Embracing or resisting masculinity: male participation in the pro-eating disorders (pro-ana) online community

Cherry Quiniones, Candice Oster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The proeating disorders (EDs) phenomenon is a controversial and thriving online community (referred to as "proana") that aims to promote the maintenance of EDs as a lifestyle choice. Despite the widespread perception of EDs as uniquely and exclusively female conditions, new research indicates an increased prevalence of ED behaviors in men. Yet men's experiences are underreported in the ED literature and, in particular, within the proana context. Examining men's engagement with the proana community can provide insight into how men think about and experience EDs, and the issues they face with EDs in their day-to-day lives. The aim of this study was to examine how men are represented, and represent themselves, within a proana online community. A qualitative thematic analysis was conducted of 217 forum posts authored by men across 16 online threads from one of the largest proana communities on the Internet. Analysis indicates that men positioned themselves in relation to masculinity by either embracing or resisting social norms around masculinity. For proana website users that embraced masculinity, EDs were constructed in ways that engaged with masculine norms of heterosexual power, control, and accomplishment. In contrast, those who represented themselves in resistance to masculine norms challenged traditional masculine body ideals, stereotypes, and stigma. Within these representations were patterned responses that constituted four stages: acceptance, ambivalence, disillusionment, and support. Stigmatization of EDs in men and lack of adequate services supported engagement in the proana online movement, perpetuating a cycle of progression through these stages and limiting the potential for recovery.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)368-378
Number of pages11
JournalPsychology of Men and Masculinity
Volume20
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018

Keywords

  • social media
  • toxic masculinity
  • Depression
  • men's mental health
  • eating disorders

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