Thursday, May 14, 2009

Do lesbians have better body image?

That's the intriguing suggestion made by this study, published in the March issue of the Journal of Women's Health (which is currently online free in honor of Women's Health Month). This study of young Australian women showed that lesbians had better body image than either bisexual or mainly heterosexual women. They were less dissatisfied with their weight and shape (notice the phrasing here: "less dissatisfied" as opposed to "happy with"), and less likely to engage in what researchers call "unhealthy weight control behaviors"--i.e., smoking, using laxatives, weight cycling, and skipping meals.

I could speculate as to what's behind this--couldn't we all?--but I'd love to know more. "Understanding why lesbians have a healthier body image would also provide insights into how to improve the body image of other groups," write the study's authors. Indeed.


Cassandra Says said...

It's depressing that "less dissatisfied" is apparently the best case scenario for women and body image.

I'd still love to see more research into this, though.

Anonymous said...

I would hypothesize that a principal reason is that men are more visually critical than women. Heterosexual women and gay men are the target audiences of men, who are visual critics, and they are effected by the judgment, reasonably. Lesbians and heterosexual men, in general, don't face the same visual scrutiny. _The Origins of Desire_ is a fairly recent book that discusses research that relates to this.

Anonymous said...

Prolly because straight woman are more sensitive to the never-ending stream of messages shoved at us through media that men desire women who are MODELS (or just look like them).

Easier for lesbians to say 'what do i care what the men want' than for the woman who is straight and is trying to find one of these guys to be with. ('Men like woman who look like *that*, I must look like *that* so that men will like me, I don't look like that - HATE MYSELF)

Pretty sure that its accepted that woman in general find a larger range of physical types attractive than men do.

Men are 'attractive' to woman from slight to bulk, from young to old, even short to tall. Woman are deemed attractive if they fall within a much more limited set of characteristics AND their appearance makes up a larger % of their overall attractiveness to men.

Presumably Lesbians are equally broadminded wrt their girlfriends as their straight sisters are wrt their boyfriends. So if you're a lesbian - easier to believe that your potential partner is looking at you beyond your 'numbers'. That you gaining five lbs isn't going to send her chasing after her secretary, or telling her friends that you're turning into a cow.

Rachel said...

I don't know about lesbians in general, although one of my good lesbian friends has struggled with her weight nearly all her life and even after undergoing WLS, still has body image issues. But my good friend Ryan has done some research into how gay men have high levels of body dissatisfaction and higher levels of eating disorders than straight men. I just found a documentary that has been made on gay men and eating disorders the other day called Do I Look Fat?

Rachel said...

I would hypothesize that a principal reason is that men are more visually critical than women.I don't think so. I think women are more critical of other women than men are often times.

G said...

I'm not sure if I agree 100% with the researchers findings there are so many other factors that infulence body image that sexual and gender idenity could only give one a partial understanding.
I'm a lesbian and sure I don't worry about appealing to a male gaze but the doesn't mean I've been give a "get out of body hate card." The more I think about this study it just rubs me the wrong way.

LC said...

I can believe that lesbians have a better self-image on average due to a greater awareness of feminism. If you reject the norm of heterosexuality than maybe you are more ready to reject oppressive body shaming.

Of course, lesbians have plenty of body issues. I'm a size 10 lesbian and in my last relationship, my extremely thin girlfriend used to make me feel fat because I was "so huge" compared to her. I spent a lot of time feeling resentful and crappy about that.

And maybe it's because I'm a femmey lesbian, but I have found that I actually do judge myself by what men think of me sometimes -- I won't date or sleep with those men, but it has been ingrained in my brain that if men think I'm fuckable, I must look hot / beautiful. And even though I don't want romantic attention from men, I want to believe that I am pretty. (I know it's messed up.)

shannon said...

i read this link earlier today.
as a lesbian, i'd have to say that i don't find myself at ALL more comfortable in my body than say, a non-lesbian.
my eating disorder has never been about attracting a sexual partner, so it was sort of a non-issue.
perhaps the confusion with my sexuality (or rather, the SQUELCHING of it) for so long made it even more difficult.
i think that anyone who is comfortable as a sexual being in a FULL way (meaning body, mind and spirit) regardless of sexual preference might just be a lot more self assured in their body image.

Anonymous said...

There may be something to this, I think men are more focused on looks and less on character/personality. I don't specifically know about lesbians, but there are so many salons in this town that do back, butt and ball waxing that I don't think body shame is just for women.

Harriet said...

Butt and ball waxing? Now I've heard everything.