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The naked truth: development of a scale designed to measure male body image self-consciousness during physical intimacy.

Body image has been described as a multidimensional phenomenon that includes self-perceptions and attitudes regarding one's physical appearance. Two core facets of body image attitudes are evaluative thoughts about one's body and the psychological investment or importance one places on one's appearance (Cash, 2002). Historically, the emphasis in body image literature has been on women and thinness (Bergeron & Tylka, 2007). However, in the past decade, the topic of male body image has garnered greater attention, with researchers documenting how the male physique is represented in cultural artefacts such as magazines (e.g., Farquhar & Wasylkiw, 2007; Harrison & Bond, 2007; Leit, Pope, & Gray, 2001 ; Olivardia, 2002), toys (Pope, Olivardia, Gruber, & Borowiecki, 1999), and television programmes (Fouts & Vaughan, 2002; Lin, 1998: Soulliere & Blair, 2006). Additionally, researchers investigating male-oriented body phenomena such as the drive for muscularity (for a review of this construct, see Morrison. Morrison, & McCann, 2006) have found that substantial proportions of male participants are dissatisfied with their physical appearance (e.g., Hatoum & Belle, 2004; Olivardia, Pope, Borowiecki, & Cohane. 2004; Vartanian, Giant, & Passino, 200l).

A growing area of research points to the role of body image attitudes in human sexual functioning. In this regard, body image may include an evaluation of one's overall physical attractiveness as well as evaluations of various parts of the body (e.g., genitals and buttocks). It should be noted that such evaluations may be general, enduring or may arise from specific contextual factors (Cash, Maikkula, & Yamamiya, 2004). Sexual functioning entails an intricate interplay of thoughts, feelings, physical processes and behaviours. It encompasses one's experience and how well one functions within a particular episode of sexual activity (Wiederman, 2002). Faith and Schare (1993) and Murslein and Holden (1979 as cited in Ackard, Kearney-Cooke, & Peterson, 2000) documented a direct relationship between body satisfaction and sexual experience. Using samples of college students, the results of these studies indicate that participants who evidenced more negative self-perceptions of their physical appearance described themselves as less sexually active. (1)

Wiederman and Hurst (1998) explored the relationship between physical attractiveness and body image in relation to sexual experience and sexual esteem in a sample of young undergraduate women aged 18 to 21 (N = 192). Those who were in a relationship (n = 94) and had engaged in vaginal intercourse (n = 144) had a lower body mass index (BMI) and were rated as more facially attractive by experimenters in comparison to those who were not currently in a relationship (n = 98) and were virgins (n = 48). The authors also reported that participants who had received oral sex (n = 155) perceived their bodies to be more attractive when compared to women who had never experienced cunnilingus (n = 37). In addition, women who were higher in sexual esteem (i.e., the tendency to evaluate oneself positively as a sexual being; see Mayers, Heller, & Heller, 2003) believed themselves to be more attractive.

More recently, Ackard et al. (2000) examined the relationship between body image, sexual practises, and other facets of self-evaluation among a large sample of female readers of Shape magazine. Findings revealed that satisfaction with one's body appeared to play a significant role in predicting frequency initiating sex and achieving orgasm, comfort with new sexual acts, and confidence in one's ability to pleasure a partner sexually. It was clear from this study that women who evidenced greater body satisfaction had a higher frequency of sexual activity and were more comfortable in sexual situations. Collectively, these findings suggest that self-consciousness about one's sexual attractiveness may be a mediating factor in associations between women's body size. body image, and sexual experience.

Few studies have investigated these types of associations among men. Hangen and Cash (1991 as cited in Cash et al., 2004) developed a questionnaire to measure anxious self-focus on, and avoidance of, body exposure in sexual contexts: the Body Exposure during Sexual Activities Questionnaire (BESAQ). In a subsequent investigation of the scale's psychometric properties, Cash et al. found that, among a sample of male college students, body mass index correlated positively with anxious self-focus and exposure avoidance during sexual intimacy. Further, results indicated that men's scores on the BESAQ correlated positively with being concerned about weight and appearance investment, and correlated negatively with self-reported sexual desire, arousal, and orgasm experience.

