Graduation Year

2009

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Psychology

Major Professor

J. Kevin Thompson, Ph.D.

Keywords

Body image, Hair removal, Body dissatisfaction, Muscularity, Attitudes

Abstract

Body depilation is a relatively new area of research inquiry. Although women in many industrialized cultures have engaged in body depilation for some time, this behavior has been documented only recently in men. While originally thought to be the practice of just a small percentage of men, recent studies suggest that more men engage in body depilation than had been previously hypothesized (Boroughs & Thompson, 2002; Boroughs, Cafri, & Thompson, 2005; Martins, Tiggemann, & Churchett, 2008; Tiggemann, Martins, & Churchett, 2008). Nevertheless, this area of research is understudied and the relationship between body depilation and men's overall body image is poorly understood.

Since much of the documented evidence of men's body depilation is either descriptive anecdotes via media accounts (see Gomes, 2001; Smith, 2000; Stuever, 2000; Stein, 1999; Schuler, 2000) or scientific investigations of the behavior that were undertaken to provide descriptive data about body depilation by men (see Boroughs & Thompson, 2002; Boroughs, et al., 2005; Martins, et al., 2008; Porche, 2007; Tiggemann, et al., 2008), now the time has come to further the understanding of this behavior in men. The purpose of these studies was to increase both the breadth and depth of our understanding of body depilation in men and its correlates with general body image concerns. A central aim of the first study was to test Social Comparison Theory (Festinger, 1954) as a workable theoretical paradigm to explain the genesis and maintenance of body depilation. The second study investigated women's attitudes towards men's body hair and men's body depilation.

Research questions that have provided the foundation for the design of this study include: a) is there a relationship between men's drive for muscularity, frequency of weekly exercise, and influence by others (via social comparison) that is related to their body depilation behaviors, b) do sexual minority men differ from heterosexual men with regard to depilation behaviors, c) what are women's attitudes toward men's body hair and body depilation by men, and d) how might the attitudes of sexual minority women differ from heterosexual women on the topic of men's body hair and body depilation by men?

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