ArticlePDF Available

Using Objectification Theory to Examine the Effects of Media on Gay Male Body Image



Research has increasingly noted that gay male adults are more at risk for developing body image dissatisfaction than other male populations. Body image issues warrant attention, particularly since they have been connected to the development of disordered eating patterns. Studies have often traced gay male body dissatisfaction to various sociocultural elements and phenomena, particularly the media. In fact, various media genres have been implicated as being instrumental in propagating idealized male physiques, which in turn may negatively influence observers. Using objectification theory, this paper aims to review the process by which media imagery are internalized by some gay men and how such internalizations harmfully impact their body image. The clinical implications and treatment of body dissatisfaction will be reviewed in terms of social work practice with gay male populations.
Using Objectification Theory to Examine the Effects of Media
on Gay Male Body Image
Nicholas Lanzieri
Tom Hildebrandt
Published online: 13 October 2015
ÓSpringer Science+Business Media New York 2015
Abstract Research has increasingly noted that gay male
adults are more at risk for developing body image dissat-
isfaction than other male populations. Body image issues
warrant attention, particularly since they have been con-
nected to the development of disordered eating patterns.
Studies have often traced gay male body dissatisfaction to
various sociocultural elements and phenomena, particularly
the media. In fact, various media genres have been impli-
cated as being instrumental in propagating idealized male
physiques, which in turn may negatively influence obser-
vers. Using objectification theory, this paper aims to review
the process by which media imagery are internalized by
some gay men and how such internalizations harmfully
impact their body image. The clinical implications and
treatment of body dissatisfaction will be reviewed in terms
of social work practice with gay male populations.
Keywords Gay Body image Media Objectification
Social comparison
Within the last two decades the scientific study of male
body image has received progressive attention (McCabe
and Ricciardelli 2004; Morrison et al. 2004b; Rosenmann
and Kaplan 2014). Research has consistently indicated that
male body image is centered on both leanness and mus-
cularity (Hargreaves and Tiggemann 2009; Martins et al.
2008; Tiggemann et al. 2007; Tod et al. 2013; Yelland and
Tiggemann 2003). The progressive emphasis that society
places on both traits has contributed to a record increase in
the number of men who experience body dissatisfaction.
Gay males are said to constitute a large proportion of this
population and research has shown that they are dispro-
portionately at risk to developing it (Morrison et al. 2004b).
When compared to heterosexual men, gay men are reported
to desire more muscle tone (Calzo et al. 2013), are thought
to experience greater dissatisfaction with their level of
muscularity (Kaminski et al. 2005; Levesque and Vichesky
2006; Martins et al. 2008; Yelland and Tiggemann 2003),
have greater dissatisfaction with their overall body fat
content or thinness (Martins et al. 2008; Russell and Keel
2002), and generally experience more dissatisfaction with
most body parts, including head and body hair, height, and
penis size (Martins et al. 2008).
Past research has correlated body dissatisfaction and
disordered eating in gay men to various causative roots
including, biology: Rikani et al. (2013), gender non-con-
formity and bullying: D’Augelli et al. (2005), Levesque
and Vichesky (2006), attractiveness schemes within the
gay community: Varangis et al. (2012), Yelland and
Tiggemann (2003), and the media: Bartlett et al. (2008).
When focusing on sociocultural elements such as the
media, it may be noted that not all gay men respond to the
cues of body imagery in the same way. Two gay men will
look at the identical image of an idealized male physique
but one of them may come away from the observational
experience unaffected, while the other may have internal-
ized the image and consequently use it as a comparative
tool to modify his eating behavior and to judge his own
body and the bodies of other men. The reasons for the
difference in the way the two men are affected is multi-
faceted. It may lie in the hardwiring of their own genetics
&Nicholas Lanzieri
New York University, New York, USA
Mt. Sinai Hospital, New York, USA
Clin Soc Work J (2016) 44:105–113
DOI 10.1007/s10615-015-0562-1
and neurochemistry and it may also be correlated to their
own experiential environment. Utilizing objectification
theory, this paper will discuss the process by which some
gay men, in viewing the images of idealized male physi-
ques portrayed by the media, will internalize these per-
spectives as components of the body that they must come
to resemble. A clinical case will be used to both exemplify
and discuss the implications of this internalization process.
With further elaboration on the clinical example, this
article will also review the cognitive behavioral techniques
that may be used to address body image dissatisfaction.
Theoretical Interpretation
Several studies noted that gay men’s maladaptive percep-
tion of body image were propagated by their affiliation to
media images that idealized a certain body type (Kaminski
et al. 2005; Levesque and Vichesky 2006; Strong et al.
2000). Within gay media sources, studies have depicted the
normative ideals of the male body to being tall, muscular,
and lean (Bartlett et al. 2008; Lanzieri and Cook 2013;
Saucier and Caron 2008; Schwartz and Andsager 2011).
Saucier and Caron (2008) conducted a content analysis of
the articles and advertisements contained in four popular
gay male magazines: The Advocate,Genre,Instinct, and
Out. In their assessment of issues from 2001 to 2004,
Saucier and Caron (2008) found that the magazines were
objectifying certain male body types and were placing
importance on having the right physique, namely one that
was lean and muscular. Schwartz and Andsager (2011)
analyzed images from The Advocate and Out magazines
from 1967 to 2008, and found that images had become
increasingly thinner and more muscular over time. The
authors equally noted that images directed toward hetero-
sexual male populations were just as muscular but were
comparably not as thin as those directed to gay males.
Similarly, in their review of twenty-three magazines tar-
geting heterosexual, gay and general audiences, Lanzieri
and Cook (2013) found that magazines targeting gay
audiences depicted images that were thinner than those
targeting heterosexual male and general audiences. The
authors further noted that gay and heterosexual male tar-
geted magazines depicted models with greater muscularity
than general audience magazines.
Objectification theory is one perspective that lends some
understanding to the process by which gay men view
advertising images, internalize the messages in a manner in
which they experience dissatisfaction with their own bod-
ies, and subsequently develop behaviors that promote a
drive to be muscular (e.g., exercise) and leaner (e.g.,
dieting). Self objectification involves a process of body
monitoring, whereby an individual exhibits a self-
consciousness that motivates increasing surveillance about
his own appearance. Such ‘‘body vigilance’’ is not done in
isolation but rather it’s conducted comparatively by using
the idealized images as a frame of reference to evaluate the
self and the other.
Objectification theory asserts that individuals who live
in cultures that sexually objectify the body, wholly or in
parts, will eventually adopt an observer’s perspective and
become judgmental of their own physique’s ability to
emulate the idealized type (Fredrickson and Roberts 1997;
Martins et al. 2007). They learn to see their bodies as
objects and consequently place values on themselves based
on cultural idealized schemes (Davis et al. 2001). An
individual’s self identity is represented by his body or a
part of his body (Kozak et al. 2009). Although much of
objectification’s theoretical principles have been formu-
lated from research conducted on women (Slater and
Tiggemann 2002; Tiggemann and Lynch 2001), studies
have also corroborated that objectification is observed in
men. In fact, objectifying portrayals of men have increased
in the past two decades (Martins et al. 2007), and research
has suggested that the strongest contributor to that objec-
tification process is the media (Morrison et al. 2003).
For example, the case of John, a 31 year old gay male,
highlights how media can influence the development and
evolution of one’s body image. Presenting for treatment
with persistent body image dissatisfaction that has consis-
tently interfered with seeking and maintaining healthy
relationships, reduced job performance, and disturbances in
eating, shape, and weight control that threatened his health,
John described a shift in his body awareness that occurred
in adolescence. He recalls seeing shirtless men with no
chest hair and well defined abs on the covers of health and
fitness magazine’s and thinking ‘‘that is what real men are
supposed to look like’’. As he consumed more and more of
these cultural messages from movies and TV, his focus
turned to achieving this desired masculinity and social
status through his physical appearance. He began shaving
his body hair, wearing tight shirts to highlight his body
definition, and spending a lot of time and energy in the
Similar to John, gay male patients with body image
disturbance cite media as a source of promoting a particular
look. The gay magazines they read or ‘‘check out’’ con-
sistently portray images of men that are lean and muscular.
