Study: Body shame diminishes relationship hopes

May 23rd, 2013 | By | Category: 2013, Issue, May 23, Research

It’s no longer just Barbie dolls that evoke a sense of unattainable beauty. Now, it seems G.I. Joe’s biceps and six-pack abs are doing the same. Increasingly, objectification and heightened masculinity in images of men is saturating popular culture and the media.

A new UNL study examines how this objectification affects men’s body image and how that in turn affects men’s hopes of developing social and romantic relationships.

Specifically, the study found that young men who are more self-aware of their appearance are more likely to have body shame — and are less likely to be hopeful of developing social and romantic relationships.

Brian Cole, a psychology graduate student, worked with Meghan Davidson, assistant professor of educational psychology, and Sarah Gervais, assistant professor of psychology, to look at how body image and body shame can lead to lowered hope in college-aged men.

Cole said the study is among the first to look more closely at these specific effects related to objectification of men.

“We’re becoming more aware of men being objectified,” Cole said. “There is also a larger awareness of the socialization of men. Boys are socialized in their gender. There is a study that looked at action figures and how they’ve changed since the ‘70s. They’ve become much bulkier, more muscular. That was the impetus for this study.”

The next step, researchers said, is to look at a broader spectrum of men. They said they believe that their new findings will likely hold true in gay men, but not as men age.

The scientists are also hoping to bring the line of research into a laboratory setting to study how direct body-shaming feedback affects general hope.


— Deann Gayman, University Communications

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