Vol.2, No.9, 1002-1009 (2010) Health
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
The role of partners in shaping the body image and body
change strategies of adult men
——Partners and male body image
Marita P. McCabe*, Shauna McGreevy
School of Psychology, Deakin University, Melbourne, Australia; *Corresponding Author: marita.mccabe@deakin.edu.au
Received 30 March 2010; revised 29 April 2010; accepted 5 May 2010.
The current study examined the relationship
between perceived messages about the bodies
of adult men from their sexual partners and the
actual body image of these men. Interviews
were conducted among 38 middle-aged men.
Feedback from partners was generally compli-
mentary, and the men were generally positive
about their body image. Partners were seen to
be more focused on a healthy body rather than a
physically attractive body. The implications of
these findings for better understanding the so-
cial influence on adult men to obtain a healthy
body weight are discussed.
Keywords: Men; Body Image; Partners; Qualitative
A growing body of literature has demonstrated that the
ideal body form for males is slim and muscular [1], and
that males receive messages from a range of sources to
achieve this ideal [2-4]. Most of this past research has
been conducted with adolescent boys, and has demon-
strated that adolescent boys are particularly focused on
obtaining a lean muscular body [5]. Messages to achieve
this body shape come from parents, peers and the media
[6]. In a recent review of the nature of the body image of
males, and the factors that contribute to males’ body
image, Gray and Ginsberg [7] found a strong preference
for a muscular body among both Western and non-
Western males.
There have been limited studies on the sociocultural
influences on the body image of adult men. The limited
research that is available suggests that they are aware of
the sociocultural body ideal for men, and they have
similar body image concerns to those of adolescent boys
[1]. Grogan and Richards [8] found that boys and men in
all age groups drew a relationship between muscularity
and masculinity. Rather than focusing on appearance in
its own right, they focused more on how their bodies
looked in relation to function, fitness and health. Grogan
[8] expanded this view further in her review of studies of
men’s body image and concluded that a large aspect of
male body image relates to functionality, rather than
The above research has not examined if the nature of
the messages that men receive about their body, in terms
of weight and muscularity, are different according to
their weight. Certainly, Luciano [10] suggested that body
weight would appear to influence the level of body dis-
satisfaction experienced by men. Davison and McCabe
[1] found that poor body image was related to problems
in social and sexual functioning among middle-aged
men, and to depression and anxiety among older men.
These results suggest that, at least for middle aged men,
their sexual partner may play some role in shaping their
body image. The current study was designed to explore
the nature of the messages from the partner about the
man’s body, and how these messages varied according to
the man’s body size.
Previous research has suggested that sexual partners
may provide a significant source of appearance-related
information to men [11]. Feedback from significant oth-
ers may contribute to men’s perceptions of body image,
through criticism or compliments, and partners may pro-
vide a point of reference through which men derive their
level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their bodies
[11]. Sheets and Ajmere [12] also found that male and
female romantic partners reported telling each other to
lose or gain weight. Women were more likely to tell their
male dating partners to gain weight, whereas men would
typically tell their female partners to either gain or lose
Married men may be more motivated by their own need
to possess the ideal male physique than by their wives’
opinion of their bodies [13]. A comparison between mar-
M. P. McCabe et al. / HEALTH 2 (2010) 1002-1009
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ried and single couples found that married couples were
far less concerned that their husband or wife possessed
the ideal body physique than did single couples [13].
Although the above studies examined the nature of
messages from partners, very few studies have investi-
gated the relationship between men’s body image and
how messages from sexual partners are associated with
men’s perception of their bodies and how they subse-
quently try to change their body shape and weight. Studies
have shown that men, like women, place a great deal of
importance on their appearance [14,15], and may report
dissatisfaction with their bodies if they perceive that
their current image does not live up to the socially-acce-
pted ideal body for men [16,17]. The use of maladaptive
body-change strategies by men, such as steroids and ex-
cessive exercise, has increased in recent years, as men
attempt to attain and maintain the V-shaped male physique
[9,14]. It is therefore important to obtain a better under-
standing of the types of messages that men receive about
their bodies, and how these messages are interpreted.
The aim of the current study was to explore the rela-
tionship between perceived messages from sexual part-
ners and body image in men. Of particular interest was
the nature of the messages that men receive about their
bodies from their sexual partners, and how these mes-
sages influenced men to change their weight and shape.
A qualitative methodology was adopted to obtain a de-
tailed understanding of the nature of the messages that
men reported they received from their partners.