This body type alludes to their sexuality and sexual pro-
wess. These standards of gay physicality are consequently
absorbed by gay male audiences and subsequently those
advertised features are internalized as blueprints of how
they must view their own physiques wholly or in part. John
remembers being ‘‘repulsed’’ by the bodybuilder look, but
‘enticed’’ by the idea of the fitness model. To him, this
image maintained an ‘‘undeniable sexual attractiveness,’
106 Clin Soc Work J (2016) 44:105–113
but without losing its connection to masculinity. He tightly
controlled his eating and became highly invested in his
appearance. As he became more invested, he consumed
more media and progressively recognized that he acted as a
conduit for the messages inherent in these images, judging
others for not achieving or endorsing similar standards and
ultimately holding his own self-worth contingent on these
culturally defined appearance standards.
As noted in the clinical example, the image is of primary
importance in what it elicits in the observer. Models’ gazes
are particularly relevant in implying situations and contexts
that will affect consumer interactions and internalizations
(Hakala 2006). For instance, when a model’s gaze is
voyeuristic and is focused directly at the consumer, it will
be equated as if the viewer himself were looking into a
mirror. The model is saying ‘‘I want you,’’ and its inter-
active gaze may incite the consumer to identify with the
model, and to believe that he will resemble him if he uses
the advertised product (Hakala 2006). In pictures where the
model is not looking at the viewer, the lack of eye contact
has a narcissistic element. It is an objectifying look and
implies some subordinate qualities, essentially giving the
message of unavailability and inattainability (Hakala
2006). Kolbe and Albanese (1996) found that when a male
model’s gaze appeared to be downward and not looking
into the eyes of the observer, the model lost its subjectivity.
That particular stance motivates viewers to treat models
more as objects than as bodies in process (Rohlinger 2002).
Models take on the appearance of gods whose gazes are
groomed to instigate and allure.
In many cases, such as John’s, the culmination of this
body idealization is the escalating extremes of physical
appearance control. John reported first taking anabolic–
androgenic steroids (AAS) when he was 18. For him it was
a perfect form of drug use because it promised an increase
in lean muscle mass, while also improving sex drive and
vigor. John’s ideal body had to be as potent in sexual
performance as it was attractive to others. At the height of
this drug use, John was spending several thousand dollars
per month on the AASs and other fitness supplements and
other ancillary agents needed to control the effects of these
drugs. He would spend 4–5 h per day in the gym and took
to personal training as a career so he could maintain the
lifestyle associated with the pursuit and maintenance of this
masculine fitness ideal. As was noted by McCreary et al.
(2007), men will often turn to using AASs in order to have
their bodies more fully take on the physiques that the
socioculture is expounding. John recounts that he learned
the majority of these behaviors through consumption of
magazines and internet sites designed to sell this masculine
fitness lifestyle.
The models used in media advertisements propagate
their visibility through desire and consumption. The image
of the body thus becomes greater than the reality of the
actual commodity being sold or the model who possesses
the idealized physicality (see Stratton 1996). In fact, the
human who created the muscular symmetry being observed
is lost. Total value is in what the figure exudes and the
sexual pleasures that would be exchanged in possessing the
commodity or body. Gay men with body image issues
consume and internalize muscular and toned bodies as a
way of reacting and compensating for being demasculin-
ized by a heterosexist society. This consumer-oriented
process touches on expressed and repressed sexual
desires—to ‘‘internalize, consume and possess the phallus’’
(Stratton 1996, p. 182). The more beautiful, muscular, and
toned the body, the bigger its phallus power will appear,
making the image more attractive and desirable. The
mesomorphic body satisfies the visual gaze and it also is
the representative fetished phallus that makes the gay man
more visible to others. The phallus in this regard is stret-
ched beyond the penis; it is meant to be the archetype,
never to be fully attained; the originator, from which all
others have been modeled and constructed. Internalizing
the figures in such an evaluative manner not only lends to
the objectification of self (viewing one’s own body as an
externalized object to be judged) but it also triggers a
comparative mode by which to view one’s own body in
relation to the other.
Inevitably, not every gay man has the genetic predis-
position, time, energy, or motivation to endeavor certain
exercises and dietary regimens necessary to acquire the
body objects defined or constructed as desirable. Conse-
quently, gay men with a predilection to body image issues,
whose bodies do not resemble the ideal objects they’ve
come to internalize, may likely develop dissatisfactions
with some aspect of their actual physiques. In the case of
John, he became preoccupied with the definition in his abs.
He desired the ‘‘V-line’’ that extends below the abdominal
wall to his pelvis, but could never satisfactorily achieve it.
Despite regularly maintaining body fat levels of 7–10 %,
John described himself as ‘‘chubby’’ and would often resist
taking his shirt off during sex and especially when in public
places where his appearance might be judged by others
(e.g., the beach).
The media’s propagation of idealized figures and its
influence on self objectification infiltrates gay attractiveness
schemes. Advertisements directed toward gay male audi-
ences use body units, such as chests, biceps, shoulders, and
legs to simultaneously exude youthfulness, innocence (de-
pilated chests/androgyny), sensuality, and seductiveness
(Saucier and Caron 2008). The gay community proliferates
hypermasculine physiques in order to create visual cues that
will attract more male attention (Bridel and Rail 2007;
Duggan and McCreary 2004; Yelland and Tiggemann 2003).
The body is turned into a commodified representative of gay
Clin Soc Work J (2016) 44:105–113 107
sexuality and consequently the physique that is able to reflect
the idealized cultural standards is given a higher value than
the body that does not. Given such constructed dynamics, it
isn’t surprising that some gay men feel more pressure to be
attractive than their heterosexual counterparts (Marino
Carper et al. 2010). Research has suggested that gay men are
more likely than other individuals to obtain their sense of
self-worth based on their physical appearance (Yelland and
Tiggemann 2003). When held against such a backdrop, Sil-
berstein et al. (1989) findings continue to resonate today
when they noted that gay men cited attractiveness as the key
motivator for their exercise and weight control behaviors.
Studies have theorized that gay men are more concerned with
appearance and consider it an essential part of what consti-
tute sense of self (Gettelman and Thompson 1993; Siever
1994). Acknowledging the parameters of masculinity set by
the gay community and greater society, homosexuals turn
toward other males that exemplify the same physical aes-
thetics that demonstrate conformity to sociocultural con-
cepts of attractiveness (Kendall and Martino 2006; Lanzieri
and Hildebrandt 2011). Since similarities add to relational
attractiveness cues, gay men are attracted to specific physical
traits (e.g., muscularity, leanness, and athleticism) in a
potential partner because they too possess those same
In the case of John, he would only date or engage in
casual sex with men who had the specific detailing of
abdominal muscle that he pursued for his own appearance.
These men had to share a similar investment in outward
appearance and collude with the idea that self-worth was
contingent upon maintaining these appearance standards as
well as the sexual potency presumed to be natural to that
given physique. Ultimately, John would devalue himself in
these relationships and suffered from the inability of have
lasting or meaningful relationships with these men.
Daniel and Bridges (2010) write that [heterosexual] men
are subjected to the same sociocultural structure that
women are subjected to albeit without necessarily experi-
encing the evaluation from men that arise from being
objectified in various media genres. The premise of this
statement ironically shifts when relating it to gay men since
they, similar to heterosexual women, do experience the
evaluative gaze of other gay men. Bodies are considered
sexy in so much as they are successful in representing the
‘look’’ established as gay. Sexual bodies are commodities
evaluated for what they can attract and obtain from others.
The sequelae of being scrutinized as an object to be valued
in attractiveness and sexual contexts may cause some
people to internalize the evaluative gaze. In a study
assessing physical attractiveness preferences between gay
and heterosexual men, Swami and Tovee (2008) found that
homosexuals had a greater preference for men with lower
waist to chest ratios. Their findings confirmed that upper
body muscularity is a key attribute in attractiveness pref-
erences amongst gay men, which is consistent with similar
research investigating the attractiveness preferences of
heterosexual women (Maisey et al. 1999). Varangis et al.
(2012) concluded that gay men who were not in a long-
term committed relationship were more likely to find
muscularity and leanness as body attributes worth seeking
in prospective mates.
For gay men with a predisposition to body image issues,
physical ideals are not internalized and then subsequently
nullified. Rather these images are kept active, forming
vivid paradigms that some gay men utilize in comparing
their own bodies to idealized ones and to the bodies of the
men with whom they seek to have in short and long term
relationships. Social comparisons may operate in a manner
that adds to the negative effects of being exposed to
sociocultural images that propagate an idealized body
physique (Morrison et al. 2004a), and which consequently
come to influence the definitions of attractiveness. Social
comparisons may be either downward (comparing oneself
to someone worse off in the dimension being assessed) or
upward (comparing oneself to someone better off in the
dimension being assessed) (Heinberg and Thompson 1992;
Wheeler and Miyake 1992). The effective consequences of
the comparison is on whether the person who is being
evaluated is deemed to be on a greater or lesser than plane
of appearance (Morrison et al. 2004a).
