Males vs. Females

Various studies have been conducted for decades that show that self-esteem is consistently related to body image dissatisfaction for women, and women consistently exhibit a more negative body image than men. Even when both men and women are consistent exercisers, the women have poorer body image.  Consequently, these studies also demonstrate that historically, there have been sex differences in body image.

Some statistics about the differences between the sexes and percieved body image:

  • In two large national surveys, women have reported greater body dissatisfaction than have men (Cash & Henry, 1995; Garner, 1997).
  • Across all ages, women have reported being more concerned with body weight and appearance (Pliner, Chaiken & Flett, 1990).
  • Moreover, women report experiencing more negative feelings when they are attentive to their bodies than do men (Franzoi, Kessenich, & Sugrue, 1989), they have a greater discrepancy between their ideal and actual body figures (Rozin & Fallon, 1998), and they tend to perceive themselves as larger or heavier than they actually are (Cash & Green, 1986).
  • Adame and Frank (1990) found that among normal weight women (women who are neither medically underweight nor overweight), 61% perceived themselves to be overweight. In contrast, men, regardless of their actual weight, usually report more positive body images than do women (Demarest & Langer, 1996).
  • Women tend to “feel” overweight much more than do men (Tiggemann, 1992), and men appear to be less obsessed with weight and becoming fat; therefore, pathogenic values related to eating and body size is lower among men (Akande, 1993).

Women are genetically and biologically predisposed to have a higher percentage of body fat than men.  This leads to a standard of thinness that is more extreme for women than for men (Rodin, Silberstein, & Striegel-Moore, 1984).  Consequently, there is a stronger relationship between body image dissatisfaction and self-esteem for women. In fact, Kostanski and Gullone (1998) found that being female and having low self-esteem lead to body image dissatisfaction among participants with healthy body weight.

When McDonald and Thompson (1992) examined reasons for exercising, they found that women exercised for more weight-related reasons than did men. In both males and females, exercising for weight, tone, and physical attractiveness was positively associated with body image dissatisfaction.  Conversely, exercising for health, enjoyment, and fitness was negatively related to body image dissatisfaction. Studying men and women who identified themselves as regular exercisers, Davis and Cowles (1991) found that men and women were equally dissatisfied with their weights; however, women wanted to lose weight while men were divided between those with a desire to lose weight and those who wanted to gain weight. Women were more dissatisfied with their bodies and were more likely to exercise to try to lose weight as compared to men. Thus, the motives for exercising may moderate how body image is affected by exercise participation.

These studies show that there is quite a gap in percieved body image for men and women.  Women and men also view the opposite sex differently when it comes to body image.  Women and men alike fall prey to media induced perceptions of physical perfection.  However, women are more likely than men to portray their weight and measurements as other than they are in the online dating arena.  Men are most likely to be dishonest about their height.

In adolescence, when the dating game begins, percieved social desireability can lead to greater dissatisfaction with body image and resulting eating disorders etc.  Many teen girls struggle with social rejection and not fitting into social, societal and peer percieved “norms”.  This time of life is very important because it can influence a young woman’s body image for the rest of her life.  If she is percieved as “overweight” (and therefore undesireable) for example, in high school, it may not matter years later if she loses weight and changes her life.  She may always have that self-percieved image of herself as an overweight girl and this will affect her for an indeterminate amount of time, or at least until she becomes self-aware.

Men and women both struggle with body image issues, but it is much more intense for women because the societal expectations of women, and that women have for themselves, are that much more difficult to achieve.  Many dating websites such as eharmony and stress the importance of a personality match when attempting to pair compatible mates.  However, there are few if any people on these websites that will emotionally invest without a picture to accompany a profile.  As the old adage goes, unfortunately, a picture is still worth a thousand words for most people.

Online Self-Image Test and Dating Website

Statistical data taken from this article on body image and men and women.

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