2.1. Participants
Of the 38 men who participated in this study, 22 were
aged 51 to 60 years and 16 were aged between 41 and 49
years. A requirement of the study was that men were
currently engaged in a heterosexual relationship. Nine of
these men were in a steady relationship, 14 were married
for the first time, six were remarried, eight were either
divorced or separated, and one was widowed. Twenty
two of the participants were employed in a profes-
sional/managerial capacity, three worked in education,
four were employed in the health sector, five were re-
tired, and two were employed in sales. Twenty five of
the participants listed their country of birth as the United
States of America, and 13 were born in Australia. Al-
though it was not possible to formally analyze the dif-
ference between the responses of men from the United
States and Australia, the manner in which the themes
clustered for the two groups did not demonstrate any
apparent difference in the responses of men from the two
2.2. Materials
The open-ended interviews consisted of eight questions
relating to perceived messages about their body received
from participants’ sexual partners, the impact of these
messages on their body image, as well as questions re-
lating to men’s perceptions of the sociocultural pressures
on males to conform to idealized standards of the male
physique. The questions were developed from the litera-
ture and were designed to examine the perceived influ-
ence of partners on a man’s body image and his body
change strategies. The questions are listed in the Results
section. Men were encouraged to expand on their an-
swers and provide additional information to support their
initial response.
2.3. Procedure
Approval to complete the study was obtained from the
University Human Ethics Committee. Participants were
recruited by placing information about the study on a
range of web sites in United States of America and Aus-
tralia. Fifty websites were located in each of these two
countries, information about the study was provided, and
men were asked to complete an anonymous question-
naire about the types of messages they perceived their
partner’s communicated to them about the body. It was a
requirement for the study that the men were between 40
and 60 years of age, and were currently engaged in a
relationship. Men were asked to answer the open-ended
questions on their body image on line. Participants were
advised that participation was voluntary and that they
would be able to withdraw from the study at any time.
There was no reimbursement for participation in the
study. Men were asked to provide their height and
weight so that their Body Mass Index (BMI) could be
calculated. Men also provided information on their age,
marital status, occupation, and country of birth.
Given the importance of BMI on body dissatisfaction,
respondents were organized into three BMI groups: BMI
less than 25 (normal weight), BMI 25 to 29.99 (over-
weight), and BMI 30 + (obese). There were eight par-
ticipants in the normal weight group, 16 participants in
the overweight group, and 14 participants in the obese
group. For each of the eight questions, the results were
organized into the themes that emerged for respondents
from each of the three BMI groups. Responses were read
by the two authors, and they independently determined
the themes that emerged from each question. The themes
from each of the questions were considered separately. A
grounded theory approach [18] was used to guide the
M. P. McCabe et al. / HEALTH 2 (2010) 1002-1009
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interpretation of the data due to the limited previous re-
search on partner influence on male body image. Within
this approach pre-coded categories are not used. It is the
categories that emerge from the narratives that are ex-
plored and subsequently coded. The authors then met to
discuss the concordance or otherwise of the themes that
they determined had emerged from the data. There was a
high level of concordance in the nature of these themes,
since the questions largely shaped the nature of the
themes that emerged from the data. Discussion between
the two authors and some re-reading of the transcripts
resulted in an agreement on the themes that are reported
in this paper. The main themes for each of the questions
are included in Table 1.
Question 1: Do you receive any feedback from your
partner regarding the size and shape of your body?
Normal weight Group
The perceived feedback from partners (both female
and male) was mostly positive for the men in this group,
with some men perceiving they received complimentary
feedback from partners about their bodies, particularly
regarding certain aspects of their bodies such as their
abdominal muscles, their buttocks, and their overall
muscle tone.
I do receive feedback from my partner. Usually it is
positive as I am in good shape and I exercise regularly.
(PB, Age Range: 41-50, Married)
However, even men who were of normal body weight
and who perceived positive feedback from their partners
were concerned if they perceived that they did not live
up to the muscular male body ideal.
She says that she likes my body and the way I look.
She makes jokes sometimes, and that makes it hard.
