Bizarre Study Says Super-Muscular Guys Are More Sexist — Here’s Why It’s Right
2:51 pm, June 27th | by Amy Tennery
Okay, brace yourselves: Muscular, meat-head-ish types may be more likely to harbor “sexist attitudes [and] hostility toward women,” according to a new study published by the American Psychological Association. The study showed that men who value looking “jacked,” as the kids these days call it, also value some pretty crummy ideas about women. The study’s “results suggest that oppressive beliefs held by men are associated with a desire for a more muscular physique,” the report said. It’s like every straight-to-dvd frat-comedy trope rolled into one.
This, naturally, brings up a few different questions. What motivates a guy to try to look like Vin Diesel? Obviously we’re not talking about your average, everyday healthy dude, sports fan, and/or gym rat. These are men who want muscle for muscle’s sake alone. Excess testosterone seems like an easy culprit. But the research on testosterone’s ability to induce aggressive behavior is murky at best. And while high levels testosterone are linked to a lot of things (baldness and financial risk-taking, for starters), there doesn’t seem to be a lot of evidence to support the notion that every guy with a lot of testosterone wants to be a contender for the UFC.
In short, blaming this problem on nature alone is flimsy. I’d argue something more insidious is going on here: Guys who grow up believing they’re supposed to look like manly, hulking brawny types are likelier to impose similarly rigid gender values on women. It’s a cyclical problem.
Let’s go back to the study for a moment. Researchers at the University Of Westminster asked male subjects to complete a series of questions regarding both their physique and their attitudes toward women. The male respondents, all heterosexual, had a variety of romantic entanglements — single guys, guys with girlfriends, married guys and everyone in-between were all represented, according to Livescience. And researchers found that men who put a greater emphasis on their own muscularity were also apt to agree with some of the sexist statements posited in the survey (i.e., “I feel that many times women flirt with men just to tease them or hurt them”). The correlation was undeniable.
So what’s going on here? Is it really that muscular guys have been burned that often? It seems unlikely. (Though if their sexist attitudes are as prevalent as this study suggests, I’d be surprised if their dating pools weren’t slightly more limited.)
But as we lamented earlier on our piece on the rise of the man-hating beer ad, there’s an eery pop culture pattern on the rise: Guys being questioned over whether they’re “guyish” enough. (I called it the “Are You Sure You’re A Dude?” phenomenon — you can call it what you want.) And the solution presented, almost routinely, is to prove you’re more-guy by showing you’re less-gal. But by endlessly questioning whether men are men enough (in ads like this and many more like it), we’ve sent these dudes on an endless, impossible quest to achieve their own manliness. It’s no wonder the guys who are more susceptible to this manufactured insecurity are so testy (if you’ll pardon the pun).
If anything, this study proves something important: You’re not born with sexist attitudes — you learn them. And it might just start with your first bench press.