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Why Are Gay Men Thinner Than Hetero Guys (And Lesbians Fatter Than Straight Girls)?

Certainly data that reveals gay men are leaner than straight guys should be enough to get any parent to hope their son is a ‘mo, right? After looking at some 67,000 Massachusetts residents ages 18-64, Boston researchers reveal in a study published in American Journal of Public Health that gay men are thinner than their hetero counterparts (and 50 percent less likely to be obese), while gay women are heavier than straight girls (and twice as likely to be obese). How to explain? It’s all about sex.

That’s the logic of Esther Rothblum, a San Diego State University women’s studies professor: “People in sexual relationships with men — heterosexual women and gay men — get more pressure to look thin and to otherwise conform to attractiveness norms than do people in sexual relationships with women — lesbians and heterosexual men.”

That’s a sweeping conclusion if there ever was one, but might it hold some weight? Rothblum’s remarks have us thinking it’s men who are to blame for their sexual partners’ body image issues — they’re the ones pressuring the people they have sex with to look a certain way. In a gay male relationship, that means each partner is equally at fault.

Moreover, that sort of thinking removes from the equation the multi-billion dollar beauty, fitness, and wellness industries that teach us all we’ll be happier and healthier if we’re thinner. Why do those messages somehow get better interpreted (some might say brainwashed) by people in sexual relationships with men?

The data is striking, but I’m not convinced there’s a clear answer. (Unless it has something to do with the water in Massachusetts.)


By:          Ryan Tedder
On:           Jun 8, 2010
Tagged: , , ,
    • Qjersey

      HINT: if you are gay and having a “fat” day, go to a straight beach or community pool. You WILL feel so much thinner.

      I’m not fat, I’m just “gay” fat.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 1:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

      Biggest “No Shit Sherlock” post in Queerty history……….

      BTW: That picture makes me want to go fishin’ for some Bass! :-p

      Jun 8, 2010 at 1:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tallskin

      Question: Why Are Gay Men Thinner Than Hetero Guys (And Lesbians Fatter Than Straight Girls)?

      Answer: Bags of buns consumption.

      Simple, the more bags of buns you stuff down the more likely you’ll end up the size of a small moon.

      Of course if, as Queerty maintains, it’s gay men pressurising other gay men to look leaner and more muscular then the corollary must follow: ie that lesbians are pressurising each other to blow up to the size of army blimps.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 1:41 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jeremy

      Funny…Way before I realize myself gay, I already had a thin body. I didn’t have any appetite since I was too stressed out on why I never like girls and how come those bullies kept calling me “fag”.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 1:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tommy

      Stupid study. I know plenty of fat gay guys and thin lesbians. And plenty of thin straight guys and fat straight women.
      And what about the weight of bisexuals? Are they in between?

      Jun 8, 2010 at 1:55 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • rf

      Haven’t we already learned over the past 100 years of sex study that men are visual? If you want the hottest, wealthiest, most eligible (or whatever you value–consciously or subconsciously) man you can get, you need to look as good as you can. Is this news?

      Also, have they determined that all gay people in Massachusetts are out and identify as gay? How do they know there aren’t twice as many fat gay men and thin lesbians hiding in straight relationships or just not ticking the ‘gay’ box on health forms?

      Jun 8, 2010 at 2:04 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • SouLKid

      Duh! did they really need studies to know this?

      Jun 8, 2010 at 2:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Lawrence

      Could it be that the way men are portrayed by the Beauty industry or the way men’s attractions are portrayed that make people who wish to be in a relationship with men feel that they have to look a certain way?

      Then again maybe gay men and straight women are just more health conscious. Its not like america is a healthy weight nation. or maybe those two groups just buy into that ideology more then the rest.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 2:22 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • James Stoicheff

      RE: “Rothblum’s remarks have us thinking it’s men who are to blame for their sexual partners’ body image issues.”

      Another way of looking at it is that women are enablers when it comes to poor health habits.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 2:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Vman455

      @Tommy: All the study says is that a higher percentage of gay men and straight women are thin, not that all gay men and straight women are thin. Of course there are exceptions, but they do not negate the overall conclusion.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 2:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ian

      Where do they go to find all these thin gay men? ‘Cause I know as a gay man with a few extra pounds that MANY gay men who have a little extra weight feel that they are chastised to not go to the clubs that consist of the “pretty/hot-thin gays” and simply begin to congregate in their own social circles outside of gay clubs. Did the people who did this study go out to look for them?

