News Day Tuesday: Men’s Magazines

(artist: Patrick Hickey)

Y’all are one intriguing bunch.  Who knew that visitors to a site for Girls by Design would have so much to say about men’s magazines?  😉   So in that spirit, I present to you a study about – you guessed it – men’s magazines.

Jennifer Aubrey of the University of Missouri conducted a series of studies examining how the content of men’s magazines (such as Maxim, FHM and Stuff) affected the self-image of male readers.  In the first study, she examined how exposure to men’s magazines affected body self-consciousness and appearance anxiety among male readers.  What she found was that after a year, reading these magazines led to greater body self-consciousness.  Aubrey was surprised by this result because these magazines weren’t dominated by idealized images of men, but of women.  Since it is unlikely that most men want to look like the women they see in these magazines, she wondered what the reason was for the higher body self-consciousness among male readers.

And so, curious social scientist that she is, Aubrey conducted a second study, along with Laramie Taylor of the University of California-Davis.  This time, the male participants were divided into 3 groups: Group 1 viewed magazine layouts featuring objectified women; Group 2 viewed layouts featuring male fashion, with fit and well-dressed male models; and Group 3 viewed appearance-neutral layouts with topics like technology and film trivia.  What the researchers found was that, as a group, the men who viewed the layouts of objectified females had the most body self-consciousness.  And get this…the group with the least amount of body self-consciousness was the one that viewed the male fashion layouts.

So what to make of this?  Aubrey hypothesized that men ended up feeling like they needed to look as good as the women they saw in men’s magazines in order to have a chance at becoming involved with an attractive woman.

Ever the curious scientists, Aubrey and Taylor conducted a third study to test this theory.  This time, the men were divided into 2 groups: Group 1 viewed magazine layouts with sexually idealized females; Group 2 viewed the same layouts with average-looking “boyfriends” added to the photos, with captions stating that female models are attracted to average-looking men.  What they found was that the men who viewed the layouts with the average-looking boyfriends had less body self-consciousness.  Why?  Maybe because they felt less pressure to conform to certain appearance standards when they saw that the models liked average-looking men.

There have also been a number of studies showing how media images negatively influence women’s body image.  Last year, a study by Laurie Mintz of the University of Missouri-Columbia found that all women – regardless of their size, shape, height or age – were equally negatively affected after seeing models in magazine ads for just 3 minutes.  Another study that came out this past May analyzed previous studies (this is called a meta-analysis) encompassing more than 15,000 subjects, and found that “exposure to media depicting ultra-thin actresses and models significantly increased women’s concerns about their bodies, including how dissatisfied they felt, and their likelihood of engaging in unhealthy eating behaviors, such as excessive dieting.”

What is so interesting about the studies Aubrey and her colleagues conducted is that idealized images of women also seem to negatively affect the way men perceive themselves, even more so than idealized images of men.  What do you all think about that?  Surprised?  Not surprised?  Convinced that you too should study a social science in college?  (I studied sociology in college.  Yay sociology!  Well, that was after a stint with electrical engineering.  Long story.  Let’s just say that circuits and I…we didn’t get along too well.)

And what’s all this about “objectification”?  A lot of the studies and a lot of your comments mentioned that word.  What does it mean to “objectify” something and is it always a bad thing?  Is it possible to have media representations of people that don’t objectify?  For example, many argue that men’s magazines objectify women because they’re presented as sex objects.  What about the paintings and photographs that hang in the most revered museums throughout the world?  When people are portrayed as art, is that objectification or not?  What about when people provide entertainment through acting or music?  Is that objectification?


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10 Responses to “News Day Tuesday: Men’s Magazines”

  1. jessica f Says:

    whoa. That’s so weird to know that these magazines, featuring good looking women, got men to feel self-conscious about themselves. I am seriously surprised!
    I use to glance through my ex’s Maxim’s and FHMs. Those were pretty interesting articles, content wise. But, they made ME feel bad for not looking absolute, drop-dead skinny and gorgeous. I didn’t really know they had that same effect on guys too!
    I do feel that these magazines objectify women. They make us feel like we’re SUPPOSE to look that way, and feel bad if we don’t. I hope the men reading them don’t expect REAL LIFE women to look that way. HELLO we have curves! The artworks of women in the nude within museums are art. They reflect the real curves of women, not some ideal “Hollywood” image we need to live up to. Those pieces of art don’t make us feel bad about ourselves.
    Great article, Kathy! plus, I need to give shouts out to my school, UC DAVIS all the way!!


  2. Gina Says:

    That is pretty surprising! You learn something new everyday.