While the BESAQ fills an important gap in the literature, it has several limitations that warrant mention. First, as the measure was designed for use with both men and women, it employs generic items that do not particularize men's unique body concerns. For example, despite research indicating that many men are concerned about the length and circumference of their penis (e.g., Lever, Frederick, & Peplau, 2006; Morrison, Bearden, Ellis, & Harriman, 2005), the BESAQ does not focus on these dimensions of male genitalia. Additionally, none of the items make explicit reference to the functioning of the penis (e.g., ability to achieve and maintain an erection) or to the muscularity of the body. Second. the extent to which men were involved in the generation of items for the BESAQ is unclear. The absence of input from men in the construction of measures designed to assess attitudes and behaviours relevant to their bodies has been identified as an important limitation of extant research in the domain of male body image (Bottamini & Ste-Marie, 2006). Third, inspection of the items comprising the BESAQ suggests that some of them may possess structural problems. For example, the item, "During sex I worry that my partner will find the appearance or odour of my genitals repulsive" refers to two dimensions (appearance and smell) that appear to possess differential importance to men (Morrison et al., 2005). When answering this item, it is unclear whether male participants would focus on the documented area of concern (appearance) and discount the apparently unimportant attribute of smell or vice versa. (Alternatively, they might provide an "averaged" response.)

The aim of the current study was to develop a psychometrically sound measure of male body image self-consciousness (2) during sexual relations. The generation and reduction of scale items; the scale score reliability and dimensionality of the resultant measure: and various tests of validation are outlined.



Participants were 136 men residing within the Republic of Ireland who ranged in age from 17 to 34 years (M = 21.38, SD = 3.85). Approximately 90% (n = 123) of respondents self-identified as "exclusively heterosexual" or "as more heterosexual than homosexual." In terms of sexual experience, 13.2% (N = 18) had never engaged in vaginal intercourse, 75.7% (n = 103) had not experienced anal intercourse, 11% (n = 16) had never received oral sex, and 19.9% (n = 27) had never performed oral sex. The median age when participants reported first having consensual sexual intercourse was 17 years, and the median number of sexual partners for this sample was 2. Finally, the body mass index of participants ranged from 17.35 to 39.45 (M = 23.86, SD = 3.92).


Respondents were given a questionnaire packet containing the following measures (listed in alphabetical order).

Body Esteem Scale (BES; Franzoi & Shields, 1984). The BES is a 35-item measure with a 5-point response format (1 = have strong negative feelings; 5 = have strong positive feelings). For men, there ate three body esteem domains: physical attractiveness (facial features and some aspects of the physique, such as nose), upper body strength (tipper body parts and functions that can be changed through exercise, such as chest), and physical condition (feelings about one's stamina, strength, and agility). Scores are obtained by summing responses to all items comprising each subscale. Higher scores represent more positive body esteem (possible range is 35 to 175). Research suggests that the BES is psychometrically sound (e.g., Franzoi. 1994; Franzoi & Shields).

Body size. Participants were asked to report their current weight and height. This information then was used to calculate body mass index (i.e., kg/m.sup.2]; Garrow & Webster, 1985).

Drive for Muscularity Attitudes Questionnaire (DMAQ ; Morrison, Morrison. Hopkins, & Rowan, 2004). The DMAQ is an 8-item measure (e.g., 1 wish my legs were more muscular) scored using a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree: 5 = strongly agree). Higher scores denote a stronger drive for muscularity (possible range is 5 to 25). Available research suggests that the DMAQ is a psychometrically sound indicant of this construct (for a review of studies using the DMAQ, see Morrison, Morrison, & McCann, 2006).

