Recent reviews have challenged the view that gay men are at higher risk than heterosexual men for developing poor body image. The current project examined the extent to which gay and heterosexual men differed on measures related to body image. We also examined whether body mass index (BMI) moderated the association between sexual orientation and body image. Across 5 studies, 111,958 heterosexual men and 4,398 gay men completed surveys assessing different aspects of body image. Gay men generally reported lower body satisfaction than heterosexual men, but these differences were typically small (most ds <.20). Gay men were more likely than heterosexual men to report dissatisfaction with their physical appearance (29 vs. 21%) and muscle size/tone (45 vs. 30%), but not weight (44 vs. 39%). Gay men were also more likely to agree that they experienced objectification (d =40; 77% agree vs. 61% agree), surveillance (d =50; 58 vs. 39%), appearance-based social comparison (d =45; 68 vs. 51%), and pressure from the media to be attractive (d =68; 58 vs. 29%). Odds ratios showed that gay men were more likely to consider cosmetic surgery (3.96), use diet pills (2.59), diet in the past year to lose weight (1.84), and avoid sex because of body dissatisfaction (6.28). BMI was a strong predictor of body dissatisfaction in men, but did not consistently moderate the association between sexual orientation and body image. Differences between heterosexual and gay men were largest on measures assessing body modification and perceived sociocultural pressures.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Gender Studies
- Social Psychology
- Applied Psychology
- Life-span and Life-course Studies