Body image and sociocultural norms: A comparison of heterosexual and lesbian women
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Psychology of Women Quarterly
Internalization of sociocultural norms about the body has been theorized to be an important factor in fostering body dissatisfaction in women. Some theorists have suggested that a lesbian identity may buffer or immunize lesbians from the damaging effects of society's pressure to be thin by reducing this internalization. This study was designed to test this claim empirically. Questionnaires were completed by 108 lesbians and 115 heterosexual women recruited through snowball sampling. Lesbians felt more fit, reported less negative attitudes toward their lower bodies, and internalized sociocultural norms less than heterosexual women. For all women, internalization of sociocultural norms significantly predicted body attitudes. Lesbians and heterosexual women appear to be similarly exposed to and aware of society's messages, and as such their body attitudes substantially overlap. However, lesbians are buffered from these views in some specific areas. These differences appear to be primarily the result of differential internalization of sociocultural norms.
Bergeron, Sherry M. and Senn, Charlene Y.. (1998). Body image and sociocultural norms: A comparison of heterosexual and lesbian women. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22 (3), 385-401.