    As an art student, I can safely say that there is a fine line between ‘tasteful’ nudity and borderline pornography. Tasteful nudity in art usually doesn’t allow suggestive poses or looks, but when it does, it starts to fall along the lines of borderline pornography.

    And most men’s magazines that I’ve seen do not fall along ‘tasteful’ whatsoever.

  3. Kailin Says:

    Really good topic, Kathy,

    Obviously this is a hot button for men and women. I think magazines in general and even television tend to cause people to compare.

    Fashion magazines are just as bad as men’s magazines because the models are not your average person as in weight/height and looks in general. It creates an unrealistic standard for many people.

  4. G Says:

    Female models just F everyone up *shakes head*

  5. Mikee Says:

    This study proves nothing other than the fact that insecure people are insecure. They were insecure long before sexy women graced the covers of magazines and commercials told us we should like certain things and look a certain way. I don’t care if these insecurites are reinforced by more attractive people being thrown in our faces. The main problem is the insecurity.

    Objectified means nothing, really.

    To prove everything in my post, Kristin Laura Kreuk should accept every offer from every men’s magazine. I believe this is important for this study.

  6. Ashley Says:

    Personally none of it is…it’s mainly something we all see and think ‘oh she’s a slut’ cause she is photographed with it all hanging out. I don’t see it as objectifying anyone I see it as art or as another way of saying I’m happy being me no matter how much is showing or what magazine their on. I’m not sure if it’s just my opinion that it isn’t an objectifying thing, but I mean really it’s nothing to feel like you’re not good enough about….because every single one of you are as good if not better than those magazines.

  7. Kailin Says:

    Mikee –

    – “To prove everything in my post, Kristin Laura Kreuk should accept every offer from every men’s magazine. I believe this is important for this study.” – sounds like something M.R. would say. I kid I kid, but what a sense of humor.

    I do agree 100% with you on that it boils down to insecurity. People feeling secure about themselves can appreciate an attractive person for what they are – an attractive person. But on the other hand…there are many insecure people, and unfortunately, one’s body image especially during adolescence with all the awkward new changes going on…tend to bring some insecurity for a little while. Even the most attractive people have some insecurities once in a while. You hear it all the time, models saying they were weird or geeky growing up or that they were the awkward too skinny kid. Unfortunately, I’m seeing this even at a younger age – 4 year olds looking at themselves in the mirror and saying they’re too skinny. My niece for instance…beautiful little girl who is tall and thin for her age, but is constantly putting herself down for being too skinny. Her preschool classmates at age 4 are already doing the comparison thing and trying to make her feel bad about herself for having skinny legs. So…it takes major reinforcement and praise of her other talents, skills, gifts, etc. to help rebuild her self-esteem. Yes, rebuilding self-esteem and confidence at age 4!

    Babies see images early on…that’s all they see, and they begin to understand the world (their world) based on the images they see, among other things….there are way too much info I can add on babies in this post….so in a nutshell…Ideally, everyone would be secure in their own skin and person. But unfortunately, we don’t live in an ideal world.

  8. Kailin Says:

    @ Kathy

    A sociology major? Me, too! Except, my major was Social Ecology – Sociology, Criminology, Psychology, and Ecology (yes, one major embodying all of that!) I double majored in that and Drama, with almost a minor in Film Studies. Then I went to grad school for Communications Management. USC, Yay! Go Trojans! I highly enjoyed university and would encourage everyone if they have the opportunity, to go. Invaluable learning experience.

  9. dom Says:

    the biginning is surprising …
    but about ” what’s all this about “objectification”? …What about when people provide entertainment through acting or music? Is that objectification?”

    I think the difference between magazines and works of art that is precisely
    that the work of art is not just only one thing there is a transcendence
    something more than the Object otherwise it has no interest work.
    Sometimes may be in some magazine you can find artists (photo) who made some more (over)
    than simple sexy photo paper …

  10. ESS Says:

    Gina, you’re absolutelyright… to a point. There is a very fine line. However that fine line is in different place on a very large sliding scale depending on the individual. It’s just like looking at a painting. Everyone sees something different. There really are no right or wrong answers on this. I’ve heard other people over the years saing we need to get rid of magazines like this. If you open that Pandora’s Box called censorship what do we lose next. I know no one here is advocating that, but it’s something to keep in mind. I personally feel that magazine’s like Maxim and FHM are a little ridiculous. But that is definitely what they are going for. It’s also kind of funny that the editorial staffs of those magazines have a lot of females. Maybe that’s it. They’re trying to make men insecure to level the playing field to where it should be.

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