Male Body bnage Self-Consciousness (M-BISC). This scale was designed specifically for the cun'ent study. To enhance the content validity of the measure, items were generated in consultation with a small group of men (3 students in the final year of their undergraduate degree). The following protocol was adopted. Copies of a scale designed to measure female body image self-consciousness during physical intimacy (Wiederman, 2000) were distributed to the group and discussed, with each item assessed individually with regards to whether or not it was pertinent to men. Suggestions were made for the exclusion of some of the items and development of further items. This collaborative process resulted in the generation of 39 items in total, all of which were written such that men. with and without sexual experience involving a partner (male or female), could respond. Responses were coded on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = strongly disagree; 5 = strongly agree). However, in keeping with recommended psychometric practice (see Barnette, 2000), the anchors were reversed for seven items (i.e.. 1 = strongly agree: 5 = strongly disagree) so as to prevent acquiescent and response set behaviours. Details concerning item reduction and the psychometric properties of the final version of the M-B1SC are outlined in the Results section.

Relationship status. Participants denoted their relationship status by using six categories: not dating anyone currently, casually dating one or more people, dating one person exclusively, living with a romantic partner, engaged or planning to marry, and married. Participants then were categorised into two groups according to their responses: (a) those not currently involved in an exclusive relationship, or (b) those currently dating one person exclusively, living with a partner, engaged or married (Wiederman, 2000).

Self-rated bodily attractiveness. Using a 5-point scale (1 = well below average; 5 = well above average), respondents were instructed to respond to the statement "Overall, I would rate the attractiveness of my body as." Single items indicants of perceived attractiveness have been used by other researchers in this area (e.g., Wiederman & Hurst, 1998).

Sex Anxiety Inventory (SAI; Janda & O'Grady, 1980). The SAI is designed to measure sexual anxiety, which may be defined as a general expectancy for external punishment for the violation of, or the anticipation of violating, apparent standards of acceptable sexual activities (Janda, 1998). The SAI consists of 25 items arranged in a forced choice format. One answer represents an anxiety response and the other represents a non-anxiety response (e.g., Oral sex: (a) would arouse me, or (b) would terrify me). Each anxiety response is scored as one point, resulting in a possible range of scores from 0 to 25. Higher scores denote greater sexual anxiety. Janda and Grady provide evidence attesting to the reliability and validity of the SAI.

Sexual Esteem Scale (SES: Snell & Papini, 1989). The SES consists of 10 items (e.g., I have doubts about my sexual confidence) and measures the tendency to evaluate oneself positively as a sexual partner. Participants respond on a 5-point Likert scale (1 = agree; 5 = disagree), with higher scores denoting greater levels of sexual esteem (possible range = 10 to 50). Studies suggest that the SES is psychometrically robust (e.g., Morrison, Ellis, Monison, Bearden, & Harriman, 2006; Snell, Fisher, & Schuh, 1992).

Sexual experience. Participants were asked to indicate whether they had ever: 1) engaged in vaginal intercourse; 2) engaged in anal intercourse: 3) experienced "oral stimulation of your genitals by another person"; and 4) "orally stimulated another person's genitals." The number of times participants had engaged in sexual intercourse in the past 4 weeks (vaginal or anal), number of sexual partners, and age of first mutually consenting sexual intercourse also were reported.


Two methods of participant recruitment were employed. First, questionnaire packets were distributed to potential respondents outside of psychology classes held at a large university in the Republic of Ireland. Second, "chain referral" sampling was used whereby friends and acquaintances of the senior author were asked to identify other men that might be interested in participating in the study. Thirty-six men were recruited from first- and second-year psychology classes, and one hundred men were obtained via the chain referral method. The individuals recruited for the chain referral method were primarily university students. Only those in first-year were remunerated for their participation (i.e., they received credit toward their final grade in psychology).

The questionnaire packet included a consent form, the details of which emphasized that: 1) participation in the study was strictly voluntary; 2) no self-identifying information would be recorded thereby protecting respondents' anonymity; 3) all data collected would be held in strictest confidence: and 4) respondents could omit any items they wished or terminate their involvement in the study at any time without penalty.


To reduce the number of items on the M-BISC, corrected item-total correlations were inspected. Five items had correlation coefficients less than .30 and, thus, were deleted (Shin, Kim, Kim, Chee, & Im, 2008). For the remaining 34 items, corrected item-total correlations were recalculated, with all coefficients exceeding .30. Inter-item correlations also were reviewed. Two items correlated with each other in excess of .70 and, consequently, the one with the least variance was removed. Sixteen additional items were deleted because their inter-item correlations were weak (i.e., rs across other M-BISC items were < .30). Therefore, as a result of these two types of item analysis, the M-BISC was reduced from 39 items to a more parsimonious set of 17 items.

