Campus: CSU Los Angeles -- May 27, 2003

Results on Sex and Body Image Survey by Cal State L.A. Professor Released

Now posted on the ELLE.com and MSNBC.com sites are findings from the new Sex and Body Image Survey, analyzed by Janet Lever, professor of sociology at California State University, Los Angeles. For expanded coverage of the survey results, look for the June issue of ELLE magazine at your local bookstores or supermarkets.

For two consecutive weeks in February 2003, ELLE teamed up with MCNBC.com to find out how men and women feel about their bodies and how the perception affects sexual confidence and behavior. The 26-item questionnaire posted on both sites—ELLE.com and MSNBC.com—attracted 59,632 replies from an almost equal number of men and women. The average age of female respondents was 34, and 38 for male respondents.

Dr. Lever notes, “From research centered mostly on college students, we know there’s a big gender gap in body image—compared to young men, young women are more likely to express dissatisfaction about their bodies. This survey allows us to see whether that gender gap narrows as people age, and as men grow considerably heavier and women become more accomplished than their college-age counterparts. To our surprise, the gender gap grows even wider.”

Based on the ELLE/MSNBC.com survey results, Linda Carroll (MSNBC contributor) writes: “Men aren’t daunted by their physical imperfections in general. Although nearly twice as many men as women reported being overweight, the women were far more likely to be unhappy about extra pounds. Women were also more likely than men to want to have sex in the dark and to eschew swim suits altogether.”

Data were collected on various components of body image, including the most and least favorite feature, feelings about one’s height, one’s own or partner’s breasts or penis, etc. ELLE.com has posted the entire survey results online. To read about Lever’s perspective on self-esteem and sexual confidence, go to the “Body of Evidence” segment at <http://www.elle.com/Contests/bodysex_survey/results.asp>.

This is the fifth mass media survey written and analyzed by Lever, who coauthored Glamour magazine’s “Sex and Health” column from 1991 through 1998. Lever, who received her Ph.D. from Yale University, specializes in gender studies, leisure studies, applied sociology, and the social consequences of human sexuality. She joined the Cal State L.A. faculty in 1990. She is an adjunct staff member at RAND in Santa Monica, California, where she researches and writes on sex and health policy issues.


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