 44
Obese 19 9 19 53
Overall 30 28 9 33
in breast satisfaction (Satisfied, Desire Bigger,
Desire Smaller, and Too Droopy), two one-way
ANOVAs were conducted with self-rated attrac-
tiveness and comfort in a swimsuit as the de-
pendent variables. There was a significant main
effect of breast satisfaction on both self-rated
attractiveness, F (3, 26699) = 900.82, p<.001,
and comfort in a swimsuit, F (3, 26699) =
506.24, p<.001.
We then conducted pairwise comparisons
(LSD) to determine whether women who were
satisfied with their breasts reported better body
image than other women. As predicted, these
comparisons revealed that women who were sat-
isfied with their breasts rated themselves as sig-
nificantly more attractive than women who de-
sired smaller (d = .51), larger (d = .29), or less
droopy breasts (d = .69; all ps < .001). Sim-
ilarly, comparisons for women’s comfort in a
swimsuit revealed that women who were sat-
isfied with their breasts felt significantly more
comfortable in a bathing suit than women who
desired smaller (d = .66), larger (d = .17), or
less droopy breasts (d = .51; all ps < .001).
These findings may be partially a product of
the fact that breast shape and size differ ac-
cording to age and BMI. However, even when
age and BMI were entered as covariates in
the ANOVA, women who were satisfied with
their breasts still reported higher attractiveness
and comfort in a swimsuit, all ps < .001. The
marginal means are reported in Figure 2. As pre-
dicted, these comparisons revealed that women
who were satisfied with their breasts rated
themselves as significantly more attractive than
women who desired smaller (d = .54), larger
(d = .50), or less droopy breasts (d= .48; all
ps < .001). Similarly, comparisons for women’s
comfort in a swimsuit revealed that women
who were satisfied with their breasts felt signif-
icantly more comfortable in a bathing suit than
women who desired smaller (d = .35), larger
(d = .32), or less droopy breasts (d = .33; all
ps < .001).
Women’s Breast Satisfaction and
Concerns about Body Exposure to their
Sexual Partner
A third goal was to examine the association
between women’s views of their breasts and their
attitudes toward revealing their body to their ro-
mantic partner. As shown in Table 3, the majority
of women reported undressing in front of their
partner and revealing their breasts during sex.
Women who were dissatisfied with their breasts,
however, were more likely than other women to
conceal their breasts, either when undressing or
during sexual activity. Across all body fat lev-
els, women who were satisfied with their breasts
were more likely to report undressing in front
of their partner and less likely to report con-
cealing their body during sexual activity. An ex-
ception to this pattern, however, was that under-
weight women who felt that their breasts were
too droopy were just as likely to undress in front
of their partner as underweight women who were
satisfied with their breasts. Interestingly, under-
weight women who desired larger breasts were
most likely conceal their breasts during sex, per-
haps reflecting an increased concern with not
having large, “feminine” breasts.
These observed associations, however, do
not take into account the fact that breast
David A. Frederick et al. 207
FIGURE 2. Women’s mean self-ratings of body attractiveness and comfort in a swimsuit as a func-
tion of their satisfaction or concern with their breasts. Note. Higher mean scores indicate more
positive self-ratings. Women who were satisfied with their breasts reported greater self-rated at-
tractiveness and comfort in a swimsuit than other women.
