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Arch Sex Behav. 2009 Oct;38(5):713-25. doi: 10.1007/s10508-008-9378-1. Epub 2008 Aug 19.

Body image satisfaction in heterosexual, gay, and lesbian adults.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, 4441 Franz Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563, USA.


Does the prevalence and degree of body dissatisfaction differ among heterosexual and homosexual men and women? Some theorists have suggested that, compared to their heterosexual peers, gay men are at greater risk for body dissatisfaction and lesbians at lower risk. Past studies examining this issue have generally relied on small samples recruited from gay or lesbian groups. Further, these studies have sometimes produced conflicting results, particularly for comparisons of lesbian and heterosexual women. In the present research, we compared body satisfaction and comfort with one's body during sexual activity among lesbian women, gay men, heterosexual women, and heterosexual men through two large online studies (Ns = 2,512 and 54,865). Compared to all other groups, heterosexual men reported more positive evaluations of their appearance, less preoccupation with their weight, more positive effects of their body image on their quality of life and the quality of their sex life, more comfort wearing a swimsuit in public, and greater willingness to reveal aspects of their body to their partner during sexual activity. Few significant differences were found among gay men, lesbian women, and heterosexual women. Many gay men (42%) reported that their feelings about their body had negative effects on the quality of their sex life, as did some lesbian women (27%), heterosexual women (30%), and heterosexual men (22%). Overall, the findings supported the hypothesis that gay men are at greater risk than heterosexual men for experiencing body dissatisfaction. There was little evidence that lesbian women experience greater body satisfaction than heterosexual women.

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