09/29/2011 09:39 EDT | Updated 11/29/2011 05:12 EST

Boys And Body Image: Boys Want Average-Sized Bodies


Worried the prominence of gym-obsessed meatheads like Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino and his Jersey Shore castmates will lead to a general degradation of future generations as we know it? You can relax a little -- the teenage boys of today have no intention of revolving their lives around pumping iron and working on their fake tans. Boys would prefer to have an average body over six-pack abs, according to recent studies from Concordia University.

"Not all boys aspire to have lean, muscular or idealized male bodies that are commonplace in popular culture," says University of Manitoba professor Moss E. Norman, who led the study.

The research, which was published in the journal Men and Masculinities, is based on in-depth interviews with 32 Toronto boys between the ages of 13 and 15 over a period of nine months. They found while participants value physical fitness, they actually had negative opinions of guys with buff bodies, and instead of idealizing the dudes with rock-hard abs and bulging biceps, they saw them as vain.

"One of the surprises from this study was how comfortable boys were in expressing, analyzing and comparing bodies -- their own, their peers' and those ideals depicted by media," adds Norman. The boys also find it vain and girly to obsess about their bodies too much.

So what do boys want? Simply put, they want to be average. They don't want to be too skinny, too fat, too muscular, too flabby, too short or too tall. And although they want to be in shape, they have no aspirations to look like Schwarzenegger. “They don't want to appear to be working at being muscular, but if they had a nice body, that [would be] a plus," Norman told the National Post.

But don't make the mistake of thinking men don't care about their bodies -- the research shows boys, like girls, are anxious about their appearance. The difference? Girls are used to talking about it with their peers -- which is why they're often labelled as "the gender with major body hang-ups." In fact, a similar 2006 study found the majority of adolescent girls also aspire to have a normal physique, rather than aiming toward the supermodel ideal.

Body image issues and how they affect men isn't a new concept: a 2008 study discovered dudes who read magazines like Maxim and FHM were actually more likely to have body image issues than guys who didn't because pouring over racy images of gorgeous, barely-clad women like Megan Fox reminded them they didn't have a chance with such a babe.

A 2010 study from New Zealand found 3 per cent of guys worry about gaining weight, with another one in five worried about hair loss and wrinkles.