dissatisfaction, overall self-rated attractiveness,
BMI, and age are intercorrelated. Is breast size
dissatisfaction predictive of concerns with body
exposure during sex above and beyond these
other factors? To examine this question, we stan-
dardized these measures (z-scored) and coded
the breast satisfaction variables as women who
were dissatisfied (0) versus satisfied (1). These
variables were entered as predictors of willing-
ness to undress in front of one’s partner and to
reveal one’s breasts during sexual activity. As
shown in Table 4, even when controlling for
TABLE 3. Percentage of women who undress in front of a partner and who hide their
breasts during sex by breast satisfaction and weight (BMI) category
Breast Satisfaction
Satisfied Desire Larger Desire Smaller Too Droopy
Undress in Front of Partner? % Yes
BMI Category
Underweight 88 84 76 89
Healthy Wt. 90 84 81 84
Overweight 86 75 76 77
Obese 81 65 66 68
Overall 88 82 75 79
Hide Breasts during Sex? % Yes
BMI Category
Underweight 2 26 12 18
Healthy Wt. 1 18 11 10
Overweight 1 12 7 6
Obese 1 7 9 5
Overall 1 17 9 8
208 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SEXUAL HEALTH
TABLE 4. Breast satisfaction predicts concerns with body exposure during sex when
controlling for other variables
Undress in Front of Partner? Hide Breasts During Sex?
Odds Ratio p Odds Ratio P
Breast Satisfaction 1.31 .000 9.95 .000
Self-Rated Attractiveness 2.19 .000 1.45 .000
BMI 1.03 .061 1.84 .000
Age 1.03 .137 1.29 .000
Model df, Total N 4,27368 4,27368 .000
Model Chi-Square 2398 .000 1796 .000
Cox & Snell / Nagelkerke
R
2
.08/.14 .000 .06/.14 .000
Note. When controlling for other variables, women who were satisfied with their breasts were 1.31 times more likely to report
undressing in front of their partner and 9.95 times more likely to reveal their breasts during sexual activity.
other variables, women who were satisfied with
their breasts were 1.31 times more likely to re-
port undressing in front of their partner and 9.95
times more likely to reveal their b reasts during
sexual activity than women who were not satis-
fied with their breasts.
Men’s Satisfaction with the Size and
Shape of their Partner’s Breasts
A fourth goal was to investigate the extent
of men’s satisfaction with their partner’s breast
size and shape. These results are summarized in
Table 1. The majority of men (56%) were satis-
fied with their partner’s breasts. Men who were
dissatisfied were equally split between those de-
siring a partner with larger breasts (20%) and
those desiring a partner with less droopy breasts
(20%). Only 4% of men wished that their part-
ner had smaller breasts. The percentage of men
who were satisfied with their partner’s breasts
was fairly similar across all age groups. Paral-
lel to findings for women, the type of breast
dissatisfaction expressed by men differed with
age. The percentage of men wishing their part-
ner had larger breasts declined steadily across
the age groups. Dissatisfaction with droopiness
had a weaker association with age. Few men in
the youngest age group (18–25) reported dissat-
isfaction with the droopiness of their partner’s
breasts; among men ages 26–65, the degree of
dissatisfaction with droopiness was higher (20–
24% of men) but fairly similar across all other
age groups.
DISCUSSION
Women’s Breast Satisfaction: Associations
with Age and BMI
In this large and diverse sample, a majority of
women (70%) expressed discontent with their
breasts, suggesting that this is a pervasive con-
cern for women. A strength of this research was
our ability to carefully examine the association
of breast satisfaction with both age and body fat
level. Age proved to be a significant factor. Al-
though the percentage of women who were dis-
satisfied was similar across age groups, the pri-
mary concerns of these dissatisfied women dif-
fered by age. As predicted, younger women were
more likely than older women to express dissat-
isfaction with breast size, while older women
were more likely to report concerns with the
droopiness of their breasts. This pattern is likely
tied to the changes that occur in women’s bodies
and breasts as they age. Surprisingly, however,
breast droopiness was cited as a concern among
women in all age groups. In addition to age, body
fat level as assessed by BMI was also an impor-
tant predictor of breast concerns among women.
In particular, underweight and healthy weight
women were most likely to report concerns about
their breasts being too small, while ove rweight
and obese women were most likely to feel that
their breasts were too large or too droopy. This
is likely reflective of the fact that thinner indi-
viduals are more likely to have smaller breasts
(Forbes & Frederick, in press; Hall et al., 1999).
