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The Body Burden, Living In the Shadow of Barbie

The Adonis Complex -- The Secret Crisis of Male Body ObsessionThe Adonis Complex - The Secret Crisis of Male Body Obsession by Harrison G. Pope Jr. M.D., et al.

 You see them everywhere. With their bulging arms and deltoids and pecs, not to mention their rippling abdominal muscles, they appear on magazine covers, in underwear ads, in action movies. And American men have noticed them; after a generation of being bombarded by images of idealized male physiques, men are growing increasingly insecure about their own appearance.

The authors have studied everything from bodybuilders to Playgirl centerfolds and concluded that the images presented to men and women have gotten steadily more muscular. As a result of this bombardment of pumped-up male imagery, American men have been developing eating disorders, working out to the point of obsession, and taking steroids. None of this is for health or sports performance but rather to develop a physique that matches those seen on the cover of Muscle & Fitness or in the next squat rack over.

Another consequence is a condition the authors call "muscle dysmorphia," also known as "reverse anorexia" or just "bigorexia." In this, men who are large and muscular look in the mirror and see someone who is puny and frail. So they pump iron and eat and take steroids and swell to ever-larger proportions, while being too ashamed of their bodies to take off their sweatshirts at the beach.

The authors postulate that all this has to do with the rising power of women in society. To back this up, they produce timelines showing how women's-rights milestones correlate with increasing images of men as sex objects.

What's the solution? The authors list some Web sites to help men suffering from the Adonis Complex to find therapists familiar with the problem. Sometimes antidepressants can work. But for most people, the answer is to understand that the images of perfect male physiques they see are unattainable, and that no one really expects them to look like that anyway. --Lou Schuler

More Info on this book


About-Face is a media literacy organization focused on the impact mass media has on the physical, mental and emotional well being of women and girls. Through practical and activist methods we challenge our culture's overemphasis on physical appearance. By encouraging critical thinking about the media, and personal empowerment, About-Face works to engender positive body-esteem in girls and women of all ages, sizes, races and backgrounds. About-Face provides a place where all women count, from the tiniest among us to the very largest.


body (i)con -- Fear and Loathing the Mirror

ICONS OF BEAUTY are conning the American woman into a costly, dangerous and futile pursuit: the perfect body.


Body Image and Eating Disorders

For both men and women, this site hosts a large annotated list of body image resources, including magazines, programs, eating disorders, and much more.


Body-image problems affect all groups

Essay by Tori DeAngelis

Researchers are studying how gender, ethnicity and culture intersect with body-image and eating disorders.


Body Image Betrayal

Maintained by an anorexia and bulimia survivor, this extensive resource provides support tools, a therapy checklist and related links.


Eating Disorders and Body Image in the Media

Essay by Heather Mudgett


Over the past fifteen or twenty years, eating disorders (specifically anorexia and bulimia) have begun to be acknowledged as serious problems. The media has told the world about the deaths of well-known performers and athletes who have died as a direct result of their eating disorder. The media can be somewhat hypocritical however, in that we may read an article about someone suffering or dying from anorexia on one page, and have an clothing advertisement with a clearly underweight model on the very next page...


Emelina - Building a Better Body Image

According to Psychology Today's 1997 Body Image Survey, more people are dissatisfied with their bodies today than ever before. The 1997 survey followed the landmark survey of 1985, among the most widely quoted on the subject. Respondents were asked to fill a five page questionnaire on how they saw, felt and were influenced by their bodies.


Gay Men and Body Image

Growing up gay in a straight world can increase young men's vulnerability to body image problems. The search by gay men for identity and acceptance has become overly focused on having a lean muscular body. The issues are complex. A lean muscular body may help a young gay male feel safer in a homophobic society, as it counters the negative feminine stereotype. Problems surface when ...


Making Peace with Your Body Image

By Susan K. Stevenson, DCH(c)


As women of the 90's, we are confronted with a myriad of images, roles, concepts and possibilities. As a whole, we do everything within our reach to look our best, be our best, do our best in the many facets of our lives. We strive to express ourselves in the most confident, positive and graceful manner possible. Yet, to the degree that our outer expression differs from our inner feelings and attitudes, we suffer...


Pre- and Post-Stonewall Gay Male Imagery


Because homosexuals have generally been a despised minority in the West, at least in recent centuries, visual portrayals of them are usually fraught with cultural baggage and non-aesthetic agendas of various kinds. Mainstream Western societies have often created stereotypes that reflect their fear of the erotic, intolerance for sexual diversity, and dislike of gender role blurring...


Pre- and Post-Stonewall Lesbian Imagery


Forty years ago, lesbian images abounded. Mass produced paperbacks with titles like The Girls in Three-B, Strange Sister, and Women's Barracks could be bought for a quarter at the corner drugstore. Often written by men, these lurid stories portrayed sick and deviant women, destined to either unhappy marriage, suicide, or prostitution. With sensational and explicit cover illustrations, the books commonly featured an older, vixen-like woman luring a young, chaste, and unsuspecting girl into the tangled web of lesbianism...


Promoting a Healthy Body Image

This is a guide for program planners on body image problems among women. Includes health promotion models and strategies for change.


Women's Body Image and the Media

Don't hate media images because they are beautiful but because they represent unnatural and unhealthy ideas of women. Find interesting essays.


Online Resource Centers for Eating Disorders
AABA - American Anorexia/Bulimia Association
ABNA - Anorexia Bulimia Nervosa Association
Addiction Net
ANBA - Anorexia Nervosa & Bulimia Nervosa
Anorexia & Bulimia Family Support Group
Eating Disorders: National Institute of Mental Health
Eating Disorders Resource Center
Eating Disorders Self-Awareness-Australia
EDAP - Eating Disorders Awareness & Prevention
OA - Overeaters Anonymous
Michael D Myers MD, INC: Myers Information Services




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