To gauge the dimensionality of the final 17-item version of the M-BISC, an exploratory factor analysis (EFA) was conducted. As a minimum of 5 participants per item are recommended (see Shin et al.), the number of subjects in this study (131 for the EFA) was adequate. Unweighted least squares (ULS), which is robust when data are not normally distributed, served as the extraction method, and parallel analysis in conjunction with the scree plot were used for the purpose of factor retention (see Hayton. Allen, & Scarpello [2004] for a discussion of parallel analysis).

Diagnostic tests revealed that the data were suitable for factor analysis (i.e., Bartlett's test of sphericity was statistically significant and the KMO was .90). Based on the scree plot and output from the parallel analysis, a one factor solution appeared to provide an acceptable representation of the data. Loadings for this factor (eigenvalue = 7.61, accounting for 44.8% of the variance) are provided in Table 1.

Cronbach's alpha for the 17-item M-BISC was .92 (95% CI = .90 - .94). which suggests good scale score reliability. Scores on the M-BISC ranged from 17 to 70 (M = 35.89, SD = 12.12), with the average score indicating that participants evidenced fairly low levels of body image self-consciousness during physical intimacy. Descriptive statistics and alpha coefficients tot all remaining measures are presented in Table 2.

Inspection of this table reveals that levels of reliability ranged from satisfactory to excellent. Mean scores suggest that male participants possessed moderate levels of body esteem, sexual esteem, sexual anxiety, and a moderate drive for muscularity.

To assess the construct validity of the M-BISC, the following hypotheses were tested.

Hypothesis 1. Wiederman (2000) found that women's body dissatisfaction correlated strongly with their body image self-consciousness during sexual intimacy. Therefore, it seemed reasonable to posit a similar association for men. This hypothesis was confirmed: M-BISC and BES, r (131) = -.56, p < .001.

Hypothesis 2. Wiederman (2000) found that, among women, sexual esteem correlated negatively with body image self-consciousness during physical intimacy. As predicted, a similar association was observed for male participants in the current study: M-BISC and SES, r (130) = -.56, p < .001.

Hypothesis 3. Wiederman (2000) obtained a moderate positive correlation between female respondents' level of sexual anxiety and their level of body image self-consciousness during physical intimacy. A similar association was noted for the male participants in this study: M-BISC and SAI, r (131) = .40, p < .001.

Hypothesis 4. In Wiederman's (2000) study, self-rated physical attractiveness was negatively related to body image self-consciousness during physical intimacy. It was expected that men who rated themselves as more physically attractive would evidence lower scores on the M-BISC. This hypothesis was confirmed, r (128) = -.50, p < .001.

Hypothesis 5. Higher levels of the drive for muscularity have been associated with lower levels of body satisfaction (Morrison et al., 2004), and dissatisfaction with one's body has been associated with body image self-consciousness during physical intimacy (Wiederman, 2000). It is suggested, then, that as participants' body image self-consciousness increases so will their drive for muscularity. Although the effect size was small (approximately 7% shared variance), this hypothesis was confirmed: M-BISC and DMAQ, r (131) = .26, p < .005.

Exploratory analyses. A series of point-biserial and Pearson's correlation coefficients were computed between participants' self-reported engagement in various sexual practices (e.g., vaginal intercourse) and their scores on the M-BISC. Results indicated that higher levels of body image self-consciousness during physical intimacy were associated with being less likely to have: 1) engaged in vaginal intercourse, [r.sub.pb] (129) = -.24, p < .01; 2) performed oral sex on another person, [r.sub.pb] (129) = -.28, p < .001; or 3) received oral sex from another person, [r.sub.pb] (129)= .27, p < .01. No statistically significant associations were observed between scores on the M-BISC and whether participants had engaged in anal intercourse, the number of times they had engaged in vaginal intercourse over the past four weeks, or their dating status.