She’ll say that she likes this other guy’s body, because it
is so muscular and he’s so strong. When she says this, I
feel bad that I’m not as muscular and strong. (PM, Age
Range: 41-50, Steady Relationship)
Overweight Group
Most of the men’s partners in this group were per-
ceived complimentary about their partners’ bodies, or
were encouraging of their partners’ strategies to get back
into shape (e.g., dieting). The majority of the participants
in this group indicated that they were happy with their
Yes—they think I’m hot. The things I might be most
self-conscious about are what turn them on the most (my
beer belly and being very hairy)! (MH, Age Range:
51-60, Single)
My wife generally allows me to take care of what’s
mine with minimal interference (and appreciates when I
do the same). Even so, she’s commented that she thinks
I’m very handsome, likes that I’m tall, has seemed satis-
fied with my weight at all points in our relationship. (CC:
Age Range: 51-60, Married)
Obese Group
Comments from partners were perceived to be en-
couraging of good health rather than being directed at
achieving the muscular male ideal. Participants reported
that even when body change strategies were warranted,
partners were perceived to be encouraging of their ef-
forts rather than disparaging.
Yes, my wife of 40 years tells me I’m in great shape.
Table 1. Main themes identified by men in different weight categories.
Theme Normal weight n = 8 Overweight n = 16 Obese n = 14
Positive feedback 6 14 10
Concern about muscular ideal 2 - 4
Negative feedback - - 2
Encouragement to lose weight 4 2 8
Encouragement to build muscles 3 6 5
Encouragement to be healthy 5 11 10
Teasing 1 3 7
Encouragement to change shape of body 2 4 4
More pressure on men now compared to previously 7 14 13
Pressure coming from media 7 14 13
Pressure coming from friends 1 4 4
Positive body image 7 13 10
Negative body image 1 3 4
M. P. McCabe et al. / HEALTH 2 (2010) 1002-1009
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When I start to gain a bit too much, she mentions it, but
in a way that she tries to make sound off-hand. (HM, Age
Range: 51-60, Married)
My partner and I often talk about our diet and what
we should eat. When I do lose weight my partner is full
of praise for me and we both try to stop me from putting
on the weight again. We normally attend a gym 3 times
per week. (CJ, Age Range: 41-50, Steady Relationship)
However, two men in this category reported perceiv-
ing negative feedback about their bodies from their
partners, and one participant indicated that his partner
did not comment on his body.
I am overweight and she tells me so. (PB, Age Range:
41-50, Remarried)
Question 2: Does your partner encourage you to lose
or gain weight?
Normal weight Group
Four participants in the normal weight category indi-
cated that they did not perceive encouragement from
their partners to lose weight. Partners of the men in this
category were generally perceived to be supportive of
the way they looked.
My partner does not complain about my weight and
therefore does not encourage me to either gain or lose
weight. (PB, Age Range: 41-50 ; Married)
Overweight Group
Men in the overweight category reported either per-
ceiving no comments from partners to lose or gain
weight, or positive encouragement to maintain a healthy
lifestyle, or to lose weight. Men reported that their part-
ners did not apply pressure for them to lose weight, but
instead were seen to encourage them to maintain a
healthy concern about their body weight that was more
related to health and fitness than to the way they looked.
She is encouraging if I say that I plan to stop eating
sugar and some carbs (doughnuts for instance), but she
does not pressure me if I am not already interested. (LC:
Age Range: 51-60, Remarried)
Obese Group
Men in the obese weight category perceived more en-
couragement to lose weight than the men in the lower
weight categories. This encouragement was focused on
health concerns rather than partners wanting their men to
achieve the ideal male body.
She’s always trying to get me to eat healthier, some-
times with success. I think her main motivation, however,
is health, not appearance. (HM, Age Range: 51-60, Steady
Question 3: Does your partner encourage you to be-
come more muscular?
For most men in all three weight categories, the in-
centive to build muscle seemed to come mostly from
themselves rather than from their partners. Similar to the
encouragement from partners to lose or gain weight,
encouragement or perceived encouragement from part-
ners to gain muscle seemed to have more to do with the
maintenance of health, than the pursuit of body image
Normal weight Group
No, never. I have always been drawn to looking more
muscular on my own, so no one has ever been inclined to
tell me this. (SJ, Age Range: 41-50, Married)
Overweight Group
No. When I point out various male body types in the
media (more muscular and/or defined than I am) and ask
if I should attempt to attain that shape, I am usually told
I am fine as I am currently, but if I want to change I
should do what makes me happy. (MA, Age Range:
41-50, Married)
Obese Group
She likes that I have good muscle definition, but has
never encouraged me to lift weights or do anything that
has the sole purpose of making me more muscular. She
says that really muscular men look gross. (HM, Age
Range: 51-60, Married)
Question 4: Does your partner tease you about the
size and shape of your body? Please give details.