David A. Frederick et al. 209
Women’s Breast Satisfaction: Associations
with Body Image and Sexuality
Women who were satisfied with their breasts
rated themselves as more attractive and were
more comfortable in a swimsuit than women
who were unhappy with their breast shape or
size, and this was true even when controlling for
age and level of body fat. All but one of the 12 ef-
fect size calculations showed that the differences
between the satisfied women and the dissatisfied
women were small to moderate (ds = .32–.69;
in the exception, d = .17). Many of these com-
parisons were similar in magnitude to the widely
known and notable differences between men and
women in overall body dissatisfaction (d = .52;
Feingold & Mazzella, 1998). This suggests that
breast dissatisfaction may be an important factor
that contributes to overall body dissatisfaction.
Consistent with past research showing that
overall body dissatisfaction is linked to sexual
esteem and anxiety (Weaver & Byers, 2006), in
this study both body and breast dissatisfaction
were related to women’s body concerns during
sex. Women who were not satisfied with their
breasts were more likely to avoid undressing in
front of their partner and to hide their breasts dur-
ing s exual activity. This pattern generally held
true regardless of a woman’s level of body fat, al-
though underweight women who desired larger
breasts were the group most likely to hide their
breasts during sexual activity. The overt sexu-
alization of women’s breasts and the resulting
concerns that women have regarding how their
breasts are evaluated may be one reason that
women who are dissatisfied with their breasts
attempt to conceal them from their partner. It is
important to note, however, that the majority of
women did undress in front of their partner and
reveal their breasts during sex.
Men’s Satisfaction with the Size and
Shape of their Partner’s Breasts
An important contribution of this research
was to assess men’s satisfaction with their part-
ner’s breasts. In contrast to women’s overwhelm-
ing dissatisfaction, the majority of men (56%)
were satisfied with their partner’s breasts. De-
spite pervasive images of large-breasted women
in the media and past research suggesting that
most men rate large breasts as ideal (e.g.,
Tantleff-Dunn & Thompson 2000), only 20% of
men in our sample cited bigger breasts as their
top concern regarding their partner’s breasts.
This suggests that regardless of the breast size
that men rate as “ideal” in the abstract, the major-
ity of men are satisfied with their actual partner’s
breast size. When men did express dissatisfac-
tion, they typically reported that they preferred
their partner’s breasts to be larger or less droopy;
fewer than 1 in 20 wished their partner’s breasts
were smaller. Young men were most likely to
wish that their partner’s breasts were larger. It is
unclear whether this is because young men have
grown up in an era where breast augmentation is
widely available or because breast droopiness is
less common among younger women. Although
most men in this sample reported satisfaction
with their partner’s breasts, a substantial minor-
ity reported some level of dissatisfaction. The
dissatisfaction reported by these men may be an
important factor contributing to the dissatisfac-
tion that many women feel about their breasts.
An intriguing finding from this research
was the discrepancy between the frequency of
women’s and men’s breast concerns. Although
most women in our sample were dissatisfied
with their breasts, a majority of men were sat-
isfied with their partner’s breasts. This finding
fits a larger pattern of results in the body im-
age literature suggesting that people overesti-
mate the importance of various physical traits
to the other sex (e.g., Frederick, Fessler, &
Haselton, 2005; Jacobi & Cash, 1994). For ex-
ample, women overestimate the degree of thin-
ness (e.g., Fallon & Rozin, 1985) and the breast
size (Tantleff-Dunn, 2001) preferred by men.
In addition, nearly half of men are dissatisfied
with their penis size despite the fact that the vast
majority of women report being very satisfied
with their partner’s penis size (Lever, Freder-
ick, & Peplau, 2006). In short, individuals may
be much more self-critical of their bodies than
they need to be. Thus one source of women’s
breast dissatisfaction may be an overestimation
of the breast size preferred by their romantic
partners, or an overestimation of the impor-
tance that their partners place on breast size.
Further research about systematic discrepancies
210 INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SEXUAL HEALTH
between men’s and women’s beliefs about their
bodies is needed. Studies assessing the view-
points of both partners in couples would be es-
pecially informative.
