Swimsuit Season Lies No. 3: Boys Don’t Have Body Issues

BY Cristen Conger / POSTED July 2, 2014
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Boys want an of average 28 lbs extra muscle. (The Image Bank/Getty Images)

*This post is from a series I wrote in 2011: 5 Swimsuit Season Lies and though it might be a vintage blog post now, it’s worth revisiting because “swimsuit season” lies will never go out of fashion, unfortunately.

I’d wager an overwhleming majority of “swimsuit season” anxiety perpetuated by advertising and weight-loss articles are targeted toward women and girls (although Men’s Health is catching up). Why? Because guys don’t have to flaunt it all in a bikini, so they have no reason to be body conscious, right? And since our society tends to judge women’s bodies more harshly, dudes don’t have to search around for less-revealing trunks that minimize their dreaded Trouble Zones.

Not so much.

Swimsuit Season Lie No. 3: Boys Don’t Have Body Image Issues

Of course, everyone experiences some sort of body consciousness at some point, but what about when we go in public in swimsuits? Although most of the swimsuit season angst is directed toward the ladies, plenty of guys get shy about stripping at the pool as well. Huzzah! Insecurity for all!

A study from UCLA aptly titled “The Swimsuit Issue” surveyed around 52,500 heterosexual adults and found that 41 percent of men rated themselves as “too heavy” for a swimsuit, and 11 percent considered their bodies unattractive. Granted, more women expressed dissatisfaction with their physique, but only around 10 percent more. Also, weight spans triggered body consciousness differently in men and women. Being overweight correlated to women’s displeasure, while being underweight elicited negative responses from men.

Brock University psychologist Donald R. McCreary refers to men’s underweight insecurity as “the drive for muscularity.” In a 2005 study comparing men’s body image and expectations of masculinity and gender roles, he notes that boys are just as body conscious as girls, just in a different way. For instance, while many women strive to lose weight, “men’s ideal body size represents an average increase of 28 pounds of muscle and that men feel women are most attracted to a body shape that is, on average, 30 pounds heavier in muscle than their actual size.”

Different flavors of the same insecurities.

So perhaps by recognizing our collective body consciousness and realizing that a lot of us are squeamish about disrobing down to our swimmies, we can all breathe a little easier by the pool. Which we should! It’s summertime, for heaven’s sake.

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