      Jun 8, 2010 at 3:48 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Bobo

      Am I being too mean if I say gay men have to be on the thin side, especially if your single and prefer to stay single.
      Or you just wont get laid or spark anyone’s interests.
      I know that’s very shallow, But come on. I’ve been around long enough the rules of the game.
      If your out of shape and not in the gym everyday.
      your only chances are with-in your own body type, or you become a member of the bear community. or Your in a long term relationship, and no one cares anymore.

      Im not going to discuss the gals, they are just in a world of their own. I would kill to be able to carry around a prada purse all day, they just dont see the need for them…LOL

      Jun 8, 2010 at 4:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • asa1973

      Uh. Duh. A generalization, yes. But there is obvious truth in it.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 5:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B

      No. 11 · Ian wrote, “Where do they go to find all these thin gay men? ‘Cause I know as a gay man with a few extra pounds that MANY gay men who have a little extra weight feel that they are chastised to not go to the clubs that consist of the “pretty/hot-thin gays” and simply begin to congregate in their own social circles outside of gay clubs.”

      Unfortunately, the reports I found so far did not give links to the paper. One factor that people aren’t mentioning is that gays may be more likely to live in urban areas. It seems the really fat guys tend to be concentrated in the suburbs (those 100 mile commutes in slow traffic and the need to drive everywhere for day-to-day activities means that they don’t get as much exercise as people living in urban areas and end up doing a lot more walking).

      Jun 8, 2010 at 5:05 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Mr. Enemabag Jones

      @James Stoicheff:

      Another way of looking at it is that women are enablers when it comes to poor health habits.

      Bingo. My brother gained 100 pounds after getting married. One day his wife admitted that she let him get fat, because that way no other women would be interested in him.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 5:10 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • joe

      Hi, I’m Hank, I’m handsome, built, sexy, sweet. I haven’t eaten in 3 days, I’m twinking my brains out, I have a chicklet white smile and can screw for days!
      Wanna Dance?……..Hell Ya!

      Hi, Im Brenda, I love all sports, working on cars, and I make a mean Steak and Cheese, and love diet coke!
      wanna come over and scissor?

      Jun 8, 2010 at 5:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Ian

      @B: B wrote: ”
      It seems the really fat guys tend to be concentrated in the suburbs…..they don’t get as much exercise as people living in urban areas”

      Um sorry, but that’s a load of hewie. I used to live in San Francisco and had to climb the hills there with the best of them on a daily basis, and still as throughout my entire life remained a bit overweight. It’s genetic for some of us. Don’t assume that a person who has extra weight is pigging out on cheeseburgers, pizza & doughnuts and eating them out of a trough to boot.

      Many of us who society technically calls overweight live active lifestyles and don’t even over-eat. Heck, I only eat 2 meals a day, yet if I only ate an apple I’d still gain weight from it. That’s just the way I’m built.

      As to the subject at hand, there are many gay men who like women develop eating disorders to maintain their body fat ratio’s. I saw more than my fair share in the Castro when I ate there for dinner.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 6:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • JamesRiley

      I’ve always been naturally thin. No matter what or how much I eat, I never put on any weight. I’ve been 8 stone for 2 years straight (I’m 16, so I’m still growing).

      Jun 8, 2010 at 6:24 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • gilber

      keep believing in all those researches……..

      Jun 8, 2010 at 6:35 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Hilarious

      The reasoning for this being true isn’t positive so I’m not sure why it’s being discussed as a positive.

      The sad fact is if you’re a gay male and overweight you’ll be invisible to most gay males including other overweight gay males.

      The reason for women is simple. There’s so much crap stuffed into prepackaged foods that women across the board have a problem not only losing weight but not gaining it to begin with. It shows even more when those women have children because they have far less time to cook a meal from scratch or read every single box to check ingredients.

      These things need to change.

      The overworked gym bunny thing is not cute. The food industry getting away with replacing real ingredients with cardboard to make even more profit should be considered a criminal act.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 6:38 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Tommy

      I don’t know if I believe the study, but your point about pre packaged foods made her think of something. I don’t want to generalize too much but straight women and gay men tend to have more of an interest in cooking and tend to cook for themselves more from fresh ingredients. My mother loved to cook and I learned from her. My father doesn’t know how to turn on the stove. Some lesbians I know do avoid learning how to cook because they see it as being as traditional women’s work and part of being an enslaved housewife.
      It’s too easy to blame the food industry for prepackaged foods but every grocery store has plenty of vegetables and boneless chicken breasts. If you take the time to learn how to cook, there’s no reason you can’t be healthy. People need to take more responsibility for themselves and their own health and not blame some big industrial force.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 7:34 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jason

      There’s also the additional factor of gay men spending all their money on beer and party drugs, not to mention leather vests and cock rings.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 7:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Jon

      This shouldn’t be news to anyone. And for the overweight gay men out there who accuse good looking, fit guys as being shallow and stupid you need to look in the mirror.