Limitations
Limitations of the study should be mentioned.
To increase participation rates, the survey was
necessarily short and relied on single-item mea-
sures of key variables. However, it is important
to note that this limitation is shared by most
other research on breast concerns, which has
also relied on one-item measures of breast sat-
isfaction (e.g., Forbes, Jobe, & Revak, 2006;
Harrison, 2003; Jacobi & Cash, 1994; Koff &
Benavage, 1998; Tantleff-Dunn & Thompson,
2000; Thompson & Tantleff, 1992; for an excep-
tion, see Forbes & Frederick, in press). Because
our project was based on secondary analysis and
the items had not been constructed by the au-
thors, several of the items had less than ideal
wording and psychometric properties. For exam-
ple, although we can document the percentage of
women who are not satisfied with their current
breasts, we cannot draw conclusions about the
intensity of their dissatisfaction. Further, women
were only given the opportunity to select one of
the breast dissatisfaction options (desire smaller,
desire larger, or too droopy). Although this had
the advantage of isolating women’s primary con-
cern, we were unable to examine the percentage
of women who were dissatisfied with both the
size and droopiness of their breasts.
Concluding Comments
Past research on body image has suggested
that the intense sexualization and objectifica-
tion of women’s breasts may result in many
women b eing dissatisfied with their breasts.
The present research demonstrated that con-
cerns about breast size and shape are indeed
widespread among women, to the point that
many women try to conceal their breasts from
their sexual partners. Additional research is
needed to document the intensity of this dissat-
isfaction and the degree to which these concerns
interfere with women’s e njoyment of their sex
life and detract from their psychological well-
being. It will also be important to identify in-
terventions on both a societal and personal level
that may be effective in reducing women’s dis-
satisfaction with their breasts without resorting
to elective breast surgery.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
For additional papers and information, please
contact David Frederick at enderflies1@aol.com
or visit his website at http://dfred.bol.ucla.edu.
We thank Elle magazine for access to the data
from the ELLE/MSNBC.com Sex and Body Im-
age Surve y. The authors are grateful to the
UCLA Graduate Division, the Center for Cul-
ture, Brain, and Development, and the depart-
ment of Psychology, for providing financial sup-
port for the first author. We are also grateful to the
National Institute of Health, who supported the
first author, Grant # 1F31MH072384-01. Thanks
also to Carol Edwards, who helped create the
database.
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RECEIVED: 5/14/07
ACCEPTED: 11/14/07
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The media equate a man's penis size with his power and masculinity. Views about penis size were assessed in an Internet survey of 52,031 heterosexual men and women. Most men (66%) rated their penis as average, 22% as large, and 12% as small. Self-reported penis size was correlated positively with height and negatively with body fat level. Whereas 85% of women were satisfied with their partner's penis size, only 55% of men were satisfied with their penis size, 45% wanted to be larger, and 0.2% wanted to be smaller. Satisfaction did not vary across age groups from 18 to 65. Men reporting a larger-than-average penis rated their appearance most favorably, suggesting a possible confidence effect of perceived large penis size. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Perceived breast size, breast size satisfaction,body image (body satisfaction and generalized appearancesatisfaction) and psychological functioning(self-esteem, self-consciousness, and generalizedappearance preoccupation), as well as stereotyping ofbreast size, were examined in 166 Caucasian and AsianAmerican college women. Caucasian women reportedslightly larger perceived and ideal breast sizes, but no significant group differences for any of theother variables were found; groups were combined forsubsequent analyses. Both large and small breastednesswere associated with lower breast size satisfaction. Hierarchical regression analyses, controllingfor body size (assessed indirectly by a weightpreoccupation measure) and including the interaction ofperceived breast size and breast size satisfaction,yielded main effects for weight preoccupation,perceived breast size, and satisfaction with breastsize, but no interactions. Over and above the effect ofweight preoccupation, smaller perceived breast size was associated with lower breast size satisfactionand with more positive body image, while larger size wasassociated with higher breast size satisfaction and withless positive body image. Lower self-esteem was associated with lower breast sizesatisfaction but not with perceived breast size, whilehigher public self-consciousness, social anxiety, andappearance preoccupation were associated with a mismatch between ideal and perceived size, regardless ofwhether ideal size was smaller or larger than perceivedsize. Implications of these findings are discussedwithin the broader cultural context.
