arvan's picture

Body Image

Image courtesy of All Posters.com

(I went looking for content on "Body Image" today and found mostly information related to how the media tell women to be skinny, neurotic and attractive.  While I agree that this occurs en masse, I also wanted some information that applied to all gender assignments.  Luckily, I stumbled across this nifty post from the UCLA Student Health & Wellness Center)

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?  Your perception of how your body looks forms your body image.  Interestingly, a perfectly-toned 20 year old fitness model could have a very poor body image, while an average-shaped 50 year old man or woman could have a great body image.  Regardless of how closely your actual figure resembles your perception, your body image can affect your self-esteem, your eating and exercise behaviors, and your relationships with others.

Read on to learn…

·        What factors influence your body image.

·        Whether or not it’s possible to achieve the “ideal body.”

·        Is the “ideal body” really your key to health, success, beauty, & happiness?

·        What can you do to improve your body image.

Why are so many people unhappy with their bodies?

Size Prejudice

In American culture (and particularly in southern California), there is a lot of emphasis placed on body weight, size, and appearance.  And, we are conditioned from a very young age to believe that self-worth is derived from these external characteristics.  For example, being thin and/or muscular is associated with being “hard-working, successful, popular, beautiful, strong, and self-disciplined.”  On the other hand, being “fat” is associated with being “lazy, ignorant, hated, ugly, weak, and lacking will-power.” These stereotypes are prevalent in our society; and they are reinforced by the media, our family and friends, and even well-respected health professionals.  As a result, we often unfairly judge others and label them based on their weight and size alone.  We feel great anxiety and pressure to achieve and/or maintain a very lean physique.  And, we believe that if we can just be thinner or more muscular, we can be happier, more successful, and more accepted by society. 

The Media

The media sets unrealistic standards for what body weight and appearance is considered “normal.”  Girls are indoctrinated at a very young age that Barbie is how a woman is supposed to look (i.e. no fat anywhere on your body, but huge breasts).  NOTE:  If Barbie were life-size, she would stand 5’9” and weigh 110 lb. (only 76% of what is considered a healthy weight for her height).  Her measurements would be 39-18-33, and she would not menstruate due to inadequate levels of fat on her body.  Similarly, boys are given the impression that men naturally have muscles bulging all over their bodies.  Take a look at their plastic action-figures (like GI Joe Extreme) in toy stores.  If GI Joe Extreme were life-size, he would have a 55-inch chest and a 27-inch bicep.  In other words, his bicep would be almost as big as his waist and bigger than most competitive body builders’. These body ideals are reinforced every day on TV shows, movies, magazine covers, and even video games. At UCLA, where the crowd is young and the warm climate promotes use of revealing clothing, the exaltation and expectation of extreme leanness is even more exaggerated.

And the media’s portrayal of what is “normal” keeps getting thinner and thinner for women and more muscular and ripped for men.  Twenty-five years ago, the average female model weighed 8% less than the average American woman.  Currently, the average female model weighs 23% below her average weight.  Similar trends are seen with men.  The average Playgirl centerfold man has shed about 12 lbs. of fat, while putting on approximately 27 lb. of muscle over the past 25 years.

With these media images and body ideals, it’s little wonder that women and men feel inadequate, ashamed, and dissatisfied with how they look.  Only about 5% of women have the genetic make up to ever achieve the ultra-long and thin model body type so pervasive in the media.  Yet that is the only body type that women see and can compare themselves to.  Similarly, all boys see is a body ideal that for most men is impossible to achieve without illegal anabolic steroids.  There is a physiological limit to how much muscle a man can attain naturally, given his height, frame, and body fat percentage.  Unfortunately, however, the action figure heroes on toy store shelves and male fitness models on magazine covers and ads suggest otherwise.

PaganKinktress's picture

Redefining Sluts and Whores

Today, I want to talk about sluts and whores.

Now, I know...there are bound to be some feminists and other folks out there who are going to cringe at my seemingly capricious use of these typically derogatory words. But I don't care. I happen to think that behaving in a slutty manner in certain contexts and with the right kind of encouragement is a totally fucking hot thing. I'm not talking about the kind of slut who sleeps with random anonymous strangers in gas station bathrooms out of some sort of compulsion. Or the type of person who gives it all up in an attempt to feel better about him or herself and get people to "like them". Those are unhealthy behaviors.

Seeing Through a New Lens


Allowing your inner whore to be unleashed and come out to play in a particular context--there is something very satisfying in that. Are all sluts (closet and otherwise) necessarily hyper-sexual individuals? I don't think so. Hyper-sexual in the sense that the whore is always hot and eager for their partner, that's one thing (and a very good thing, too). Hyper-sexual in a promiscuous sense, well, that's something else and not at all my point here.

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