The Aging Male Peacock: Aging, Gay Self-image Concerns and Motivational Drivers

By Margaret A. Murphy and Kevin Christophersen.

Published by The International Journal of Aging and Society

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

21st century men are seeking to look younger. Personal trainers, dietary supplements, and even plastic surgery treatments are on the rise. According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), male plastic surgery has increased 88% since 1997. A 2011 “body talk” study found 80.7% of men (vs. 75% of women) “talk in ways that promotes anxiety about their body image” (Centre for Appearance Research, UK, 2011). Additionally, the Centre for Appearance Research found nearly half (48%) of gay men (average age 40) would exchange one year of life for a more muscular, leaner body. Medical professionals are also frequently quoted as stating the majority of their male clientele is gay and older. This original research explores motivational drivers behind male self-image improvement actions (e.g., plastic surgery, supplements, extreme behavior, etc.). What drives this appearance obsession? Are the media, pop culture, or even gay porn stars to blame? Or are other factors like peer to peer influences (on and offline), day to day encounters and/or sexual needs fueling these concerns? What pushes the aging gay man’s body image concerns to increasingly aggressive and invasive measures. This study explores how aging affects older gay men’s self-image, subsequent behavior, and the underlying causes. The mixed methodology approach encompasses a research sample of gay men, 45 - 60 years old, from various demographic and psychographic subsegments (e.g., education, income, lifestyle, relationship status, etc.). This is a quantitative survey study exploring the dynamics and issues identified, with cross-tabbing by subsegment, and follow-up, in-depth interviews with select subjects, probing deeper into key motivators. At the research’s conclusion, findings will include: an identification of key issues overall and by subsegment, and a discussion of the potential societal and cultural implications, both short- and long-term.

Keywords: Aging Men, Male Body Image, Aging Gay Self-image, Body Dysmorphia, Social Media, Self-documentation

The International Journal of Aging and Society, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.73-94. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.461MB).

Margaret A. Murphy

Assistant Professor, Marketing Communication, Columbia College, Chicago, IL, USA

Margaret (Peg) Murphy, MA, is an Assistant Professor at Columbia College Chicago, teaching Advertising, Marketing, Consumer Insights and Semiotics. She has published and presented papers at international conferences in Ireland, Canada, Spain, Portugal and more. Her other research interests include the impact of digital sharing communities on self-image projections, emerging mobile technologies, young entrepreneurship and marginalized subcultures.

Kevin Christophersen

Associate Professor, Director of Advertising Studies, Marketing Communication, Columbia College, Chicago, IL, USA

Kevin Christophersen, MA, is an Associate Professor in the Marketing Communication Department at Columbia College Chicago. He has published and traveled internationally to discuss: male body image, service learning, and creating safe classrooms for LGBT students. He is also currently examining how self-directed imagery among social networking/dating sites impacts male body image.