Sex, Media & Culture 

How do we portray men’s bodies in the media?

Ailsa Keppie Apr 30 2020

How do we portray men’s bodies in the media?

There has been somewhat of a revolution in the portrayal of women’s bodies in the media. There is still a long way to go in acceptance of all different shapes and sizes, but at least we are noticing!

I recently became aware of the fact that men’s bodies are not undergoing a similar revolution. Many of us still imagine the ideal Male body to be hard, muscle-bound, young, limited body hair, average to tall, a full head of hair, I could go on. The shock for me was to realize that I hadn’t even noticed how many different body types are out there in male-identified bodies.

At a recent training, we were doing some posture and body reading, which required us to observe each other’s bodies with minimal clothing. I was struck by the vulnerability I observed in a few of the male-bodied participants. Throughout life, our body takes on attitudes and postural compensations for our unique experiences. These men had rounded shoulders, pelvises that tucked under, knees that bowed, or shoulders that were chronically raised up.

Just like women!

I don’t know how much of my surprise is only my own experience. Perhaps you have noticed that most men’s bodies don’t come near to our ‘ideal’ male look all along. But for me, I began looking at advertisements, media portrayals and talking to my girlfriends about who was hot and who was not.

The skinny is, that I found myself much more judgemental towards men’s bodies than I was towards women’s. If a larger-bodied female was on a billboard for underwear, I cheered. If women of colour were shown on a TV series, I said ‘about time’ and fist-pumped my friends. But if an overweight guy was the male lead in a movie? My first reaction was “Eeuw, how did he get that part!”

Not a feeling I am proud of, but just being honest.

I think it’s about time we began looking at a body as a unique portrayal of the human potential. Big, small, fat, thin, muscle-bound or scrawny, hairy or smooth, there are as many variations as there are people. Why should we be holding men to a ‘one size fits all’ body, while we women scream and shout about acceptance?

All of this pondering has opened my heart to new feelings of tenderness and empathy with men and male-bodied people. They are just looking to be loved and cherished too. I noticed my own partner’s biceps change size depending on how often he works out, sometimes more, sometimes less. This doesn’t change the essence of who he is one iota.

If you have struggled with body image, whatever gender you are, acceptance begins with yourself. This is a core part of the work of Somatic Sex Education. To begin the journey of intimacy with ourselves, and to grow our own self-love, opens the door for us to love and accept others.

I am continually working to catch myself when I have expectations or judgements around someone else’s body. This is a life-long process.

If you’d like to join me in this exploration of acceptance, self-love and intimacy, reach out and book a consult. I’d be honoured to talk with you about how we could work together.


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