Men’s Construction of Media Impact on Male Body Image in the Context of Heterosexual Romantic Relationships

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Meaghan Beck Baker
Kurtis John Allen
Qingqi Thomas Qiao


Research has shown that men, like women, are negatively affected by idealized media portrayals. However, there are few qualitative studies that have examined this issue, leaving the literature impoverished of the meaning of male body image to men. Specifically, there is a lack of discursive inquiry. Since romantic relationships provide a unique context for body image construction, the current study examines the ways in which men in relationships linguistically construct and negotiate the media’s influence on their own body image. Three interviews and a focus group of two men in heterosexual relationships were employed to explore this topic. Our results show that, while men speak of a negative influence of media on their body image, they do so in such a way that is adaptive and creates protective barriers between the self and the media’s messages. These strategies, which at times utilize relationship status, allow participants to construct general, albeit sometimes reluctant, satisfaction with their bodies. These findings, while largely concurring with previous literature, add caveats and may reconcile disparate results from past research by identifying contradictory constructions of media influence on males in heterosexual relationships.