"James Bond always mistrusted short men. They grew up from childhood with an inferiority complex."
The Sex Positive community has a 400lb elephant sitting in the living room – that too much rhetoric is accepted as “fact” within the sex positive community even though they deserve to be aggressively and unequivocally challenged.
One such trope is the claim that “body image affects women more than men.”
Even as the community has agreed that men have to live up to impossible standards of modern beauty in much the same way women do (normal men don’t have six packs, for example, but every male fashion model does), we’re still pressured to qualify this statement with a disclaimer: “But, obviously, body image is much more of a problem for women.”
But you know what? No more.
I’m going to come out and say it: Body image is just as much of a problem for men as it is for women; perhaps even more so. Ask any man and eventually – when you get beneath the bravado – most will lay it out for you. Men are pressured from an early age to measure up to physical standards, and it can have a devastating effect on our lives and self-esteem if we feel that we fall short. And unlike female physical standards, it’s about something much more than “beauty.”
Look at it this way. Wives and girlfriends across America accuse us men of being “cavemen,” but there’s a fundamental truth to that. Stick a bunch of men in a room together and always, without fail, there will be an instant appraisal of the “competition.” In any male social gathering, a “pecking order” is soon established, with an alpha male at the top and the rest of the room vying for their position beneath him.
Like it or not, 90% of this “pecking order” is related to body image. This is why body image is a much more important issue for men than it is for women.
When it comes to male body image, there are three major areas of concern. The first is size.
With regard to height, you don’t have to take my word for it. There are a hundred different studies published that show taller men are always favored in life. You talk about “male privilege” and “white privilege”? How about you look into “6 feet or taller” privilege?
Need proof? How about that every presidential election for the last quarter century has gone to the taller candidate? If you’re wondering about 2000 – when 5’11” Bush beat 6’1” Gore – remember that Al Gore won the popular vote, even though he lost the electoral one.
The fact is, being a short guy sucks, and is a major body image issue that has had devastating effects on millions of men’s self-esteem. The fact that “short man syndrome” has even earned itself a name is proof of that. How many short men do you know who are accused of “over-compensating” for their height? Just look at this quote from Ian Fleming’s book Goldfinger:
“James Bond always mistrusted short men. They grew up from childhood with an inferiority complex. All their lives they would strive to be big - bigger than the others who had teased them as a child. Napoleon had been short, and Hitler. It was the short men that caused all the trouble in the world.”
Even though I’m 6’, I’ve learned never to get on the wrong side of a business deal or fight with a short man. What they lack in height, they make up for in determination.
While we’re on the subject of size, what about physical size? Feminists always argue that “fat is a feminist issue,” but as with so many other areas, they’re barking up the wrong tree. You really want to know about body image issues? Try being a fat man.
Fat men aren’t just ridiculed because they’re seen as physically unattractive. For a guy, the ridicule extends to questioning their very masculinity itself. Men are judged on their physicality. Fat men have curves, and “man boobs,” and other physical characteristics that are often mocked and derided for being “feminine.”
I know, firsthand, what a difference a few pounds makes. I used to be 40lbs heftier than I am today, and over the course of the year in which I dropped the pounds through diet and exercise, I was utterly astonished at the way in which people starting treating me differently.
If we’re taught as children not to judge a book by its cover, it’s clear that dictate didn’t cover the “large” print editions.
There are other body image issues that affect men more significantly than women might think. Consider male pattern baldness, for example. Pharmaceutical company Allergan Inc. estimates they’ll be making no less than half a billion dollars in sales for their proven anti-baldness drug by 2020. The fact that my sane, rational friends are willing to risk impotence and the other hormonal side effects allegedly caused by hair-loss remedies like Rogaine illustrates just how self-conscious men feel about not having a full head of hair – and what they’re willing to sacrifice to compensate.
There are countless other examples. I’ve read blogs and articles about men afflicted by “micropenis” (an abnormally small penis) who suffer from depression and suicidal thoughts. At the gym, I meet men who use steroids and supplements to build engorged racks of muscles, despite the health risks of such extreme body building. Just look in the back of a men’s magazine and you’ll see as many ads for plastic surgery and supplements as you will in the back of Cosmopolitan.
Feminists might not agree, but the truth is that men are under just as much pressure to “conform” to standards as women are. In many ways, these standards are more stringent and dangerous because they’re not just limited to what makes a man “attractive,” but how a man identifies himself, and his social ranking amongst his peers.
“Body image” being an exclusively female problem is just one of many sex-positive stereotypes that are totally inaccurate – and it’s about time some of us in the community started challenging the idea.