Most boys want average physique, not rippling muscles and abs

Washington: Not all boys aspire to have chiselled bodies idealized by popular culture, and instead want an average physique, a new study has found.

“Not all boys aspire to have lean, muscular or idealized male bodies that are commonplace in popular culture,” says Moss E. Norman, who led the study as a post-doctoral fellow at Concordia’s Simone de Beauvoir Institute.

A total of 32 Toronto-area boys, aged 13 to 15, were recruited from a community centre and private school to participate in the research, which lasted nine months and included four in-depth interviews and 19 focus groups.

Participants were asked to comment on popular culture images, shirtless models from home gym commercials and cut athletes from Ultimate Fighting Championships.

The researchers found that in many cases, boys who took part in the study were staunchly critical of idealized male images.

They found it problematic, feminine or vain to be overly concerned with appearances. Sculpted bodies were seen as unnatural, the product of steroids or zealous weight-lifting, the report said.

“One of the surprises from this study was how comfortable boys were in expressing, analyzing and comparing bodies — their own, their peers’ and those ideals depicted by media,” says Norman, who is now a professor at the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Kinesiology and Recreation Management.

“Although they felt pressure to be fit, they displayed a distant, disinterested and cool relationship to their bodies,” he said.

Common body concerns among boys who took part in this particular study included height, muscularity, obesity, skin complexion and style.

“Being overweight was seen as undesirable and associated with a sedentary, immoral lifestyle,” Norman added.

The study has been published in the journal Men and Masculinities.


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