Effects of Exposure to Objectified Male Media Images on Boys Psychological Well-Being

According to an article published in APA.org, objectifying men negatively affects boys’ self-esteem.

A recent study conducted by Jamie Farquhar, PhD, a psychology graduate student at Concordia University in Montreal, analyzed how advertisers use models.

Farquhar and his team collected 332 full-page ads published in Sports Illustrated between 1975 and 2005 and rated them based on whether advertisers depicted men as "people in action" or as "aesthetic objects."

To site an example, the researchers rated an ad of a muscular man playing a sport as "people in action," while an ad showing just a muscular male chest and torso is rated as "aesthetic objects."

The researchers found that using men as "aesthetic objects" in ads increased over the 1975-2005 period.

In a follow-up study, the researcher created 20 ads, half of which showed male models as people doing various activities, while the other half used images of the male body parts like biceps, chest, or abs.

The researchers then showed the ads to 107 grade-school boys, and then surveyed them about self-esteem.

The researchers were surprised to find that boys who looked at images of "disembodied" male body parts or of posed models showed diminished self-esteem. In contrast, boys who looked at images of models engaged in various activities showed increased self-esteem. This particularly surprised Farquhar, because he expected that the boys would compare themselves "unfavorably" to all models, posed or not.

"I was really shocked by that because…both types of images contain an ideal male," says Farquhar.

Perhaps it has something to do with the "skill" presented on the "people in action" images. "It’s possible that by focusing on skills-such as tennis-the boys were distracted from thinking critically about their bodies," he adds.

Farquhar also says that "while advertisements showing fragments of idealized male bodies may be bad for boys, they are probably good at moving cologne."

"When someone feels dissatisfied with some aspect of themselves, it may be easier to market a product to them," he remarks.

Source: APA.org