The growing commercial value of the male body: a longitudinal survey of advertising in women's magazines

Psychother Psychosom. Jul-Aug 2001;70(4):189-92. doi: 10.1159/000056252.


Background: With the advances of feminism, men have gradually relinquished their once-exclusive 'masculine' roles as fighters and breadwinners. In response to this change, the male body may have gained in relative importance as one of the few surviving marks of masculinity. We hypothesized that these trends might be quantified by using a commercial measure such as advertising.

Methods: We examined the proportion of exposed male and female bodies portrayed in advertisements between 1958 and 1998 in two leading American women's magazines.

Results: In both magazines, the proportion of undressed women in the advertisements has changed little over the last 40 years, whereas the proportion of undressed men has increased dramatically, especially since the early 1980s.

Conclusions: Trends in commercial advertising offer tentative support for the hypothesis that the male body is increasing in importance as a mark of masculinity--at least as judged from the actions of advertisers seeking to influence women's attitudes.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Advertising / trends*
  • Body Image*
  • Commerce* / trends*
  • Female
  • Feminism
  • Gender Identity*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Periodicals as Topic
  • Pilot Projects
  • United States