Femininity, masculinity, and body image in a community-based sample of lesbian and bisexual women

Sarah M. Steele*, Lisa Belvy, Cindy B. Veldhuis, Kelly Martin, Robyn Nisi, Tonda L. Hughes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This study expands the literature on body image among lesbian and bisexual women by examining the relationship between self-perceived gendered personality traits and expressions (i.e., sense of self in relation to cultural constructions of femininity and masculinity) and body satisfaction, a key body image construct. We used data from Wave 3 (2010–2012) of the Chicago Health and Life Experiences of Women (CHLEW) study. The CHLEW includes a novel measure of gender expression, with masculinity and femininity as distinct but overlapping constructs. In the large analytic sample (N = 553), we found both similarities and differences in the association between femininity/masculinity and body image in lesbian and bisexual women. Bisexual women reported significantly lower body satisfaction than lesbian women. Higher masculinity was associated with greater body satisfaction in the full sample, but the association was stronger for bisexual than lesbian women. Femininity was positively associated with body satisfaction only for bisexual women. These findings suggest that masculinity and femininity play different roles in body satisfaction for lesbian and bisexual women and highlight the importance of disaggregating sexual identity in studies of sexual minority women’s health. Clinicians should routinely ask about sexual identity and gender expression, especially when presenting concerns involve body image or disordered eating.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)829-844
Number of pages16
JournalWomen and Health
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 14 2019


  • Bisexual women
  • body image
  • body satisfaction
  • gender expression
  • lesbian women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'Femininity, masculinity, and body image in a community-based sample of lesbian and bisexual women'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this