Womxn have been under constant pressure for numerous years to comply with the changing beauty standards. There was a time when the slim waist corset was trendy, but today, we live in the era of hourglass figures. We often come across awareness posts on social media platforms about how we can be carefree and live a life free of constraints.
Womxn have started to accept themselves, feel comfortable in their bodies and let go of societal expectations. But what about men? Usually, unrealistic standards and issues about men do not come to light, and there’s little information available, too.
The 2000s made David Beckham, Ryan Gosling and Daniel Craig role models for men. In today’s time, men with a beard, broad shoulders, six-pack abs, tattoos, tall height and a professional haircut are most desired. They have to strive hard to achieve these to particularly appeal to others. Even though men are generally less dissatisfied with their bodies as compared to womxn, they are more conscious than ever.
Being in good shape doesn’t sound like something to be worried about. Everyone should be healthy; however, physical health is not everything and neither is public approval the most imperial. When the deemed ‘’perfect’’ body isn’t achieved, negative body image ideas may arise.
Many men chase the ‘’ideal’’ body type — muscular, v-body and narrow hips. Negative body image leads to health issues such as eating disorders, psychological distress and social anxiety. It is vital to know that all bodies are beautiful. Yes, this quote has been a part of many ads aimed towards womxn, but it applies to men as well.
Having a lean physique or a tummy doesn’t make one less of a man. As a matter of fact, Aaron Flores, a registered dietician nutritionist from Calabasas who specialises in male body image, said about men’s beauty standard: “These bodies are attainable for a small number of people — maybe half a percent of the male community. Yet they’re associated with the idea of masculinity — the notion that as a man, I have to look a certain way, act a certain way.”
Fitness has definitely seen a rise, thanks (or no thanks) to unrealistic bodies depicted in media. A study says that 43% of people on Instagram take pictures at the gym. This influence is huge, but a little negative, too. On asking a few friends, I learned that these IG stories do not make them feel good. It’s like a race, a competition. Who goes to the gym? Who achieved the goal early? Who’s getting the most likes on shirtless pictures?
All these questions are raised and are so not healthy. It drops confidence and adds up the pressure. The Snapchat streak trend gets guys to send gym snaps every day and for people who do not have the time, energy or the facility of hitting the gyms, it becomes hard to witness all this every day. Building a body has many positive effects — one gains strength and a feeling of sure-footedness. But one should only build their body for self-satisfaction, and not for the sole purpose of posting on their Insta feed. It’s okay to show the world your endeavours, but ask yourself: is this making me happy? Is it more important than your happiness?
Many people don’t even have the time to grind at the gym or work out at home. To make good use of the limited time they have, they resort to shortcuts. These shortcuts include the use of steroids and supplements. What are steroids, and what’s so bad about taking them?
In simple words, steroids refer to artificial testosterone. Doctors often prescribe small amounts, but large amounts have serious consequences. Steroids help with muscle gain, hair growth and sexual function, and so people want more of it. Nothing good ever comes for free, does it? Here is a list of harmful effects of injecting large doses of steroids:
Another unspoken issue that very much exists among men is their penis size. More than womxn, it is men who worry more about penis size. This worry makes them vulnerable to low self-esteem and extreme self-consciousness. Gay or bisexual men have relatively more body-image issues; however, in heterosexual men, penis size remains one of the top three major body concerns, besides height and weight. One in five men are dissatisfied with their anatomy because the idea of a big penis is linked with masculinity and performance in bed. However, this is not true.
I remember watching the Polish drama Sexify, wherein female orgasm is the main theme. In the series, a conversation takes place between the leads about how the size of the penis doesn’t matter in bed. Even though this was a casual dialogue, statistics say that 85% of womxn are satisfied with their partner’s penis size.
Exaggerated moans and screams shown as a response to large penises in pornographic films have set the wrong ideals. Due to such portrayals, the penis pump industry has seen a boost, as a result of which health is greatly affected. It is a precarious process and doesn’t always yield the desired result.
As I approach the end, in a nutshell: men, your bodies are beautiful. A note to ourselves, too, as we give space to women and enable them to feel good about their bodies, we mustn’t disregard men and their issues. Steroid addiction, penis dysmorphia, body-image anxiety/depression and eating disorders are real. They are matters of great concern and need to be talked about more. We don’t have to chase unrealistic standards, we have to chase healthy standards.
About the author: Manya Arora is an author at Pratisandhi Foundation.