Did you know images of hot women make men feel bad, too? Everyone knows that the way women are portrayed in US culture – sexy and super thin- makes most women feel a bit like yesterday’s leftovers. When we look at how media portays women they feel inadequate - and it's no wonder, when the average woman model weighs up to 30% less than the typical woman and maintains a weight at about 18 to 25% below what is considered healthy for her age and height. But the 50,000 or so ads the average American is exposed to a year aren't just affecting the girls.
The University of Missouri found that men react negatively to unrealistic ads, too. This will amaze you, it wasn't images of hot men that got the guys feeling self-conscious - it was images of hot women. Their research began by trying to see if men were as negatively affected by men's magazines as women are by Cosmo and the like. Men that were given men's magazines like Maxim had lower self image, which got the researchers to question exactly what about the magazines cause the drop in self esteem. So they showed men just the pictures of objectified women, men, and the articles and again checked their esteem levels. They found that, surprisingly, it wasn't the images of idealized men that made the guys feel inadequate - it was the women. Even more surprising was that the male fashion group reported the least amount of body self-consciousness among the three groups - the guys couldn't care less what the other men looked like.
If you've ever been in high school, it's obvious why seeing a hot woman would make a less than ideal looking guy feel bad. I mean, what guy hasn't choked when trying to talk to the head cheerleader? Attractive women are intimidating, and the mere sight of one is enough to cause average Joe Lunchbucket to give himself a quick once-over.
The theory is that a beautiful women makes a man self conscious because he’s reminded that he's not in her league - that is, they take one look at a hot girl and quickly realize there's no way they're good-looking enough to have her. Since women have the larger investment in children, they tend to be considered the 'selective' ones, historically speaking. The men and their billions of sperm have to compete with other guys to persuade a girl that they've got the genes to be worth it.
To test this theory, they broke the men into two groups – Group A received magazine layouts of sexually idealized females and Group B received the same layouts with average-looking 'boyfriends' added to the photos, with captions about how the female models are attracted to the average-looking men. Group A men who looked at just the model were felt self-conscious. Group B men saw that the hotties liked 'normal guys,' they no longer felt the women were out of reach.