“Boys who have more valued bodies — leaner, stronger, more valorized bodies — are routinely monitoring the heavier or skinnier boys’ bodies and harassing them, making comments about them in the locker room, making a game of throwing things at them, slapping them, talking about their bodies at them and around them,” researcher Michael Kehler told an international symposium on male body image in Ottawa last week, reports The Londoner.
Kehler’s new research shows that as a result of such teasing, many boys avoid the locker room by staying dressed in gym clothes all day, by changing in a washrooms, by being purposefully late for class or by choosing to skip gym class altogether.
“The stories these young men are telling us in our research are disturbing, unsettling,” Kehler says. “For many of these boys, it’s not that they don’t want to be healthy and active, it’s that they don’t want to participate in the kind of posturing and ‘boyness’ that’s allowed to manifest itself in the locker room,” Kehler says. “If they could go in there and just feel welcome and participate without being denigrated or berated, they would be able to develop healthy life practices.”
Kehler says governments should integrate body image discussions into physical education.Many boys avoid physical education in high school because locker room taunting causes them body image problems, says a researcher from the University of Western Ontario, who calls their stories “disturbing.”