In order to compete within the culturally constructed
paradigm of attractiveness, gay men are caught in a cycle
of consistent comparisons with individuals/figures that
have muscular and lean physiques. The level of body
image dissatisfaction they experience can therefore be very
much connected to the degree that individuals experience
sexual objectification internally, from other gay men and
their male suitors (Siever 1994). Since many gay men have
already experienced some form of being castigated for not
following heterosexual gender and sexual norms, they may
comply with aesthetic dictates. Those men that do not
depict attractiveness in its accepted constructions are iso-
lated, stigmatized, and marginalized. For example, John
found himself at the time of treatment unable to be social,
having not dated in over 2 years, and feeling so depressed
that he planned to take his own life. In his mind, he had lost
the ability to achieve the fitness standards and having
reached his early 30s, found himself feeling like an out-
sider to his community. This experience was complicated
by the physical and emotional consequences of having
pushed his body so hard in his 20s that he suffered a
number of health consequences including damaged liga-
ments in his shoulders, chronic digestive trouble, and male
pattern baldness.
108 Clin Soc Work J (2016) 44:105–113
Clinical Implications
By understanding more of the sociocultural and behavioral
relationships that foster body image dissatisfaction in gay
men, social workers, in their role as clinicians, can use
various therapeutic methods to create more positive con-
ceptions of self and can assist gay men with body image
issues in addressing and ameliorating the negative effects
of media imagery.
According to Waller et al. (2007), the empirical evi-
dence regarding the treatment of body image dissatisfac-
tion is not overwhelmingly clear. Research is not explicit
as to which treatment modality to employ, the type of
patient that would benefit the most by a particular
approach, or at what stage in the treatment process the
intervention should be utilized. Additionally, past studies
have not taken pivotal steps in addressing intervention
techniques to be successfully used within minority popu-
lations (i.e., gay males), men, the elderly, and children
(Cash and Strachan 2002). Nonetheless cognitive-behav-
ioral therapies (CBT) have been used to treat body image
dissatisfaction within general populations and can be
effective modes to assist gay men with body image issues.
The established efficacy of CBT has made it one of the
most widely used of psychological theoretical frames
(Granvold 1997). The empirically supported research that
lends credibility to CBT interventions and modalities
extend its broad base support across diverse populations of
clients and professional providers. Thompson et al. (1999)
stated that CBT was one of the two main treatment
approaches (the second being Feminist based psychother-
apy) for body image dissatisfaction that received high
endorsement from clinically controlled studies. Cash
(1996,1997) and Rosen (1996a) developed cognitive
behavioral strategies to address body image dissatisfaction
and their work has gained significant empirical support and
is therefore recommended in treatment settings. A cogni-
tive-behavioral approach has also been supported and
proven efficacious in the treatment of Body Dysmorphic
Disorder (Phillips 2001; Rosen 1996b).
The rationale for utilizing CBT in addressing body
image and eating disorders runs directly with the mental
thought processes that gay males with body image issues
are understood to possess. Maladaptive thought patterns are
believed to keep the individual tied to cycles of feeling
dissatisfied with his appearance and eating in an unhealthy
manner. Psychological issues are consistently centered on
the body’s muscularity, shape and overall appearance. It is
believed that the obsession with such issues stem from poor
self-esteem and the internalization of sociocultural mes-
sages (Beren et al. 1996; Levesque and Vichesky 2006;
Russell and Keel 2002). The low self-esteem induces
devaluation in physical appearance, which may motivate
the individual to partake in behaviors (e.g., dieting,
excessive exercising) aimed at improving appearance.
There are various CBT techniques used to treat body
image dissatisfaction and disordered eating patterns. The
Socratic method assists patients in identifying and chal-
lenging the thoughts that lead to negative body image and
poor eating behaviors. Within the Socratic technique there
are elements of psycho-education that may be used to fur-
ther facilitate the learning process (Fairburn 2008; Whit-
field and Davidson 2007), although the primary function is
to raise dissonance between the entrenched belief and evi-
dence from real life that contradicts this belief or its value.
As was noted in John, some gay men do engage in dieting
behaviors related to negative body image, therefore it would
be important to assess whether foods are being consumed in
a healthy manner. Food records provide the opportunity to
achieve ‘‘regular eating,’’ while endeavoring to also estab-
lish cognizance with certain dietary marks and the feelings
that they induced (Fairburn 2008, pp. 75–77), especially
when assessing body appearance. This effect often occurs
when weight undergoes little measureable change after
weeks of stabilized regular eating that includes adequate
variety and the absence of rigid dietary rules.
Exposure exercises using media imagery can facilitate
cognitive restructuring. The clinician should gauge the
patient’s thoughts and feelings and the behavioral respon-
ses they elicit (O’Brien and LeBow 2006; Parent 2013),
particularly about the self and the cultural messages related
to attractiveness and the body. Throughout the exercise of
viewing different images, patients should be asked to
elaborate on their internal experience. Cognitive distortions
should be acknowledged and assessed. Cognitive restruc-
turing will help build a new set of values about the self in
relation to one’s appearance, and will also assist in modi-
fying the associated behaviors (Cash and Strachan 2002;
Parent 2013). Additionally, if patients’ eating patterns are
being affected by body image issues, therapists may
explore patients’ feelings in the presence of both food and
media imagery. Patients will be instructed to eat food while
looking at specific media photos, and then be asked to
reflect on the thoughts and feelings being experienced.
Both therapists and patients will sift through the cognitive
schemes and emotive responses, and pay particular atten-
tion to those that motivate harmful behaviors (e.g., exces-
sive dieting and exercise) (Fairburn 2008). Therapists will
work to help the patient restructure some of the destructive
thinking that keep patients in a looping mode.
CBT therapists also use mirrors to address feelings and
thoughts patients experience in viewing themselves. Patients
may be specifically asked to uncover parts of the body that
are deemed problematic or shameful in order to better
Clin Soc Work J (2016) 44:105–113 109
process underlying emotions (Cash and Strachan 2002).
Homework assignments such as journaling and log keeping
are also prescribed in order to further identify the patterns of
dysfunctional cognitions and behaviors as they relate to body
image. The therapist and patient review the diary entries and
attempts are made to restructure the cognitive interactions
between self and situational triggers (Cash and Strachan
2002). The cognitive process is tracked by (1) noting the
contexts that particularly triggered a dysfunctional thought,
(2) identifying the thought and all its cognitive tags, and (3)
challenging the thought itself (Wilson et al. 1986). Mirror
exposure is a potent technique used to train individuals how
to process their visual image in a neutral and accurate way
(Hildebrandt et al. 2012). Individuals stand in front of a
mirror and describe themselves to a sketch artist who draws
them with precision, without seeing them. This focus shifts
attention from unwanted aspects of appearance to a more
gestalt conceptualization of the body. Because this type of
evaluation involves equal attention to visual inputs often
ignored by the patient, the output results in a more normal-
ized and healthy view of one’s appearance.
John received treatment for his persistent body image
concerns following the core CBT strategies described
above. The first goal involved developing a mutually
defined case-conceptualization of how is body image dis-
order functioned. The purpose was to identify key aspects
of his thinking and behavior that maintained poor body
image. For John, this involved conceptualizing his own
self-worth via outward appearance and integrating his
learning history (i.e., being praised for aspects of his
appearance, seeing others praised for aspects of their
appearance, cultural endorsement of appearance standards,
etc.) into day-to-day experiences with his body. The con-
nections to his history included how the sociocultural
environment reinforced the view of his outward appearance
as deterministic of his self-worth. The sequelae of specific
events or memories of engaging in the sociocultural envi-
ronment (peers, media, family, and partners) are all inte-
grated into a flow-chart summarizing how these
experiences contribute to the core disturbances expressed
presently. Behaviors involving diet, shape and weight
control were further connected to this functional descrip-
tion via their temporary value in reducing distress, but their
added cost of further investment in the fitness ideal. In
other words, the more he worked out, rigidly controlled his
diet, and took drugs to change appearance, the more
strongly he held to the belief that the appearance he desired
had immense value. Over time, this type of investment
weakened his resilience and adaptability to the normal life
demands inherent in development (e.g., professional iden-
tity, aging and disease, interpersonal relationships, etc.).