The majority of men, in all three weight categories,
reported no teasing from partners regarding the size and
shape of their bodies. Overall, partners were perceived to
be supportive of their men in terms of body image. More
men in the obese group perceived they were teased than
in the other two weight groups.
Normal weight Group
My partner’s comments about my body are positive,
e.g., that I have strong legs etc. She even boasts to her
family that while most men my age are becoming soft,
that I am in the best shape ever. (PB, Age Range: 41-50,
Overweight Group
Sometimes she will remind me that I was in much bet-
ter shape when we were younger, but then she was too.
So she does not give me a hard time. (LC, Age Range:
51-60, Remarried)
Obese Group
Gentle teasing, but we both are in good shape consid-
ering our age. We both are fairly attractive physically,
according to our friends. (E, Age Range: 51-60, Remar-
Question 5: In what ways does feedback from your
partner influence you to change the size or shape of your
body? (i.e., increasing exercise, eating less, eating more,
taking supplements, using steroids, etc.).
Men generally reported perceiving very little feedback
from their partners to change the size or shape of their
bodies, and when there was feedback it was mostly posi-
M. P. McCabe et al. / HEALTH 2 (2010) 1002-1009
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tive. A common theme among the three BMI groups was
self-motivation to get into/stay in shape, rather than
wanting to change their shape for someone else. How-
ever, a number of men reported being influenced by their
perceptions of their partners’ opinion of their bodies,
even if their partner’s opinion was not voiced directly.
None of the men, in any of the three BMI groups, re-
ported using steroids to change their body shape.
Normal weight Group
Since she says nothing either complimentary or nega-
tive, I do what I think I need to do for good health. I do it
for myself and to look good among other men. (HL, Age
Range: 51-60, Married)
Overweight Group
It does not influence me, although I think that it is
important for a man to feel that he is attractive to/want-
ed by women. I am happy to receive a positive compli-
ment and my self-esteem gets a boost. (SB, Age Range:
41-50, Steady Relationship)
Obese Group
I can tell when she’s checking me out physically. When
she compliments my appearance, that’s a big factor in-
fluencing me to keep working at it. (HM, Age Range:
51-60, Married)
Question 6: Do you think there is more or less pres-
sure on men these days to be slimmer and more muscu-
lar than ever before?
There was a general consensus from the men in all
three BMI groups that there is more pressure on men
today to conform to a particular body type, i.e., to be
slimmer and more muscular or toned. Men generally
thought this pressure came from the media: billboards,
television, and movies. Some men acknowledged that
this pressure had a negative effect on their own body
image, in that they felt they had to try to live up to the
unrealistic images that they saw displayed in the media.
Others indicated that the pressure ‘to be perfect’ had the
effect of portraying those who do not fit the ‘profile’ as
less than competent or stupid. Some of the men even
acknowledged that the pressure on men to conform to a
body ideal is similar to the amount of pressure on
women to conform to a female body ideal.
Normal weight Group
More! (pressure). I noticed today the models that
clothing companies use to advertise underwear – abso-
lutely PERFECT in every way! So even though I know
it’s bullshit, there is still a part of me that compares what
I see in the mirror with what I see in the media and
thinks that I have to live up to it. (NB, Age Range: 41-50 ,
Overweight group
I feel that due to reality TV shows like Survivor and
The Biggest Loser there is a standard of male muscular-
ity and fitness to be achieved, and that those with less,
i.e., the more overweight and less fit, or less ability to hit
that standard, are viewed as liabilities to be eliminated.
(MA, Age Range: 41-50, Married)
Obese Group
Yes. I think there is more pressure on men, particu-
larly younger men, from movies, TV, and magazines. I
know that I feel guilty about being a few kilos over-
weight and that my dad or my uncles would never have
felt that way at all. Overweight people are often por-
trayed as stupid or incompetent or comic. You can’t
avoid those enormous outdoor billboards with bulging
pecs and bulging briefs. (RM, Age Range: 51-60, Mar-
Question 7: Where is this pressure coming from? (i.e.,
Men’s magazines, Television, Movies, friends, other in-
fluences, etc.)
Most men saw the added pressure on today’s males as
coming from the media, television, movies, and bill-
boards. Some men also indicated that pressure has seen
to come from both same and opposite sex friends. A few
participants thought that there was pressure exerted on
men to be healthier due to media health messages to re-
duce obesity. Others felt that indirect pressure was ex-
erted on men via images of perfect male bodies dis-
played in women’s magazines.