Findings from the current study suggest that the M-BISC is psychometrically promising. It appears to possess a unidimensional factor structure, good scale score reliability, and correlates in the anticipated direction with variables such as sexual anxiety, sexual esteem, and self-rated physical attractiveness. Exploratory analyses also suggest that engagement in certain sexual practices (e.g., oral sex) is associated with scores on the M-BISC.

Further assessment of the scale's psychometric properties is required. In particular, the following avenues of inquiry are recommended: 1) the dimensionality of the MBISC should be replicated; 2) given research suggesting that people are less likely to tell the truth when answering questions regarding their sexual experience (e.g., Brink, 1995), the association between scores on the M-BISC and measures of impression management (e.g., the Social Desirability Scale-17, Stober, 2001) should be examined; 3) as most of the participants in the current study were heterosexual and Caucasian, the M-BISC should be distributed to samples that are variegated on these and other dimensions (e.g., age); and 4) the extent to which participants" level of body image self-consciousness is sensitive to contextual influences such as exposure to idealistic representations of the male body and idealistic representations of male sexual proficiency (as disseminated by pornography, for example) should be investigated. For the latter strand of research, experimental studies would be particularly illuminating.

Beyond the psychometric properties of the M-BISC, what are the implications of the current findings? First, it is interesting to note that body image self-consciousness did not correlate significantly with body mass index. Thus, for the male participants in this study, concern about one's appearance during sexual activity was not restricted to those who are more likely to deviate from the culturally prescribed ideal. Second, inspection of endorsement rates for specific items suggests that body image self-consciousness during physical intimacy may be fairly common among men. For example, approximately 38% of participants agreed/strongly agreed that, "During sexual activity. I would be concerned about how my body looks to a partner" and 35% agreed/strongly agreed that, "If a partner were to see me nude I would be concerned about the overall muscularity of my body."

Men who were dissatisfied with their physique in some way (i.e., those who rated themselves as not very attractive, and those with low body esteem) reported higher levels of body image self-consciousness during physical intimacy. These associations might be interpreted as suggesting that viewing oneself as attractive and being satisfied with one's body results in greater confidence in interactions with potential partners, leading to greater comfort in sexual interactions. However, it also is credible that more sexual interest from potential and actual partners may lead to greater comfort in sexual relations--an issue not examined in this study.

A few limitations to the current study warrant discussion. All of the measures used were questionnaires; thus, it is recommended that future research employ pen and paper scales in conjunction with other types of assessment. For example, one promising technique in the domain of body image is Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) in which participants record, on a random basis over a specified period of time (e.g., seven days), the extent to which they have experienced the phenomenon of interest (e.g., Leahey, Crowther, & Mickelson, 2007). Applying EMA to the study of body image self-consciousness during physical intimacy could involve respondents keeping a diary and indicating at different times throughout the day whether they have thought about being physically intimate with another person; whether such thoughts evoked anxiety; and whether they believed the anxiety was attributable to aspects of their physical appearance. If the latter were applicable, participants then could be instructed to detail the specific aspects of their appearance that were perceived to be causing this anxiety. Information obtained using EMA could be used to test the criterion-related validity of the M-BISC.

Given the sensitive nature of this study, it is possible that those who agreed to participate differed from those who refused to do so. Respondents may have been comparatively comfortable with sexual topics and concerns (i.e., more erotophilic), so the results may be subject to a sampling bias. The issue of comfort also may account for why the mean score on the M-BISC was below the scale mid-point. As well, no "objective" indices of participant attractiveness were taken. Thus, it is possible--though unlikely (3) (e.g., Cash et al.. 2004)--that the associations observed for body image self-consciousness during physical intimacy may be restricted to persons who are unattractive. Future research is necessary to determine the relative influence of actual versus perceived attractiveness vis-a-vis scores on the M-BISC. Finally, research suggests that particular behavioural or verbal reactions to one's physical appearance made by one's sexual partner could have an impact on body image and sexual performance (e.g., Wiederman, 2002). In the current study, the individual characteristics of specific sexual partners were not investigated and, thus, the degree to which partner attributes moderate the association between self-perceptions of appearance and self-consciousness during physical intimacy is unknown.