Consequently, he became depressed and hopeless that he
would ever achieve an adequate level of self-worth.
In traditional CBT approaches, it is common to have
patients explicitly seek to expand the sources of self-eval-
uation from body-focused to a broader range of domains
including relationships, profession, religion/spirituality,
family, friendships, and hobbies or interests. By expanding
the sources of self-evaluation, the patient aims to create a
more resilient and stable internal view. For John, this pro-
cess involved identifying his negative emotional response
to these messages, memories, and experiences and labeling
them as his ‘‘toxic self’’. This labeling process facilitates the
separation that lies between pathological and healthy
experiences and reduces shame related to his current
adoption of many unrealistic body standards. Once there
was a clear distinction between healthy and unhealthy
selves, goals were set to engage in meaningful things
unrelated to body image that were consistent with his
healthy self. For John, many of these actions involved small
daily events that were consistent with his overall values. For
example, he made a point of smiling to strangers, making
extra calls to family and friends, and writing notes to his
cousins with life updates. This expanded set of schemas
related to a healthy self allows for variability and imper-
fection in appearance without the threat of low self-worth.
Consequently, systematic goals are set to achieve greater
time, energy, and investment in these other domains.
Gay men may also benefit with partaking in cognitive
dissonance interventions similar to the Body Project (Stice
and Presnell 2007). Originally, the Body Project focused
on teaching adolescent girls how to navigate through and
resist along the way the sociocultural messages to be thin.
In assessing the Body Project’s efficacy in a large ran-
domized trial of 481 adolescent girls, Stice et al. (2006)
found that participants demonstrated a significant reduction
in body image dissatisfaction compared to the control
group. By modifying certain aspects of the intervention to
be used for gay men (i.e., lean and muscular images instead
of thin), the cognitive dissonance related to sociocultural
values would be addressed (see Feldman et al. 2011). Gay
men would be engaged to critique lean and muscular
images through written, verbal and experiential exercises.
The primary purpose would be to target the cognitive
dissonance, and reduce the person’s valuation of idealized
male physiques (Feldman et al. 2011). Stice and Presnell
(2007) indicated that the Body Project was adapted suc-
cessfully by different populations without impacting the
program’s efficacy. Therefore, it could very well be an
intervention tool utilized within the gay community.
Practical Implications for Implementation of CBT
for Body Image
Despite stereotypes about the lack of depth obtained in
treatment, CBT offers the flexibility to filter almost any
110 Clin Soc Work J (2016) 44:105–113
relevant experience of a patient through a process of
thinking, feeling, and action. The divergence from insight
oriented therapies occurs most clearly in the focus on
achieving new learning. Consequently, insights obtained
through transference-countertransference, objective assess-
ment, or experiential work must be adapted to a sequence of
thinking, feeling, and action in order to be meaningfully
used in treatment. For instance, John’s initial idealization
of the therapist as a confident and attractive man was
broken down into the initial thoughts (e.g., ‘He must be
very confident in his appearance’), feelings (e.g., fear of
not being able to achieve this standard), and action (e.g.,
avoiding discussion when experiencing difficulty in com-
pleting exercises on body image outside of session).
Counter-transference is also dealt with through the same
framework, breaking down the therapist reaction to
inconsistent attendance as a sequence of thoughts (e.g.,
‘He is afraid of doing the work he needs to do in treatment
to get better’’), feelings (i.e., ‘‘worried that I am not doing
enough’’), and action (e.g., ‘‘making extra calls outside of
session to remind him of the assignments or to check that
he does not need extra support). The functional output of
these experiences is then applied to basic learning theory as
either being maintained through classical or operant con-
ditioning. In classical conditioning, the co-occurence of
two independent things (e.g., empathy by therapist and
discussion of changes in body image) lead to perceived
associations that reflect anticipation and response. In other
words, the therapist begins to anticipate that empathizing
will increase discussion of body image change. A second
form of learning, which often co-occurs with associative
learning, is operant conditioning. In this form of learning
there is a clear cause-effect sequence of events. For
instance, calling John outside of session to check on him
leads to decreased attendance and homework completion,
than the functional interpretation includes the basic
understanding that something about calling John elicits
poor attendance/compliance with treatment. From this
understanding, the therapist can begin to alter the func-
tional relationship via changes to the system. For instance,
not responding to the initial urge to call John and letting
him struggle with the CBT assignments until he develops
his own mastery over the skills.
Objectification theory can adequately mark a pathway by
which media imagery are internalized by gay men and
consequently negatively affect their body image. Objecti-
fication theory frames the internalization process in a
manner that references various facets that contribute to gay
men’s body image scheme. By understanding these specific
nuances, we are better able to address the sociocultural
factors that play a role in creating body dissatisfaction. The
implications of body dissatisfaction are broad but particu-
larly impact eating patterns and exercise behaviors. Social
workers can therefore utilize treatment techniques to both
minimize and prevent the effects that viewing idealized
physiques portrayed in the media have on gay men.
Additionally, their treatment work can positively influence
future research endeavors by providing information on
which facets of the media and socioculture are particularly
impactful on gay men’s body image.
Bartlett, C. P., Vowels, C. L., & Saucier, D. A. (2008). Meta-analyses
of the effects of media images on men’s body-image concerns.
Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 27(3), 279–310.
Beren, S. E., Hayden, H. A., Wilfley, D. E., & Grilo, C. M. (1996).
The influence of sexual orientation on body dissatisfaction in
adult men and women. International Journal of Eating Disor-
ders, 20(2), 135–141. doi:10.1002/(SICI)1098-108X(199609)20:
Bridel, W., & Rail, G. (2007). Sport, sexuality, and the production of
(resistant) bodies: De-/reconstructing the meanings of gay male
marathon corporeality. Sociology of Sport Journal, 24, 127–144.
Calzo, J. P., Corliss, H. L., Blood, E. A., Field, A. E., & Austin, S. B.
(2013). Development of muscularity and weight concerns in
heterosexual and sexual minority males. Health Psychology,
32(1), 42–51. doi:10.1037/a0028964.
Cash, T. F. (1996). The treatment of body image disturbances. In J.
K. Thompson (Ed.), Body image, eating disorders, and obesity:
An integrative guide for assessment and treatment (pp. 83–107).
Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
Cash, T. F. (1997). The body image workbook: An 8-step program for
learning to like your looks. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
Cash, T. F., & Strachan, M. D. (2002). Cognitive-behavioral
approaches to changing body image. In T. F. Cash & T. Pruzinsky
(Eds.), Body image: A handbook of theory, research, and clinical
practice (pp. 478–486). New York, NY: Guilford Press.
D’Augelli, A., Grossman, A., & Starks, M. T. (2005). Parent’s
awareness of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youths’ sexual orienta-
tion. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 67, 474–482. doi:10.
Daniel, S., & Bridges, S. K. (2010). The drive for muscularity in men:
Media influences and objectification theory. Body Image, 7,
32–38. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2009.08.003.
Davis, C., Dionne, M., & Shuster, B. (2001). Physical and psycho-
logical correlates of appearance orientation. Personality and
Individual Differences, 30(1), 21–50. doi:10.1016/S0191-
Duggan, S. J., & McCreary, D. R. (2004). Body image, eating
disorders, and the drive for muscularity in gay and heterosexual
men: the influence of media images. Journal of Homosexuality,
47(3/4), 45–58. doi:10.1300/J082v47n03_03.
Fairburn, C. G. (2008). Cognitive behavior therapy and eating
disorders. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.
Feldman, M. B., Torino, J. A., & Swift, M. (2011). A group
intervention to improve body image satisfaction and dietary
habits in gay and bisexual men living with HIV/AIDS. Eating
Disorders, 19(5), 377–391. doi:10.1080/10640266.2011.609084.
Clin Soc Work J (2016) 44:105–113 111
Fredrickson, B. L., & Roberts, T. (1997). Objectification theory.
Toward understanding women’s lived experiences and mental
health risks. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 21(2), 173–206.
Gettelman, T. E., & Thompson, J. K. (1993). Actual differences and
stereotypical perceptions in body image and eating disturbance:
A comparison of male and female heterosexual and homosexual
samples. Sex Roles, 29(7/8), 545–563.