      We all (or the vast majority) of us want to land a hot guy. Even if you are 400lbs and have a peg leg, you know you wouldn’t kick any of the morning goods guys outta bed. So until you start acting like you care about your own body, don’t expect people who do to care about you. Just sayin’…

      Jun 8, 2010 at 8:19 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • jeffree

      Single & Looking versus Settled Down?

      Based on my unscientific observation, once people (men or wymyn, str8 or lesbian/ gay) get into a “committed relationship” they tend to let themselves “slide” physically.

      If the study didn’t factor in “relationship status” then I think they may have missed the boat.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 8:26 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B

      No. 17 · Ian wrote, “@B: B wrote: ‘It seems the really fat guys tend to be concentrated in the suburbs…..they don’t get as much exercise as people living in urban areas’ Um sorry, but that’s a load of hewie. I used to live in San Francisco and had to climb the hills there with the best of them on a daily basis, and still as throughout my entire life remained a bit overweight.”

      Sorry, Ian, but you are wrong about it: the comments were about population averages, not you in particular (and you claim to be only slightly overweight). Your weight would probably have been significantly higher if you did not have to climb all those hills on a daily basis.

      For an easy-to-read citation, look at http://scienceblogs.com/neurotopia/2010/05/walking_and_obesity_the_city_l.php which mentions one research paper, Frank et al. “Obesity relationships with community design, physical activity, and time spent in cars” American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 2004.

      They aren’t concerned with being “a little bit overweight” but being obese – i.e., being so overweight as to endanger your health.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 10:07 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Baxter

      I just have a fast metabolism.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 10:11 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Amanda

      My girlfriend and I are both relatively thin, and are always surprised (disappointed? grossed out?) when we go to gay bars and are surrounded by women who are extremely overweight. I really don’t know why it’s so accepted – it almost seems encouraged. The big teddy-bear-ish butch is kind of an icon amongst lesbians. Maybe it’s something about being big and protecting? I don’t know- I just think it’s unhealthy and gives lesbians a bad name. Sorry to sound so shallow. It’s just disappointing to see that we have such low standards as a group.

      Jun 8, 2010 at 10:27 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • GDL


      Here’s a link to the actual paper http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/AJPH.2009.174169v1

      Jun 8, 2010 at 11:44 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B

      No. 28 · GDL wrote, “@B: Here’s a link to the actual paper http://ajph.aphapublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/AJPH.2009.174169v1 ” … the problem with that link (I had found a similar one) is that you’d have to have a subscription or pay a fee to get a copy. What I didn’t find was a free copy of the paper.

      Jun 9, 2010 at 12:47 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • BenR

      I think it has something to do with the concept of the “male gaze.” Both men and women who are trying to attract men have to deal with the all the stereotypes and baggage and expectations of what other men expect from a romantic partner. Women and men who are trying to attract women, however, don’t have to deal with the dominant cultural expectations for beauty nearly as much.

      Jun 9, 2010 at 4:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • unreligious

      @Tommy: Not sure what Tommy means about boneless chicken breasts. Boneless does not mean less calories, just tasteless.

      Jun 9, 2010 at 5:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Wilson

      Actually (in general) it has more to do with sexual appetite – sex is a great work out, and most thinner men and women are willing to spice it up and not just lay like a dead fish. Adding in natural body sizes and the amounts of calories and carbs burned during sex standing up, as opposed to the lower burn of laying on your back or oral sex (Satan’s Birth Control :-D) It is basically that young gay men who have high sex drives get twice the work out of the ones just looking to spray tonsils.

      Reasonable study – though not that in depth if you ask me (and the Professor is just trying to throw blame at others – we’re each responsible for ourselves in life, blaming society is like blaming God, its not realistic.)