Normal weight Group
All of the above (men’s magazines, television, movies,
friends, other influences): part of a total cultural/gene-
rational shift. In my opinion, Western culture has reach-
ed something of a hiatus, and values espoused are rep-
resentative of an increasing shallowness in our culture.
(BP, Age Range: 41-50, Steady Relationship)
Overweight Group
I think the pressure comes mainly from friends, espe-
cially the opposite sex. In previous generations, women
were more economically dependent on men, and men
could attract the attention of women, and status among
men, by being financially successful, even if he wasn’t
especially fit. Now however, women don’t need men as
much for financial reasons, and so men are starting to
compete for attention and status in other ways, such as
physical fitness. (LM, Age Range: 41-50, Married)
Obese Group
I would say that the companies who use advertising
use every avenue they can to put their products in front
of men. Everywhere you look there are ads to improve
the styles. All the models are young, fit, and good-looking.
My observations suggest that companies are wasting
their money. Health and fitness, I am afraid, is not win-
ning this contest. (CJ, Age Range: 41-50, Steady Rela-
Question 8: How do you think the pressure on men to
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Copyright © 2010 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
be slimmer and/or more muscular makes you feel about
your body?
Answers to this question were mixed. Societal pres-
sure to conform to an ideal body type left a majority of
these men feeling quite negative about their bodies,
while a minority of others reported positive conse-
quences. In general, men in the normal weight group felt
more positive about their bodies than men in the heavier
BMI groups, however, this was not always the case.
Some lighter men reported body dissatisfaction, and
some heavier men reported being satisfied with their
bodies. In some cases, the perceived pressure on men to
conform to slimmer/more muscular body ideals had
quite a profound, negative effect on men’s perceptions of
themselves and their bodies.
Normal weight Group
I’m aware that I’m relatively ‘skinny’ (6 feet and about
80 kilos) but I feel quite good about my body. (LP, Age
Range: 51-60, Divorced/Separated)
I sometimes feel ‘lazy’ that I’m not at the gym 3 days a
week working to get rid of that extra 4 or 5 pounds. My
body is not the ‘enemy’ but media messages keep re-
minding me that I’m not doing everything possible to be
part of that slim, active, fit demographic. (WB, Age
Range: 41-50, Divorced/Separated)
Overweight Group
I’m more self-conscious that I do not have the ‘per-
fect’ male body and women do not see me as attractive,
and that makes me feel less needed. It is also a factor in
my inability to maintain a relationship with a women.
(DN, Age Range: 41-50, Steady Relationship)
It makes me feel like I should be in better shape, and
have a washboard stomach, and bigger muscles. (RB,
Age Range: 51-60, Married)
Obese Group
I feel that pressure. I feel it in the dating scene. How-
ever, for me it is more of a health issue, as I have had a
triple by-pass and am in need of losing weight to protect
and care for my heart. (BE, Age Range: 51-60, Di-
vorced/Separated )
Just fine. I have never been interested in fads or
trends and I have never been fashionable, and being me
is about all I have time for. (MJ, Age Range: 51-60,
Steady Relationship)
All three BMI groups of men indicated that they per-
ceived mostly positive feedback about their size and
shape from their partners regardless of their body weight.
There were no obvious differences in the perception of
partner comments in terms of marital status. Men in the
normal weight group reported receiving complimentary
comments about particular aspects of their bodies (i.e.,
abdominal muscles, buttocks, muscle tone). Men in the
overweight category perceived similar complimentary
comments, or partners who were encouraging of men’s
strategies to get into shape (e.g., dieting). Men in the
overweight group were also generally happy with their
bodies. Positive and complimentary comments from
partners were similarly reported by the men in the obese
weight category, with partners perceived to be encour-
aging good health rather than pushing men to attempt to
achieve the ideal male body. These results are consistent
with Ogden and Taylor’s [11] comments that sexual
partners may provide a significant source of appearance-
related information to men, and that this feedback is
likely to contribute to men’s perceptions of their body
image through criticism or compliments,
Men in the normal weight group reported that their
partners were generally supportive of the way they
looked. The men in this group indicated that they did not
receive pressure from their partners to lose weight, but
instead were encouraged by their partners to maintain a
healthy concern about their body weight that was more
related to health and fitness than achieving the idealized
male physique. Men in the obese group generally per-
ceived more encouragement from partners to lose weight
than men in the lower weight groups. However, these
men also reported that the focus of comments to lose
weight from partners was for concerns about health
rather than wanting their men to work towards an unob-
tainable body shape.
