Year of Publication
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology
Dr. Sharon Rostosky
Sexual minority men experience higher rates of body dissatisfaction (BD) than heterosexual men (Frederick & Essayli, 2016). BD is associated with negative health outcomes in this population, including eating disorders (Yean et al., 2013), depression (Blashill et al., 2016), suicidality (Grunewald, Calzo, et al., 2021), and risky sexual behavior (Goedel et al., 2017). Sexual minority men who use dating apps may be at greater risk of experiencing BD via exposure to appearance-based discrimination (Tran et al., 2020), sexual objectification, and weight stigma (Filice et al., 2019). Little is known about sexual minority men’s experiences of appearance discrimination on dating apps and how they cope with these negative experiences.
This experiential qualitative study addressed this gap in the literature using reflexive thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2006; Braun & Clarke, 2022). Fourteen sexual minority men shared their lived experiences with appearance discrimination on dating apps in semi-structured individual interviews. Findings were organized into four categories (context, type, coping strategies, and reflections) that collectively told a compelling story about how sexual minority men experience and cope with appearance discrimination on dating apps. The interviewees noted that appearance discrimination often focused on specific physical attributes like body hair, race and skin tone, and body weight and shape. Appearance discrimination evoked psychological distress and worsened their body image, but men felt that certain contextual factors like intention for dating app use, mental health struggles, and lived experience with minority stressors, influenced their perceptions, experiences, and coping. While some coping strategies (i.e., avoidance) were ultimately unhelpful, other strategies like boundary setting, positive reappraisal, social support seeking, and problem solving, were critical to supporting their psychological well-being and facilitate reflection.
Implications for future research, psychotherapy, and community-based intervention are discussed. In particular, clinicians should assist their clients in developing healthy, adaptive ways of coping such as setting firm boundaries, confronting perpetrators, taking breaks from dating apps when needed, and seeking social support. Clinicians should also help SMM clients find healthy and supportive activities within the gay male community that de-emphasize appearance and status.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Richardson, Matthew T., ""It's All Lateral Violence": How Sexual Minority Men Cope With Appearance Discrimination" (2023). Theses and Dissertations--Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology. 108.