In conclusion, research highlights the importance of the body image construct with regard to various aspects of sexual functioning among women. It is hoped that studies such as this one will motivate other researchers to pursue this topic among men. Evidently, an understanding of male body image self-consciousness during physical intimacy is critical if we are to reveal the "naked truth" behind men's sexuality.


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National University of Ireland, Galway

(1) Of course, the absence of sexual experience could result in individuals attempting to understand why they do not have partners and. in so doing, attributing their "failure" to an unattractive physique.

(2) Recently, Filiault (2007) developed a measure entitled, "Sexual Body Efficacy and Attractiveness Scale" for use with men. While a few of its items focus on body self-consciousness (e.g.. "How comfortable are you undressing in front of your partner"), the majority measure self-perceptions of sexual competence (e.g.. "How do you feel about your ability to give your partner pleasure sexually?") or frequency of sexual activity (e.g., "How often do you masturbate").

(3) As a higher BMI conflates muscularity and fatness, it is recommended that future research in this area measure participants' fat-free mass index (FFMI).

Lorraine Mc Donagh. Todd G. Morrison, and Brian E. McGuire. Department of Psychology. National University of Ireland.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Todd G. Morrison, School of Psychology. National University of Ireland, Galway. Ireland. Electronic mail:
Table 1
Factor Loadings for the M-BISC

Scale Item

During sex, I would worry that my partner
 would think my chest is not muscular
 enough. .68
During sexual activity, it would be
 difficult not to think about how
 unattractive my body is. .64
During sex, I would worry that my partner
 would think my stomach is not muscular
 enough. .66
I would feel anxious receiving a full-
 body massage from a partner. .53
The first time I have sex with a new partner.
 I would worry that my partner would get
 turned off by seeing my body without
 clothes. .63
I would feel nervous if a partner were to
 explore my body before or after having
 sex. .71
I would worry about the length of my erect
 penis during physically intimate
 situations. .56
During sex. 1 would prefer to be on the
 bottom so that my stomach appears flat. .57
The worst part of having sex is being
 nude in front of another person. .69
I would feel embarrassed about the size
 of my testicles if a partner were to
 see them. .76
I would have difficulty taking a shower
 or a bath with a partner. .67
During sexual activity, 1 would be
 concerned about how my body looks
 to a partner. .58
If a partner were to put a hand on my
 buttocks I would think, "My partner
 can feel my fat". .66
During sexually intimate situations,
 I would be concerned that my partner
 thinks I am too fat. .52
I could only feel comfortable enough
 to have sex if it were dark so
 that my partner could not clearly
 see my body. .66
If a partner were to see me nude I
 would be concerned about the
 overall muscularity of the
 body. .69
The idea of having sex without
 any covers over my body causes
 me anxiety. .69

Note. The response format is: 1 = Strongly Disagree. 2 = Disagree;
3 = Don't Know; 4 = Agree; and 5 = Strongly Agree. For a random
subset of items, the response format should be reversed (1 = Strongly
Agree; 2 = Agree; 3 = Don't Know; 4 = Disagree: and 5 = Strongly
Disagree). The instructions that were used with the M-BISC are
as follows: Please read each item carefully and then CIRCLE the
most appropriate response UNDER each statement. The term partner
refers to someone with whom you are romantically or sexually

Table 2
Descriptive Statistics and Alpha Coefficients for All Measures

Scale M SD Possible Possible Alpha
 minima maxima (95% CI)

BES 119.14 20.46 35 175 .92 (.90-.94)
DMAQ 26.25 5.72 8 40 .82 (.77-.86)
SAI 16.43 4.51 0 25 .73 (.66-.80)
SES 36.06 8.56 10 50 .92 (.89-.94)
SRBA 3.21 0.91 1 5

Note. BES = Body Esteem Scale
 DMAQ = Drive for Muscularity Attitudes Questionnaire
 SAI = Sexual Anxiety Inventory
 SES = Sexual Esteem Scale
 SRBA = Self-rated Bodily Attractiveness
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Article Details
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Author:McDonagh, Lorraine K.; Morrison, Todd G.; McGuire, Brian E.
Publication:The Journal of Men's Studies
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EUIR
Date:Sep 22, 2008
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