Granvold, D. K. (1997). Cognitive-behavioral therapy with adults. In
J. Brandell (Ed.), Theory and practice in clinical social work
(pp. 164–201). New York, NY: Free Press.
Hakala, U. (2006). Adam in ads: A thirty-year look at mediated
masculinities in advertising in Finland and the US. Tampere:
Esa Print Tampere.
Hargreaves, D. A., & Tiggemann, M. (2009). Muscular ideal media
images and men’s body image: Social comparison processing
and individual vulnerability. Psychology of Men and Masculin-
ity, 10(2), 109–119. doi:10.1037/a0014691.
Heinberg, L. J., & Thompson, J. K. (1992). Social comparison:
Gender, target importance ratings, and relation to body image
disturbance. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 7(2),
Hildebrandt, T., Loeb, K., Troupe, S., & Delinsky, S. (2012).
Adjunctive mirror exposure for eating disorders: a randomized
controlled pilot study. Behavioral Researcy and Therapy, 50(12),
797–804. doi:10.1016/j.brat.2012.09.004.
Kaminski, P. L., Chapman, B. P., Haynes, S. D., & Own, L. (2005).
Body image, eating behaviors, and attitudes toward exercise
among gay and straight men. Eating Behaviors, 6(3), 179–187.
Kendall, C., & Martino, W. (2006). Introduction. In C. Kendall & W.
Martino (Eds.), Gender outcasts and sexual outlaws: Sexual
oppression and gender hierarchies in queer men’s lives (pp.
5–16). New York, NY: Harrington Park Press.
Kolbe, R. H., & Albanese, P. J. (1996). Man to man: A content
analysis of sole-male images in male-audience magazines.
Journal of Advertising, 25, 1–20.
Kozak, M., Frankenhauser, H., & Roberts, T. (2009). Objects of
desire: Objectification as a function of male sexual orientation.
Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 10(3), 225–230. doi:10.
Lanzieri, N., & Cook, B. J. (2013). Examination of muscularity and
body fat depictions in magazines that target heterosexual and gay
men. Body Image, 10(2), 251–254. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2012.
Lanzieri, N., & Hildebrandt, T. (2011). Using hegemonic masculinity
to explain gay male attraction to muscular and athletic men.
Journal of Homosexuality, 58(2), 275–293. doi:10.1080/
Levesque, M. J., & Vichesky, D. R. (2006). Raising the bar on the
body beautiful: An analysis of the body image concerns of
homosexual men. Body Image, 3, 45–55. doi:10.1016/j/bodyim.
Maisey, D. S., Vale, E. L. E., Cornelissen, P. L., & Tovee, M. J.
(1999). Characteristics of male attractiveness for women. The
Lancet, 353, 1500–1501.
Marino Carper, T. L., Negy, C., & Tantleff-Dunn, S. (2010).
Relations among media influence, body image, eating concerns,
and sexual orientation in men: A preliminary investigation. Body
Image, 7(4), 301–309. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2010.07.002.
Martins, Y., Tiggemann, M., & Churchett, L. (2008). The shape of
things to come: Gay men’s satisfaction with specific body parts.
Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 9(4), 248–256. doi:10.1037/
Martins, Y., Tiggemann, M., & Kirkbride, A. (2007). Those speedos
become them. The role of self-objectification in gay and
heterosexual men’s body image. Personality and Social
Psychology Bulletin, 33(5), 634–647. doi:10.1177/01461672062
McCabe, M. P., & Ricciardelli, L. A. (2004). Body image dissatis-
faction among males across the lifespan: A review of past
literature. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 56(6), 675–685.
McCreary, D. R., Hildebrandt, T. B., Heinberg, L. J., Boroughs, M.,
& Thompson, J. K. (2007). A review of body image influences
on men’s fitness goals and supplement use. American Journal of
Men’s Health, 1(4), 307–316. doi:10.1177/1557988306309408.
Morrison, T. G., Kalin, R., & Morrison, M. A. (2004a). Body-image
evaluation and body-image investment among adolescents: A
test of sociocultural and social comparison theories. Adoles-
cence, 39, 571–592.
Morrison, T. G., Morrison, M. A., & Hopkins, C. (2003). Striving for
bodily perfection? An exploration of the drive for muscularity in
Canadian men. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 4(2), 111–120.
Morrison, M. A., Morrison, T. G., & Sager, C. L. (2004b). Does body
satisfaction differ between gay men and lesbian women and
heterosexual men and women? A meta-analytic review. Body
Image, 1, 127–138. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2004.01.002.
O’Brien, K., & LeBow, M. (2006). Reducing maladaptive weight
management practices: Developing a psychoeducational inter-
vention program. Eating Behaviors, 8, 195–210.
Parent, M. C. (2013). Clinical considerations in etiology, assessment,
and treatment of men’s muscularity-focused body image distur-
bance. Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 14(1), 88–100.
Phillips, K. A. (2001). Body dysmorphic disorder. In K. A. Phillips
(Ed.), Somatoform and factitious disorders (pp. 67–88). Wash-
ington DC: APA.
Rikani, A. A., Choudhry, Z., Choudhry, A. M., Ikram, H., Asghar, M.
W., Kajal, D., et al. (2013). A critique of the literature on
etiology of eating disorders. Annals of Neurosciences, 20(4),
157–161. doi:10.5214/ans.0972.7531.200409.
Rohlinger, D. A. (2002). Eroticizing men: Cultural influences on
advertising and male objectification. Sex Roles, 46(3/4), 61–74.
Rosen, J. C. (1996a). Improving body image in obesity. In J.
K. Thompson (Ed.), Body image, eating disorders, and obesity:
An integrative guide for assessment and treatment (pp. 425–440).
Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
Rosen, J. C. (1996b). Body dysmorphic disorder: Assessment and
treatment. In J. K. Thompson (Ed.), Body image, eating
disorders, and obesity: An integrative guide for assessment
and treatment (pp. 149–170). Washington DC: American
Psychological Association.
Rosenmann, A., & Kaplan, D. (2014). Masculine body ideologies as a
non-gynocentric framework for the psychological study of the
male body. Body Image, 11(4), 570–580. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.
Russell, C. J., & Keel, P. K. (2002). Homosexuality as specific risk
factor for eating disorders in men. International Journal of
Eating Disorders, 31(3), 300–306. doi:10.1002/eat.10036.
Saucier, J. A., & Caron, S. L. (2008). An investigation of content and
media images in gay men’s magazines. Journal of Homosexu-
ality, 55(3), 504–523. doi:10.1080/0918360802345297.
Schwartz, J., & Andsager, J. L. (2011). Four decades of images in gay
male-targeted magazines. Journalism and Mass Communication
Quarterly, 88(1), 76–98. doi:10.1177/107769901108800105.
Siever, M. D. (1994). Sexual orientation and gender as factors in
socioculturally acquired vulnerability to body dissatisfaction and
eating disorders. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology,
62, 252–260.
Silberstein, L. R., Mishkind, M. E., Striegel-Moore, R. H., Timko, C.,
& Rodin, J. (1989). Men and their bodies: A comparison of
112 Clin Soc Work J (2016) 44:105–113
homosexual and heterosexual men. Psychosomatic Medicine, 51,
Slater, A., & Tiggemann, M. (2002). A test of objectification theory in
adolescent girls. Sex Roles, 46(9/10), 343–349. doi:10.1023/A:
Stice, E., & Presnell, K. (2007). The Body Project: Promoting body
acceptance and preventive eating disorders. New York, NY:
Oxford University Press.
Stice, E., Shaw, H. E., Burton, E., & Wade, E. (2006). Dissonance and
healthy weight eating disorder prevention programs: A random-
ized efficacy trial. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychol-
ogy, 74(2), 263–275. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.74.2.263.
Stratton, J. (1996). The desirable body: Cultural fetishism and the
erotics of consumption. London: Manchester University Press
Strong, S. M., Singh, D., & Randall, P. K. (2000). Childhood gender
non conformity and body dissatisfaction in gay and heterosexual
men. Sex Roles, 43, 427–439.
Swami, V., & Tovee, M. J. (2008). The muscular male: A comparison
of the physical attractiveness preferences of gay and heterosex-
ual men. International Journal of Men’s Health, 7, 59–69.
Thompson, J. K., Heinberg, L. J., Altabe, M., & Tantleff-Dunn, S.
