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Surprising Science

Men Must Be Beautiful, but Not Too Beautiful

Images of tone, skinny bodies and ideal beauty stare us down everywhere—from web sites to TV shows, in magazines and advertisements. Men are not immune from the pressure. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Society’s expectations of beauty do not affect women alone. Recent research indicates that men, too, perceive their body in light of what the media, their male peers and opposite sex deem masculine. “After conducting interviews, observations and focus groups, Concordia University researchers concluded that boys possess a ‘double-bind masculinity,’ in which they care about their appearance, but not in ways that make them look vain or uncool.” Researchers believe this outlook takes root in males during adolescence or even in childhood. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Men have a difficult role to fill: Society expects them to meet normative standards of beauty but also to be practical enough to overcome those expectations. “Unlike girls and women, boys and men are pulled in two separate directions: being healthy, attractive and masculine, and the need to transcend their bodies for a more rational, functional outlook in life.” While women are seldom judged for caring about their looks, it is a common reaction against men who appear vain. Men must possess beauty and social skills to fulfill their masculine role. 


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