Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Predictors of Men's Genital Self-Image across Sexual Orientation and Geographic Region

Academic journal article The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality

Predictors of Men's Genital Self-Image across Sexual Orientation and Geographic Region

Article excerpt

Factors that contribute to men's genital self-image are not well known, despite the documented psychological importance of body image more broadly. The current study used a simultaneous multiple regression to examine the relationship(s) between genital self-image, body image, pornography use, circumcision status, age, and social appearance anxiety among men from different geographic locations, and of differing sexual orientations (N = 674). Participants were recruited from Canada (n = 285), the United States (n = 214), and Western Europe (n = 121) through online recruitment methods. A total of 372 gay men/other men who have sex with men (MSM) and 302 heterosexual men were included in the present analyses. Men's genital self-image was significantly predicted by self-perceived body image and social appearance anxiety. Further univariate and multivariate analyses discussed include age, sexual orientation, country of origin, solo porn use, and circumcision status. Implications of the continued importance of parsing the differences between genital self-image and related variables for understanding sexual functioning and overall selfesteem are discussed.

KEY WORDS: Body image, Genital self-image, heterosexual men, male circumcision, MSM, pornography use, social appearance anxiety


The conceptualization of the ideal male body has changed throughout history (Rudd, 2014); however, it still remains less frequently discussed in comparison to female body image (Abbott & Barber, 2010; Pope, Olivardia, Gruber, & Borowiecki, 1999). A mesomorphic body type, characterized by low body fat and large defined muscles is socially promoted as the ideal form for the contemporary man (Law & Labre, 2002). Men who do not meet this "ideal" may feel psychological dissatisfaction about their height, amount of body fat, and muscular definition--and this dissatisfaction has been linked to depression, social appearance awareness, and eating disorders (Blashill, 2010). Previous literature has found Social Comparison Theory appropriate when looking at body image across groups, in that, 1) individuals have a drive to evaluate themselves, 2) in the absence of objective, non-social criteria, individuals engage in social comparison of their bodies, and 3) social comparisons are made with similar others, wherever possible (Morrison, Kalin, & Morrison, 2004). Diet supplements/ steroids, dramatic dieting behaviours, and excessive exercise are associated with body dissatisfaction in men, which often occurs as a result of body comparisons to peers and the media's portrayal of ideal male body images (Diedrichs & Lee, 2010; Karazsia & Crowther, 2009).

Men's perceptions of their body image rest on two psychosocial concepts: the internalization of societal ideals about the male body, and social comparison processes (Karazsia & Crowther, 2009). Social Comparison Theory suggests that men develop an ideal body image based on self-evaluation of one's own appearance against their peers (Festinger, 1954), and this evaluation contributes to lower levels of satisfaction with their own appearance. For example, men with high body fat have been shown to display less body satisfaction when comparing their appearance to men with higher muscle tone (Karazsia & Crowther, 2009). While some studies have revealed that women's perceptions of their body image are impacted to a larger extent by the media than their male counterparts, it has also been suggested that men still largely shape their perceptions of body image based on the media's portrayal of men (Diedrichs & Lee, 2010). The rise in technology (picture/video editing, and airbrushing) has also contributed to creating unrealistic expectations for men's body image (Morrison, Ellis, Morrison, Bearden, 8c Harriman, 2007; Filiault & Drummond, 2009).

Sexual interactions present scenarios in which body image is highly salient because one's body is on display, it is the focus of activity, and high performance demands are present. …

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