(1999). Exacting beauty: Theory, assessment and treatment of
body image disturbance (pp. 85–124). Washington, DC: Amer-
ican Psychological Association.
Tiggemann, M., & Lynch, J. E. (2001). Body image across the life
span in adult women: The role of self-objectification. Develop-
mental Psychology, 37(2), 243–253. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.37.
Tiggemann, M., Martins, Y., & Kirkbride, A. (2007). Oh to be lean
and muscular: Body image ideals in gay and heterosexual men.
Psychology of Men and Masculinity, 8, 15–24. doi:10.1037/
Tod, D., Edwards, C., & Hall, G. (2013). Drive for leanness and
health-related behavior within a social/cultural perspective. Body
Image, 10(4), 640–643. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2013.05.002.
Varangis, E., Lanzieri, N., Hildebrandt, T., & Feldman, M. (2012).
Gay male attraction toward muscular men: Does mating context
matter? Body Image, 9(2), 270–278. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2012.
Waller, G., Cordery, H., Corstorphine, E., Hinrichsen, H., Lawson, R.,
Mountford, V., & Russell, K. (2007). Cognitive behavioral
therapy for eating disorders. A comprehensive treatment guide.
New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Wheeler, L., & Miyake, K. (1992). Social comparison in everyday
life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 62(5), 760.
Whitfield, G., & Davidson, A. (2007). Cognitive behavior therapy
explained. Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing Ltd.
Wilson, G. T., Rossiter, E., Kleifield, E. I., & Lindholm, L. (1986).
Cognitive-behavioral treatment of bulimia nervosa: A controlled
evaluation. Behavior Research and Therapy, 24(3), 277–288.
Yelland, C., & Tiggemann, M. (2003). Muscularity and the gay ideal:
Body dissatisfaction and disordered eating in homosexual men.
Eating Behaviors, 4, 107–116. doi:10.1016/S1471-0513(03)
Nicholas Lanzieri, Ph.D, LCSW currently works with university
students providing wellness related services and teaches part-time at
NYU’s Silver School of Social Work.
Tom Hildebrandt, PsyD is the Director of the Eating and Weight
Disorders Program at Mount Sinai Hospital and Assistant Professor of
Psychiatry a the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Clin Soc Work J (2016) 44:105–113 113
... Consistent with objectification theory, researchers have conceptualized and examined sexual orientation as a sociocultural risk factor that heightens men's body image concerns (Calzo et al., 2016;Frederick & Essayli, 2016;Lanzieri & Hildebrandt, 2016). Westernized societies value traditional expressions of masculinity, such as a hypermuscular physique. ...
... Within the gay community, such muscular images have been idealized even more because many gay men believe that the association between hypermuscularity and masculinity helps them contradict society's heterosexist views of gay men as physically inferior and even feminine (Frederick & Essayli, 2016). Thus, gay men may be especially prone to internalize such appearance standards and to pay particular attention to their own and others' physical attractiveness (Lanzieri & Hildebrandt, 2016;Smith, Hawkeswood, Bodell, & Joiner, 2011), resulting in body shame and dissatisfaction and their engagement in self-objectifying behaviors, such as appearance checking and monitoring (Lanzieri & Hildebrandt, 2016;Martins et al., 2007;Michaels, Parent, & Moradi, 2013). High levels of body dissatisfaction among gay men commonly are associated with increased investment in appearance creation and maintenance, and a greater likelihood of participating in unhealthy eating behaviors (e.g., extreme dieting) to achieve a physical appearance ideal that is in many ways unattainable (Blashill, 2010;Boisvert & Harrell, 2009;Russell & Keel, 2002). ...
... Within the gay community, such muscular images have been idealized even more because many gay men believe that the association between hypermuscularity and masculinity helps them contradict society's heterosexist views of gay men as physically inferior and even feminine (Frederick & Essayli, 2016). Thus, gay men may be especially prone to internalize such appearance standards and to pay particular attention to their own and others' physical attractiveness (Lanzieri & Hildebrandt, 2016;Smith, Hawkeswood, Bodell, & Joiner, 2011), resulting in body shame and dissatisfaction and their engagement in self-objectifying behaviors, such as appearance checking and monitoring (Lanzieri & Hildebrandt, 2016;Martins et al., 2007;Michaels, Parent, & Moradi, 2013). High levels of body dissatisfaction among gay men commonly are associated with increased investment in appearance creation and maintenance, and a greater likelihood of participating in unhealthy eating behaviors (e.g., extreme dieting) to achieve a physical appearance ideal that is in many ways unattainable (Blashill, 2010;Boisvert & Harrell, 2009;Russell & Keel, 2002). ...
In a sample of 676 men, we examined (a) the relationship between men’s eating disorder (ED) classification (asymptomatic vs. symptomatic/clinical) to theoretically and empirically identified psychosocial correlates (i.e., body image concerns, sociocultural pressures, internalization processes and depressive symptomatology), and (b) determined the extent to which sexual orientation moderated those relationships. To test our hypotheses, we used the PROCESS v2.16 macro. Consistent with the tenets of objectification theory as well as past research, the men, regardless of sexual orientation, who were classified as symptomatic/clinical reported more sociocultural pressures, greater internalization and appearance comparisons, stronger investment in their appearance, greater body dissatisfaction and shame, and more depressive symptomatology than did those who were asymptomatic. Further, independent of ED classification, the gay men in our sample reported higher levels of distress across all the outcomes than those who were heterosexual. Sexual orientation moderated the ED relationships with pressures to be lean, appearance orientation, and body shame such that the relationships were stronger for gay men who were symptomatic/clinical than the other groups (e.g., asymptomatic gay men, symptomatic/clinical heterosexual men). The current study supports existing literature that indicates a relationship between level of ED classification and various psychosocial outcomes in men, particularly for those who identify as gay.
... According to Lanzieri and Hildebrandt (2016), gay media intentionally generate and publish hypermasculine physiques to attract more male attention. Consistent with objectification theory, these hypermasculine media images (i.e. ...
... These findings are consistent with objectification theory (Fredrickson & Roberts, 1997;Noll & Fredrickson, 1998), and past research that has demonstrated that the gay community, which is very body-focused, hypermasculinised, and concerned with overall physical appearance, creates pressures that may lead to (a) internalization (e.g. Frederick & Essayli, 2016;Joy & Numer, 2018;Lanzieri & Hildebrandt, 2016;VanKim, Porta, Eisenberg, Neumark-Sztainer, & Laska, 2016) and (b) dissatisfaction and shame associated with current body size and shape and, in particular, a drive to be leaner (Alleva, Paraskeva, Craddock, & Diedrichs, 2018;Davids, Watson, Nilsson, & Marszalek, 2015;Mayo & George, 2014;Murray & Touyz, 2012). Due to these pressures within the gay community, gay men's drive for leanness may be a sign of sexual objectification and body image pathology, and thus not simply the pursuit of a healthy body (Smolak & Murnen, 2008). ...
... Bachmann and Simon (2014) suggested that gay men's lower SWL may be caused by gay-related stress that arises from internalized homonegativity, discrimination, and/or social oppression. Life satisfaction can also be affected by feelings of marginalization, rejection, and isolation within the gay community for those men who want to, but do not, approximate the mesomorphic standards of attractiveness (Lanzieri & Hildebrandt, 2016;Wood, 2004). ...
The current study examined the relationship between appearance and performance enhancing drug use and the men’s sexual orientation to body image and psychological well-being in a sample of 537 heterosexual men and 146 gay men. Using objectification theory as a framework, we proposed that gay men who used appearance and performance enhancing drugs (APEDs) would report the most distress across our measures of body image, internalization, and psychological well-being. Although our results did not support our hypothesized interaction between APED use and sexual orientation, we did find significant main effects as expected. Solely considering APED use, men who used both leanness and muscle-building products reported higher levels of body shame than did those who did not use either product. Furthermore, our findings are consistent with other research that has found direct relationships between the internalization of an athletic ideal and a predilection to use legal and illicit muscle enhancing supplements. Contrary to expectations, APED use was not significantly related to the men’s psychological well-being. As expected, gay men reported higher levels of internalization and more body image concerns, compared to the heterosexual men, which may contribute to lower satisfaction with life and higher neuroticism.
