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Fixed and unrealistic images in the media hurt men too

June 25, 2007

Over at MightyPonyGirl, there’s a post about a study that showed boys suffering from poor self-esteem after being prolonged to video gaming magazines.

“First, gaming magazines’ illustrations of exaggeratedly muscular bodies encourage young readers to take notice of the male form. They catch the eye because they depart so drastically from the typical male body.”

In contrast, models in fitness and fashion magazines and athletes in sports magazines, “although fit and well formed, do not look much different from the real men encountered by boys in their everyday lives.”

The second reason why the gaming genre may play a more prominent role in boys’ developing drive for muscularity is that “male video game characters are frequently cast as superheroes, thereby promoting an association between hyper-muscularity and the power, control and agency that superheroes symbolize to children.”

“In a nutshell, we found that exposure to video gaming magazines, which are immensely popular, increased boys’ subsequent drive for muscularity, more than exposure to other, more realistic ‘ideal-body’ magazines like sports, fashion and fitness,” Harrison said. This effect, she said, “was significant regardless of how thin or fat boys perceived themselves to be.”

But that’s not all. In a different twist, the June issue of Pyschology Today has an article about how lad magazines (Maxim, FHM and the like) affect.. *drum roll*.. the male self-esteem too!

According to the study, self-esteem erodes the fastest when males are shown pictures of hot women in wet tshirts.

“But when looking at objectified women, they may be imagining what women want, thinking that if they were more muscular, women would like them,” researcher Jennifer Aubrey said.

So what’s the lesson for today? Fixed and unrealistic media messages pretty much suck all around. In the end, it doesn’t matter whether these images depict men or women – it all adds up to a deflated sense of self worth.

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