Recent research has concluded that sexual orientation, in both men and women, may play a significant role in the feelings of dissatisfaction of one’s physical appearance and the development and onset of disordered eating habits. Numerous studies have found that homosexual men have a higher likelihood of being more dissatisfied with their overall physical appearance. It is not so clear for homosexual women. In this paper I will review a number of published research article and try to more clearly explain the contrasting results about homosexual women.
ADOLESCENT SEXUAL ORIENTATION
Although most of the studies look at an adult population, a study by French, Story, Remafedi, and Resnik, examined the effects of sexual orientation on an adolescent population. In their study they looked at a population based sample of about 35,000 students between the grades of seven and twelve. Each of these students completed a survey that asked questions about sexual orientation, body satisfaction, and different weight control measures. The final report included the findings from 212 heterosexual males and 182 heterosexual females for comparison with 81 self- identifying homosexual males and 38 self- identifying homosexual females, and 131 bisexual males and 144 bisexual females.
They discovered that homosexual males were much more likely than heterosexual males to report having a poor body image (27.8% to 12%) and admit to frequent dieting (8.9% to 5.5%), binge eating (25.0% to 10.6%), or purging (11.7% to 4.4%). On the other side, homosexual females were more likely than heterosexual females to report that they were happy with the way that they looked (42.1% to 20.5%). Interestingly though, homosexual and heterosexual females were about equally as likely to diet, participate in binge eating, and partake in purging.
PROBLEMS WITH STUDY
Although the study seems to be appropriate, one must be wary about looking at a study, which was conducted through the use of surveys. This is particularly true when you are asking adolescents questions that deal with sexuality. It is possible that an adolescent’s embarrassment could be a factor in the answering of the questions. Social stereotypes could easily influence a heterosexual male to answer positively to questions about his body image because body angst is usually associated as a female behavior.
This study is important to research on this topic because it shows that from the beginning of sexual orientation decisions, eating habits are a priority to some. Finicky and disordered eating problems are not something that develops later in life. It begins way before that.
There are many explanations for why this could be true. Everyone knows about the pressures that are felt by children as they grow into adolescents. It is no surprise that these pressures are the driving forces behind the development of disordered eating habits.
Numerous studies have shown that adolescent girls report body dissatisfaction, as a result of social comparison and teasing were diet triggers. Social comparison arises at an early age and pressures to conform and succeed in a school situation can cause some children to begin to focus on their physical appearance. It is no surprise that the media is so often blamed for this phenomenon, as they too often portray thinness as a symbol of beauty, success, and popularity.
ADULT SEXUAL ORIENTATION
More common than the studies that look at adolescents are the ones that examine the relationships between eating habits and sexual orientation in adults. A study by Beren, Hayden, Wilfley, and Grilo successfully attempted to determine a link between body dissatisfaction and other associated variables with the affiliation of the homosexual community.
In their study, they asked heterosexual and homosexual men and women to fill out the Body Shape Questionnaire (http://www.psyctc.org/tools/bsq/bsq-16b.htm), Body Dissatisfaction subscale of the Eating...
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