... With physical appearances portrayed in the media becoming the aesthetic standards against which the adolescents compared their physical appearances, these individuals were likely to experience difficulties to live up to the standards (Cash and Smolak, 2011;Witeck and Combs, 2006). Given the prominent media portraits of Thai homosexual males in the entertainment industry, together with past reports that homosexual males were particularly influenced by the media and the potential collectivist pressure for the individuals to conform to ideal group social self-presentation norms (Lanzieri and Hildebrandt, 2016), the role of media internalization in homosexual Thai males should be of particular significance. ...
... We selected Thai homosexual adolescents as a relevant sample for the study. Given the relative acceptance in Thai culture of homosexuality (Beren et al., 1996), we found that the degree to which homosexual males were portrayed in the media was relatively high (Lanzieri and Hildebrandt, 2016) and justified empirical examination of media influence in the internationalization of homosexual males' body image ideal. Additionally, because of the relative acceptance, these individuals were less likely to be stigmatized but more open in their reflection of factors that contributed to body dissatisfaction. ...
Full-text available
The debilitating impact of body image dissatisfaction has been well-documented, leading to attempts to propose ways to alleviate the dissatisfaction. These proposals are drawn primarily from findings from studies on female youth. The current study extends this work, and contributes to an emerging initiative to attempt to reduce body image dissatisfaction in homosexual male youth. Past empirical findings have identified these adolescents to be particularly prone to body image dissatisfaction. With the formal operational stage of cognitive development, adolescents are particularly self-conscious and scrutinize their body image more critically, leading to body image dissatisfaction. The aim of the current study was to identify a potential protective factor that might help reduce the impact of body scrutinization in Thai homosexual male adolescents. These participants were selected due to the relative lack of published research on body image in Asian homosexual males. Additionally, despite its orientation toward the collectivistic fulfillment of social roles and obligations, Thai culture is quite accepting of sexual minorities. Homosexual male body image ideals are portrayed in the media with relatively high frequency. For this reason, internalization of media influence was selected as a potential mediator of the relationship between body scrutinization and body image dissatisfaction. Data were collected from 114 Thai homosexual male youths who responded to online questionnaires measuring body scrutinization, media internalization, and body image dissatisfaction. As hypothesized, findings demonstrated that body scrutinization significantly predicted both body image dissatisfaction and media internalization. Media internalization significantly but partially mediated the relationship between body scrutinization and body image dissatisfaction. Implications were discussed in terms of the preventative and therapeutic potentials for reducing media influence on body image dissatisfaction when the scrutinization was engaged.
... In comparison to heterosexual men, gay men are more at risk of self-objectification due to the sexualized subculture of the gay community with concomitant body shame and disordered eating (Lanzieri & Hildebrandt, 2016;Schaefer et al., 2018). This contributes to a more critical perception of self-appearance and bodies, particularly in relation to body shape and weight gain (Peplau et al., 2009), with higher rates of anti-fat bias being reported in the gay community (Bailey et al., 1997;Foster-Gimbel & Engeln, 2016). ...
Full-text available
Existing research investigating gay men’s eating behavior has focused on stereotypes and body image, rather than to understand why disordered eating is prevalent in gay men. The current study adopted a qualitative approach and employed interview methodology to explore gay men’s attitudes, feelings and experiences of their eating behavior, and the potential link to mindfulness and self-compassion. Twenty gay men aged from 21 to 51 years were interviewed using an interview schedule with open-ended questions. Three main themes emerged from the transcript data sets: “Lean to be Seen,” “Sod it ‘I’ll Have a Pizza,” and “You Can’t Sit with Us.” The first theme was developed following responses that participant’s eating behavior and exercise engagement were influenced by their perceived attractiveness by the gay community. All participants spoke of achieving or maintaining a slim or muscular body type and adopted their eating behavior or exercise regime to reach corresponding goals. The second theme relates to the lack of acceptance felt from the gay community upon not conforming to the bodily expectations set out by the community. The third theme relates to the conflicts in participants’ attitudes around how exercising and eating healthily would improve their mental well-being; but that they also would give preference to calorie dense foods to reduce stress. These reflections are observed through a context of self-kindness and self-compassion and are seen to be related to increased feelings of self-criticism and body dissatisfaction. The limitations and implication for this research and suggestions for future research are discussed.
... The current study also demonstrated cross-gender groups' similarities, thus gay men and heterosexual women reported similar levels of PSC. This result is in line with prior results showing similarities between gay men and heterosexual women on body image concomitants (Lanzieri and Hildebrandt 2016;Schneider et al. 1995). These similarities are usually explained through objectification theory which suggests that both for women and for gay men there is an enhanced pressure for the body to reflect cultural standards of attractiveness (Frederick et al. 2007). ...
Full-text available
The current study aimed to compare Israeli gay men and lesbian women with their heterosexual counterparts on their physical self-concept (PSC) and to further assess the association between PSC and depressive symptoms as a function of sexual orientation. Gay men (n = 142) were compared with heterosexual men (n = 90), and lesbian women (n = 82) were compared with heterosexual women (n = 214), all of whom who completed measures of PSC and depressive symptoms. Results indicated that gay men reported lower positive PSC in comparison to heterosexual men, whereas no differences emerged between lesbian and heterosexual women on PSC. Also, a stronger negative association was found between PSC and depressive symptoms among gay, in comparison to heterosexual, men whereas no moderation for sexual orientation was found for women. The findings may be explained in terms of the social environment surrounding gay men which places an emphasis on the body and appearance, as well as in terms of gender role socialization and communication regarding the prime role of physical appearance for women, regardless of sexual orientation. The PSC vulnerability that emerges for gay men in our study seems particularly relevant to mental health professionals working with sexual minorities.
... We did not, however, find elevated odds of UWCBs based on sexual orientation. Prior research have found sexual minority men to be at greater risk for eating disorders, such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa, compared with heterosexual men [40][41][42]; studies also suggest that sexual minority men place high priority on physical attractiveness and thinness [43,44], as well as increased desire for muscularity [45]. . With the tremendous growth in their usage in the U.S. [1], and an increasing number of studies linking their use to body image concerns and UWCBs, there is an urgency to further understand how dating apps influence health behaviors and outcomes.. ...
Full-text available
Background: Online dating has become increasingly popular over the years. Few research studies have examined the association between dating apps and disordered eating. In this study, we evaluated the association between dating app use and unhealthy weight control behaviors (UWCBs) among a sample of U.S. adults. Methods: Our sample includes 1769 adults who completed an online survey assessing dating app use and UWCBs in the past year. Survey assessed participants' self-reported frequency of using dating apps within the past 30 days and engagement in six UWCBs with the purpose of lowering weight or changing their body shape within the past 12 months. UWCBs included vomiting, laxative use, fasting, diet pill use, muscle building supplement use, and use of anabolic steroids. Results: Results of multivariate logistic regression models suggest dating app users had substantially elevated odds of UWCBs compared with non-users (odds ratios [OR] range = 2.7-16.2). These findings were supported by results of additional gender-stratified multivariate logistic regression analyses among women and men. Conclusions: This study's findings contribute to the limited literature exploring the association between dating app use and adverse health outcomes, particularly UWCBs. While additional longitudinal and representative research is needed, public health professionals ought to explore dating app use as a potential risk factor for UWCBs.
... Research has shown that men with body image concerns are more likely to work out, consume protein supplements and steroids, and diet (Cafri et al., 2005;McCreary, Sasse, Saucier, & Dorsch, 2004). Men who have sex with men (MSM) are often considered to be more obsessed with muscularity and attaining their ideal body type than straight men (Lanzieri & Hildebrandt, 2016). ...
Body image research with men who have sex with men (MSM) has largely focused on White MSM. The current study aimed to investigate whether men of color who have sex with men (MCSM) report similar levels of body dissatisfaction as White MSM. We also studied whether (a) the experience of sexual racism, a unique stressor for MCSM, is related to body dissatisfaction and (b) body image inflexibility moderates the relationship between sexual racism and muscularity-oriented behaviors. White MSM and MCSM (total N = 887) recruited through Amazon Mechanical Turk completed questionnaires assessing body dissatisfaction, body image flexibility, and experienced sexual racism on Qualtrics. We found that MCSM report more engagement in behaviors aimed at changing their bodies than White MSM. Additionally, experiencing sexual racism was related to higher body dissatisfaction and body image inflexibility in MCSM. In addition, body image inflexibility moderated by strengthening the association between experiencing sexual racism and muscularity-oriented behaviors. The present study highlights the need for further research with this understudied population, including intervention studies on mitigating the impact of experiencing sexual racism by increasing psychological and body image flexibility and studies aimed at reducing the incidence of sexual racism.
