Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Adonis Complex and How it Affects Modern Men

Where our grandfathers could typically care less about what they looked like, modern men are increasingly concerned with their appearances. Many sociologists have noted this trend, pointing out that men have moved into traditionally feminine territory in constantly caring for their bodily comportment. The Adonis Complex, a 2000 book writted by doctors/researchers Harrison Pope, Katharine Phillips, and Roberto Olivardia, examines this phenomenon, taking special pains to pain out how many men have become obsessed with how they look.

I would encourage readers to check this book out. Parents will be helped by it as it will help them to understand the common struggles of young men today, and young men themselves, whether Christian or not, will be helped by studying the effects of narcissism. We live in an appearance-obsessed society, and this book illuminates the results of such a culture. Many men today are focused on their bodies that they end up with a condition called "Body Dysmorphic Disorder," in which they perceive their body differently than it really is. In other words, though many men are strong, they perceive themselves to be weak. Or, men who have a good head of hair (though perhaps receding as is the natural course for men) find themselves unable to cope with a perceived, not real, follicle fallout. Though one might think that it's only "muscle men" or guys who spend an inordinate amount of time at the gym who struggle with "BDD," it's not. Your average teenager has been bombarded with images--images of abs, images of impossibly muscled bodybuilders, images of athletes with muscles on their muscles, images in movies (a medium that overwhelmingly favors the beautiful), images on tv, images on the computer--such that it is incredibly difficult not to worry a great deal about one's appearance.

I can see the effects of such a culture on myself and many other Christian men I know, particularly men of my age. We are all much too concerned with how we look, to put it simply. We worry about things our grandfathers did not think about for more than a minute over the span of their entire lives--our hairline, our biceps, the relative hardness of our abs. Are you kidding me? They were too busy with real things, important things, to give attention to their hairlines. Yet I find myself concerned with such things, to my shame. Here is hoping that we young Christian men can rebel against our contemporary culture. We should take care of our bodies, we should pursue health, and we should not adopt a gnostic, anti-aesthetic, dualistic mindset (mind/spirit: good, body: bad) and baptize it in Christian parlance. However, when we are healthy and fit, we should leave things be and let the culture obsess over its pecs, its abs, it eyebrow wrinkles. If we are obsessed with such matters--and if you constantly check out your appearance in the mirror, fret if you don't get to the gym daily, and are constantly worried about how you look, then you're obsessed--then we must turn to Christ, repent of our narcissism and concern with lesser things, and seek accountability and discipline in order that we might turn away from our sin. In point of fact, all of us could probably do some repenting over this matter. It's one thing to take care of your body--it's another thing to obsess over it. Would that we would give Christ as much devotion as we do our hairlines.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's because our Christian wives, mothers, and sisters are easily tempted to lust at images of fit, attractive, yet immodestly dressed men they see in the media. These images of perfect men appear in women's magazines too. Women ought to be careful about ogling attractive, fit men in the media while with their husbands or boyfriends because they could risk violence against them.

4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you insinuating women run risk of suffering from violence by their husbands because of lust. I believe every person takes accountability for their own actions, expect maybe during crimes of passion. In my opinion, men who are so angered by their partners ogling not only become living embodiments of hypocrisy, but dually expose personal insecurities. If true love and trust exist in a relationship jealousy becomes non-existent.

6:50 AM  

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