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Sexy women in lad magazines make men unsure of themselves

Women feel unsure about their bodies as a result of media bombardment from pictures of the ideal female body. Known fact. Men feel unsure as a result of all the photos of trained supermen that they see every day on TV, in fitness magazines or in computer games. Known fact. And now American psychologists at the University of Missouri are saying that men also become more unsure from looking at photos from scantily clad women in magazines like Stuff, Maxim and FHM. That's news!

Sexy women in lad magazines make men unsure of themselves
Magazines aimed at men, like Maxim, deliver a double message. On the one hand they promote a type of woman that is lithe and attractive and lives off a diet of cucumbers, implying that it's better to have a relationship with this kind of woman than one who lives off a diet of crisps and Coke. At the same time they also convey a message that men need to have a lot to offer if they are to stand a chance of scoring a woman like this. The men portrayed in the lad magazines are often rich, wear expensive clothes, as well as being handsome and well muscled. "The take-home message might be: relationships are important insofar as they provide opportunities for sex, but they are also dangerous because they introduce the possibility of being rejected", the researchers write in summary.

To find out whether this theory hold water, the researchers carried out experiments with male students. The students had to look at material from lad magazines, and then fill in a questionnaire. Their answers told the researchers how confident the students felt about their own body and whether they felt they should be improving their body through diet and exercise.

The researchers did experiments in which they got one group of students to read lad magazines and the other group were given other types of stories about relationships. The first group read articles about how important it is to have impressive pectorals if you are to stand a chance of scoring a woman of unearthly beauty. The other group read interviews with ordinary women, for example in which they said that they also found geeks attractive.

After reading, the students who had read the typical lad magazine stories were less sure about their body. They were less satisfied about and more aware of their appearance. They had become less confident in their interaction with women and indicated more frequently that they felt they should be working on their body.

The results are not entirely new. In a study that was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin in 1999, psychologists at Northern Illinois University wrote that men who had looked at adverts showing scantily clad women suddenly thought their bodies were not so muscled, and indicated more often that they really would like to be more muscular. [PSPB, Vol. 25 No. 8, August 1999 1049-1058.]

Human Communication Research 35 (2009) 2858.

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