Full-text available
Zusammenfassung Die Wahrscheinlichkeit, eine Essstörung zu entwickeln, unterscheidet sich stark je nach der Geschlechtsidentität und sexuellen Orientierung einer Person. Dies deutet darauf hin, dass Geschlecht eine große Relevanz für Essstörungen besitzt, welche durch psychologische Modellvorstellungen von Essstörungen bisher unzureichend erklärt werden kann. Durch den Einbezug von Erkenntnissen aus der feministischen Theorie und Geschlechterforschung in den theoretischen Hintergrund dieser Arbeit wird es möglich, Geschlecht als komplexes Konstrukt zu fassen, welches körperliche, psychologische, soziale und kulturelle Aspekte integriert, und dieses Konstrukt für die Erweiterung des Verständnisses von Essstörungen fruchtbar zu machen. Das empirische Vorgehen folgte der Methodologie der Grounded Theory. Es wurden 14 narrative Interviews mit ehemals von Anorexie oder Bulimie betroffenen Personen geführt, ausgewertet und zu einem theoretischen Modell integriert. Die Ergebnisse zeigen, dass an Geschlecht und Sexualität geknüpfte Erfahrungen, Erlebensweisen und Auseinandersetzungsprozesse auf unterschiedliche Weise den Selbst- und Körperbezug der betroffenen Personen kennzeichnen und sowohl für die Entwicklung der Essstörung als auch für positive Veränderungsprozesse relevant sind. Der Fokus liegt dabei auf normativen Konstruktionen von Weiblichkeit und auf geschlechtlicher Diversität. Die Ergebnisse bieten wichtige Implikationen sowohl für ätiologische als auch für therapeutische Modelle. Abstract The risk for developing an eating disorder differs strongly depending on a person‘s gender identity and sexual orientation. This implicates that gender is relevant for eating disorders in a way that is not yet sufficiently explained by psychological models. By including insights of feminist theory and gender research into the theoretical background of this study it becomes possible to grasp gender as a complex construct that integrates bodily, psychological, social and cultural aspects, and to use this construct to improve the understanding of eating disorders. The empirical process was carried out according to Grounded Theory methodology. 14 narrative interviews with persons formerly affected by anorexia or bulimia were conducted, analyzed and integrated into a theoretical model. Results show that social experiences and psychological processes connected to gender and sexuality characterize the ways in which the affected persons relate to themselves and their bodies and that they are relevant for the development of the eating disorder as well as for positive change. The focus here is on normative constructions of femininity and gender/sexual diversity. Results provide important implications for etiological as well as therapeutic models.
This study explores the body image ideals among a racially/ethnically diverse sample of gay and bisexual men in the United States. Furthermore, it examines the role body image ideals play on mobile dating applications (“dating apps”) for gay and bisexual men. Guided by Objectification Theory and Minority Stress Theory, 30 semi-structured interviews were conducted with young gay and bisexual men (ages 18-30 years) in Massachusetts. Using thematic analysis, three central themes emerged: 1) the ideal male body: muscular, thin, and light-skin toned; 2) discrimination; 3) navigating deviations from the ideal body: appearance comparison, retaliation, and body regulation and weight control behaviors. Our results suggest the dominant ideal male body is muscular and thin. Racial/ethnic minority participants added this ideal is further characterized as white/light-skin toned. Further, participants reported a wide variety of discriminatory experiences on dating apps, especially men deviating from the dominant body ideal. Over half of the men in our sample who reported use of dating apps recounted at least one experience of racial/ethnic discrimination or body weight and shape discrimination on dating apps. While some dating apps have modified their policies to promote inclusivity, further research into the impact of dating app-mediated discrimination are warranted.
Full-text available
Psychological research of the body disproportionately centers on body-appearance concerns. Grounded in women's experience of objectification, it neglects much of men's bodily experience. To address this we introduce Masculine Body Ideologies (MBI), a set of belief systems that prescribe how men should engage with their bodies. Three MBI ideal-types are identified and situated within broader masculinity ideologies: unattended, functional body ideology associated with traditional masculinity rooted in modern industrial society; metrosexual body ideology associated with post-industrial, consumer masculinity and reemploying signifiers of body functionality to form an objectified body esthetics; and holistic body ideology emphasizing inner-harmony, authenticity and expressivity, manifesting post-industrial trends of self-aware masculinity. As a normative framework, MBI underscores how similar body practices may be motivated by different body concerns associated with alternative body ideologies. This framework can clarify conceptual and empirical inconsistencies in studies of male body-appearance concerns and inform emerging research and mental-health considerations.
Full-text available
The development of eating disorders including anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating disorder, and atypical eating disorders that affect many young women and even men in the productive period of their lives is complex and varied. While numbers of presumed risk factors contributing to the development of eating disorders are increasing, previous evidence for biological, psychological, developmental, and sociocultural effects on the development of eating disorders have not been conclusive. Despite the fact that a huge body of research has carefully examined the possible risk factors associated with the eating disorders, they have failed not only to uncover the exact etiology of eating disorders, but also to understand the interaction between different causes of eating disorders. This failure may be due complexities of eating disorders, limitations of the studies or combination of two factors. In this review, some risk factors including biological, psychological, developmental, and sociocultural are discussed.
Full-text available
This article offers objectification theory as a framework for understanding the experiential consequences of being female in a culture that sexually objectifies the female body. Objectification theory posits that girls and women are typically acculturated to internalize an observer's perspective as a primary view of their physical selves. This perspective on self can lead to habitual body monitoring, which, in turn, can increase women's opportunities for shame and anxiety, reduce opportunities for peak motivational states, and diminish awareness of internal bodily states. Accumulations of such experiences may help account for an array of mental health risks that disproportionately affect women: unipolar depression, sexual dysfunction, and eating disorders. Objectification theory also illuminates why changes in these mental health risks appear to occur in step with life-course changes in the female body.
Psychology, it has recently been said, has “gone cognitive” (Dember, 1974). Moreover, judging from an examination of the theoretical and dinical literature, behavior therapy has followed suit (Bandura, 1974; Mahoney, 1974). The attention devoted to cognitive variables in behavior therapy has grown steadily in the 1970s (Franks and Wilson, 1973–77), and several recent developments have tended to make formal this trend toward a cognitive mediational model of the modification of behavior. These have included pertinent publications (e.g., Beck, 1976; Meichenbaum, 1976), the appearance of the journal Cognitive Therapy and Research, and an inaugural convention on “cognitive behavior therapy” in New York City in 1976.
This book describes the application of cognitive behavioural principles to patients with a wide range of eating disorders - it covers those with straightforward problems and those with more complex conditions or co-morbid states. The book takes a highly pragmatic view. It is based on the published evidence, but stresses the importance of individualized, principle-based clinical work. It describes the techniques within the widest clinical context, for use across the age range and from referral to discharge. Throughout the text, the links between theory and practice are highlighted in order to stress the importance of the flexible application of skills to each new situation. Case studies and sample dialogs are employed to demonstrate the principles in action and the book concludes with a set of useful handouts for patients and other tools. This book will be essential reading for all those working with eating-disordered patients including psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, counsellors, dieticians, and occupational therapists. © G. Waller, H. Cordery, E. Corstorphine, H. Hinrichsen, R. Lawson, V. Mountford & K. Russell 2007.
A content analysis is presented of sole-male images appearing in advertisements obtained from Business Week, Esquire, GQ, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and Sports Illustrated for the year 1993. Only two previous studies have looked exclusively at male images in magazine advertisements. The specific objective of the study was to describe the physical characteristics of the men appearing alone in advertisements. Body characteristics, hairstyles, facial hair, body and head positionings, dimensions of eye contact, clothing styles, and types of adornment were appraised for each male image. The results indicate some uniformity of sole-male images across magazine titles as well as interesting differences. The study establishes a foundation for future research on the portrayal of men in advertising. Suggestions for future research are offered.
This study content-analyzed 1,578 male images from the highest-circulation magazines targeted to gay men, The Advocate and Out, from 1967 to 2008. Social comparison theory served as a theoretical framework. Images consistently had low levels of body fat and high levels of muscularity. Moreover, the percentage of images with the lowest level of body fat increased over time while the percentage of images with the highest level of muscularity also increased. Compared to magazines directed toward heterosexual men, images directed toward gay men were about as muscular but substantially thinner.