These results are inconsistent with previous research
by Grogan [9] who found that men were more focused
on health than appearances. Further, Sheets and Ajmere
[12], who found that dating partners reported telling
each other to lose or gain weight: Women were more
likely to encourage their male partners to gain weight,
while men were more likely to tell their female partners
to lose weight. Perhaps the discrepancy between the re-
sults from the present study and past research can be
explained by age. The majority of men in the present
study were aged over 50 years of age and were likely to
be in longer-term, more stable relationships than those in
Sheets and Ajmere’s [12] study, who were drawn from a
college population. Age and length of the relationship
may be associated with less concern over appearance
and more concern with health and well being. Tom et al.
[13] found that having a long-lasting relationship re-
duced the importance of body image dissatisfaction as
well as the impact of unrealistic body image ideals.
Men in all three weight categories reported that the
incentive to build muscle came mostly from themselves
rather than from their partners. Perceived encouragement
from partners seemed to be positive and centered around
M. P. McCabe et al. / HEALTH 2 (2010) 1002-1009
Copyright © 2010 SciRes. Openly accessible at http://www.scirp.org/journal/HEALTH/
the maintenance of good health rather than the pursuit of
a muscular body. The majority of men across the three
weight categories reported no teasing from partners about
their size or shape. Some men, however, reported that
they experienced teasing from partners, ranging from
gentle teasing comments to more hurtful remarks. Men
in the obese weight category reported more teasing
comments than men in the other two weight categories.
Further research in this area is needed in order to gain a
clearer understanding of the extent of partner teasing on
body image and the ways is which this may influence
men to use body-change strategies to change their shape.
The majority of men in this study, across all three
BMI groups, agreed that men are under more pressure
now to conform to a particular body type, than in the
past. Consistent with a previous review of research ex-
amining body image across the lifespan [5], most men
thought that this pressure came from the media, adver-
tising, billboards, television, magazines, and movies, but
not so much from friends or their partner. However, oth-
ers implicated same and opposite sex friends as convey-
ors of social attitudes about male body image. Consistent
with findings by Grogan [9], most men acknowledged
that this pressure had a negative effect on their own body
image, in that they felt that they were expected to live up
to unrealistic images that are portrayed in the media.
These results are consistent with findings with women
that highlight the important role played by the media in
shaping their body image [9].
Overall, the perceived influence of sexual partners on
male body image in this study was positive. Most part-
ners were perceived to be supportive of men’s actual
body shape and/or weight and did not actively encourage
the pursuit of the idealized, slim and muscular male
physique. If partners were perceived to encourage body
change, the reasons were generally motivated by con-
cerns for health, rather than appearance, and these mes-
sages were perceived to be conveyed through gentle en-
couragement rather than through teasing. Very few men
reported teasing comments regarding their bodies from
partners. Men who did pursue a more muscular or toned
body did so as a result of their own desire to be more
toned or muscular, rather then being actively persuaded
to conform to the idealized male physique by their part-
ners. The men in this study almost unanimously agreed
that men are generally under a great deal of pressure to
conform to the V-shape, muscular male body. However,
most men also indicated a positive body image. This is
in contrast to research with women that has demon-
strated a high level of body dissatisfaction [9].
The results of this study demonstrate the association
between perceived messages received by adult men from
partners and other sociocultural influences on their body
image. The findings indicate that men generally feel
quite positive about their bodies, and that strategies to
change their bodies are primarily motivated by health
related concerns.
This finding has important implications for interven-
tions to address body image concerns among men. Given
that men have such a strong focus on health related con-
cerns, and they perceive their partners also to be focused
on their health, interventions need to focus on changing
men’s bodies to be more healthy rather than more attrac-
tive. This approach is quite different from women, who
are more focused on the appearance, rather than the
function of their body. It is important to replicate this
study with a larger sample of adult men, across a broader
range of cultural groups, and to determine if these find-
ings also apply for homosexual men. Information on the
ethnic group of the respondents in the current study, or if
they lived in the urban or rural locations was also not
provided. It is possible that responses may have varied
for men from these different groups. In the current study,
men ticked an age category rather than reporting their
actual age. Future research should obtain the actual age
of participants. The sample in the current study was re-
stricted to men who had access to the internet, and so
was not representative of many adult men. Future studies
also need to determine the level of muscularity of men,
since high BMI may be reflective of high levels of mus-
cularity and not obesity in some men. It is not possible to
generalize these findings to adult men more broadly, and
so it is important to investigate the role of partners on
men’s body image with a larger, more representative
group of men.
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