Gender Discrepancies in Perceptions of the Bodies of Female Fashion Models

Sarah N. Johnson*, Renee Engeln

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


For over 30 years, researchers and journalists have made the claim that men do not prefer the level of thinness typically embodied by female fashion models, along with the secondary claim that women overestimate the extent to which men find these ultra-thin bodies attractive. The current studies examined men’s and women’s perceptions of the bodies of fashion models shown in media images, as well as how each gender believed the other would perceive the models’ bodies. In Study 1, 548 U.S. college students rated the body size and attractiveness of 13 images of models from women’s fashion magazines. Respondents also indicated how they thought the other gender would rate the models on these dimensions. In Study 2, 707 men and women recruited from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk completed the same rating task. Overall, both men and women overestimated how ideal the other gender would find the models’ bodies (both in terms of thinness and attractiveness). This misperception was strongest when women estimated how men would react to the models’ bodies. Results were consistent with previous studies suggesting that men do not find the ultra-thin body ideal for women as attractive as women believe men do. These gender-based misconceptions may contribute to the negative effects of viewing ultra-thin media images on women’s body image.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-311
Number of pages13
JournalSex Roles
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Body image
  • Body weight
  • Gender differences
  • Human sex differences
  • Imagery
  • Media exposure
  • Media images
  • Thin ideal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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