      Jun 9, 2010 at 10:12 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • B

      has some relevant data: “For the United States as a whole the [Lesbian/Gay] numbers were 2.6 percent for men and 1.1 percent for women. For small cities and towns and rural areas the percent was smaller. But about 9.2 percent of men and 2.6 percent of women (aged 18 to 59) living in the central cities of the 12 largest metropolitan areas reported that they identify as homosexual. (And a larger percentage reported engaging in sexual activity with members of the same gender, but did not identify themselves as gay).”

      So, it seems that gays tend to be concentrated in urban areas on a percentage basis and that gay men are more likely to chose urban areas than gay women. If lesbians were as likely to live in urban areas as gay men, that would not be consistent with the hypothesis brought up in Comment No. 14 and 25.

      Jun 10, 2010 at 5:39 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Really

      First poster is right. I’m a lesbian, not fat, but straight “fat”, and I get lots of love and looks from the ladies. Sadly, I just saw a lesbian fashion show with the skinniest twigs ever on display – just so skinny they were certainly underweight. Don’t think lesbians aren’t going to start choosing based on skinniness just to fit in with the media too. This is in Asia, so no one “fat” is actually unhealthy or obese.

      @Amanda – just choose thin girlfriends then – you’ll be selecting for thinness.

      Jun 11, 2010 at 6:16 am · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Robert

      This feminist researcher is placing all the blame on males, but the more likely explanation is hormonal: men tend to have 30-40% more muscle than women, and burly women (butch lesbians) are going to need to gain weight to look “masculine.” Drag kings intentionally gain weight, and some take drugs (like steroids) to make themselves bigger.

      Meanwhile, many gay men are the effeminate type, and need to be “thin” to fit the image of a woman.

      In addition, persons with HIV are more likely to be thin. And persons that smoke tend to be thinner, and gay males smoke more than straight males.

      Thus, there are several factors that make this what it is, and it’s not all entirely due to males.

      Jun 16, 2010 at 1:36 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Stephen


      And being a part of the bear community means you’ve failed? What planet are you from? We just like to be around other masculine men, hardly a failure by any stretch.

      Jul 2, 2010 at 7:02 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • PJ

      These study results are bad science.
      1) The parameters are for Massachusetts. These results do not count the rest of the country and definitely do not represent all men and women.
      2) Which university are these from and what parts of Boston are these results from?
      3) What is the size of the control group and what are the parameters of the control group?
      4) What time of year was the research conducted? Massachusetts has the cape, which has a migrant population.

      The listed problems with this “study” are legion. I am surprised that the “American Journal of Public Health” signed off on this.

      Jul 5, 2010 at 7:45 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dee

      Well, I say it’s spot on, for the slight most part (about 38% correct, there is so much variety, hard to nail it perfect -still it’s close given the overall American culture whom worship youthful ideals, loooks, and culture) . I am a female who hangs only straight males as friends (in real life), gay chicks don’t like me and the straight ones think I want to bang them (I look like a butch dyke, in their opinion). You should hear the bitching and moaning about how they (the straight guys) don’t want ‘fat women ‘, sound like a bunch of hens clucking! Sometimes they piss me off and I say pissy things. I just think my lucky stars I am not looking for any booty (male or female), can’t take all the nagging! No, I am not miss fit and trim nor am I huge, just a bigger than ‘normal’ gal. I have been sex free (as far as doing it with anyone but myself) for more than ten yrs now. I just don’t care to bother. :-P

      Mar 17, 2012 at 1:33 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • dee

      BTW, if anyone wants further info on my stupid life, email me at: deestin1972, it’s a google addy, so figure out! I reckon I can’t be the only one, regardless of sexual orientation, ect.

      Mar 17, 2012 at 1:53 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Anonymous

      It is rumored that the much thinner you are, you are probably have Aids. Everybody knows it. If gays are thinner, because they are getting sick. It is sad.

      Jun 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Anonymous

      I think straights are only for me and not for gays. Straights guys are only for me I say and they do not belong to women and men. That’s it. Smile. Smirk.

      Jun 17, 2012 at 12:58 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Anonymous

      Gays are only for gays, women are for straights guys. Straight guys are only for me. :)Big Smile.

      Jun 17, 2012 at 12:59 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·
    • Anonymous

      I apologize to all my straight guys for not paying attention to them and not taking notice of them. Sorry. Straight guys, you are so lovely when I see you with lots of girls and women that really makes me melt and drives me crazy and nuts. I love you straight guys. :) :)

      Jun 17, 2012 at 1:01 pm · @ReplyReply to this comment ·

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