Can being attracted to men be hazardous for your health? An article published in the Journal of Eating Disorders suggests that attraction to men is a risk factor for eating disorders.
Eating disorders are very serious and deadly psychological disorders that have many adverse effects on people suffering from them. Eating disorder prevalence is higher in women and men who are attracted to men than it is in men who are attracted to women. Past research on LGBTQ+ women is less clear. Regardless of sexuality, men place higher emphasis on the physical attractiveness of their romantic partners than women do, causing researchers to hypothesize that attraction to men may be a risk factor for disordered eating.
Study author Pedro Maria Ruiz de Assin Varela and colleagues used a sample of 398 hetero and homosexual women and men. 45% of male participants and 68% of female participants reported being attracted to men. Participants completed an online questionnaire that researchers shared via social media, including through LGBTQ+ associations to diversify their sample. Participants were asked about their sex, age, weight, height, sexual orientation, eating disorder symptomology, and relationship status.
As predicted, participants who are attracted to men showed greater levels of eating disorder symptomology than lesbian women and heterosexual men. This relationship was nuanced by the specific eating disorder symptoms. Body dissatisfaction was greater in participants who reported being attracted to men but was also greater in women regardless of sexuality.
The drive for thinness was higher in male-attracted men than male-attracted women. Bulimia symptoms were elevated in heterosexual women over lesbian women but was similar between all men regardless of sexuality. This study provides some support for the theory that that eating disorder risk may be somewhat affected by mating behaviors.
Though this study took important steps into understanding eating disorder risk and sexuality, it had several limitations as well. Firstly, the sample size for groups were small due to the need to capture different sexes and sexualities. Additionally, this study was cross-sectional, which does not allow researchers to follow the evolution of disordered eating symptoms.
The study, “Sexual attraction to men as a risk factor for eating disorders: the role of mating expectancies and drive for thinness“, was authored by Pedro María Ruiz de Assin Varela, Jose Manuel Caperos, and Elena Gismero-González.