Picture retrieved from Pixabay
Media, largely social media, in the United States puts pressure on women to fit a standard of beauty and shames those who do not conform. This can lead many women to have a poor self-image, with some developing eating disorders. Women who use social media can be at a greater risk of developing an eating disorder when they compare their own bodies with what they see on Facebook (Walker et al, 2015).
Women can also feel pressured to fit a certain standard by their past and current romantic or sexual partners. Pornography worsens this issue through promoting unrealistic body standards. Even if a woman is not directly exposed to pornography, her partner’s use of pornography can introduce these expectations. Tylka and Calogero (2019) surveyed 409 women in relationships about their self-image and if their partner was currently or had previously used pornography. They found a link between current pornography use by a partner and various symptoms of an eating disorder, such as guilt around eating and preoccupation with body fat. In addition, these and other symptoms were found in women who were formerly in a relationship with someone who used pornography.
Dissatisfaction with one’s body is also found among women who watched pornography alone or with their partner. Male and female Swedish teenagers were interviewed about their experience with pornography. Many of the young women related that they felt less attractive, having seen the “perfect” women portrayed in pornography. Even though they recognized that the women portrayed did not reflect a realistic body type or one that they personally found appealing, they still felt inadequate. These young women worried that they weren’t good enough for their partners and that their partners would no longer find them desirable. Some of the young men interviewed denied that they found the women portrayed in pornography desirable due to the plastic surgery they had undergone. However, this fact was disputed by the women, who believed that they were not being truthful (Lofgren-Martensen & Manssen, 2010).
If you or someone you know struggles with an eating disorder, please visit https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/free-low-cost-support, which can connect you to free or lost-cost support groups. Similarly, https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Self-Esteem provides a workbook to help improve self-image.
Centre for Clinical Interventions. (n.d.) Self-esteem. Centre for Clinical Interventions. https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Self-Esteem
Lofgren-Martensen, L. & Manssen, S-A. (2010). Lust, love, and life: A qualitative study of Swedish adolescents’ perceptions and experiences with pornography. Journal of Sex Research, 47(6), 568-579. https://doi.org/10.1080/00224490903151374
National Eating Disorders Association (n.d.) Free and low-cost support. National Eating Disorders Association. https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/free-low-cost-support
Tylka, T. L., & Calogero, R. M. (2019). Perceptions of male partner pressure to be thin and pornography use: Associations with eating disorder symptomatology in a community sample of adult women. International Journal of Eating Disorders, 52(2), 189-194–194. https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.22991
Walker, M., Thornton, L., De Choudhury, M., Teevan, J., Bulik, C. M., Levinson, C. A., & Zerwas, S. (2015). Facebook Use and Disordered Eating in College-Aged Women. Journal of Adolescent Health, 57(2), 157–163. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.04.026