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It has been speculated that the prevalence of eating disorders in women has risen because of increases in women's body dissatisfaction. We conducted a meta-analysis of gender differences in attractiveness and body image using 222 studies from the past 50 years. The analysis shows dramatic increases in the numbers of women among individuals who have poor body image. Moreover, these trends were found across multiple conceptualizations of body image, including self-judgments of physical attractiveness.
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Using a measure of body image consisting of schematic figures of males and females differing only in chest/breast (CB) size, 73 female and 57 male undergraduates estimated their own CB size, selected their ideal conception of CB, and rated the size they thought reflected the average male's and female's preference for CB. Ss also made ratings based on the size that they thought best characterized descriptors of the figures. Overall, findings reflected a bias for large CB sizes. Both S groups rated their own CB size as significantly smaller than all other ratings. Men's conception of an ideal breast was larger than women's conception. Both genders said that the average male prefers a larger chest and breast than does the average female. Positive descriptors were consistently associated with larger size ratings. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Testing self-discrepancy theories of body image, this investigation examined self-perceived and idealized physical attributes among 66 men and 69 women, who were white, heterosexual college students. Physical attributes included body size, weight, height, muscularity, hair color and length, eye color, and female breast size. Physical ideals included personal ideals, assumptions about the other sex's ideals for one's own sex, and actual other-sex ideals. Both sexes expressed significant self-ideal discrepancies on most attributes, whether ideals were assessed from personal or perceived other-sex standpoints. The sexes' discrepancies were often comparable in magnitude if the direction of discrepancy was ignored. Both sexes frequently exaggerated their assumptions of what the other sex idealized in the subjects' own sex. Particular self-ideal discrepancies predicted subjects' global body image. The applied and empirical implications of these findings were considered for both social and clinical contexts.
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Problems related to negative body image are very common among young women. In this study, we examined the relationship between women's body image and their sexual functioning over and above the effects of physical exercise and body mass index (BMI) in a sample of 214 university women. Low situational body image dysphoria and low body dissatisfaction were associated with high sexual assertiveness and sexual esteem, low sexual anxiety, and fewer sexual problems. Positive body image was significantly associated with better sexual functioning, even after controlling for BMI and exercise. Although related to body image, BMI and exercise did not predict sexual functioning. These results were interpreted as indicating that a woman's subjective body image is significantly related to her sexual functioning beyond the effects of actual body size and level of physical exercise.
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Most studies on women with breast cancer indicate that obesity is positively associated with late-stage disease. Some results have shown a similar relationship between breast size and stage. A recent study found that the association between body mass index (BMI) and stage was limited to cancers that were self-detected, suggesting that the BMI-stage relation may be due to delayed symptom recognition. We examined the relationships between stage and both BMI and breast (bra cup) size, stratified by method of detection, using data from a population-based case-control study of 1,361 women (ages 20–44 years) diagnosed with breast cancer during 1990–1992. Height and weight measurements and information on bra cup size, method of cancer detection and other factors predictive of stage at diagnosis were collected during in-person interviews. A case-case comparison was conducted using logistic regression to estimate odds of regional or distant stage rather than local stage in relation to BMI and bra size. Odds of late-stage disease were increased with higher BMI [adjusted odds ratio (OR) for highest to lowest tertile = 1.46, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.10–1.93] and larger bra cup size (OR for cup D vs. cup A = 1.61, 95% CI 1.04–2.48). These relationships were not modified by the method of detection. Differences in etiologic effects, rather than differences in detection methods, may explain the relations observed between stage and both BMI and breast size. Int. J. Cancer 82:23–27, 1999. © 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.