Adonis complex Essay

This essay has a total of 4044 words and 23 pages.

adonis complex

Suffering in Silence

Why does the general public believe only women are victims of body image and eating
disorders? Adolescent to adult males are dangerously preoccupied with the appearance of
their bodies. The difference between men and women are men almost never talk openly about
this problem. Society has taught them that they shouldn't be concerned about how they
look. But countless numbers of men are sacrificing important aspects of their lives to
working out compulsively. This leads to distorted body images, which ties together with
eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia (Adonis Complex.) The general public usually
categorizes these disorders with women only. Women aren't the only victims; men are
suffering too, but just silently.

According to Greek mythology, Adonis was seen as the premier model of male beauty and
masculinity. According to Adonis in Greek Mythology, Persephone raised Adonis. Aphrodite,
queen of the gods, loved Adonis but Persephone refused to give him up. The matter was
settled when Zeus, the king of gods, made a deal. Adonis was to spend four months with
Persephone, four months with Aphrodite and four months on his own. It was known that he
chose to spend his four months of solitude with Aphrodite.

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Adonis was portrayed as an icon of male beauty and masculinity; "The body of Adonis
presumably represents the ultimate male physique imaginable to the sixteenth-century
artist" (Olivardia 6). If we looked at the paintings of Adonis today, there would be a
consensus that he looked plump and out of shape compared to today's body builders.

The "Adonis Complex" is not an official medical term; it is used to describe the various
secretive body image concerns of males. This ranges from minor physical implications to
self-destructing body image disorders such as anorexia and bulimia nervosa.

The media plays a huge role influencing adolescent to adult males to believe that being
more lean and muscular equals attractiveness. Whenever I am standing in line at the super
market, every magazine cover I see has a model on it. When there is a male on the cover,
he is usually flashing his rock hard abdominal muscles or flexing his bulging chest. As a
young boy subjected to these images I became immediately envious; even to this day I admit
I wish I had those features. Image what this is doing to the psyche of the male pre-teens
and teens. Their ideal body type becomes those seen on those magazine covers. Their
perception of the male body becomes skewed.

On television these days, it seems as if the models stick together. It is rare to see an
over weight person with a lean and muscular person. From my observation, women on
television are usually tall and skinny with voluptuous curves. The men are tone with
unrealistic chiseled features. I grew up spending a lot of time in front of the
television, unaware that I was being subliminally brainwashed. Television is causing young
males and females to develop a negative perception on what is seen as normal.

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During the earlier part of November, NBC broadcasted the 2001 Victoria Secret Fashion
Show: The Sexiest Night on Television. This one-hour event was broadcasted in prime time
that featured tall, incredibly skinny, full-featured women elegantly modeling lingerie.
But in reality, it was just a tacky peepshow of emaciated women pumped full of silicone
flaunting their bodies. It was a full hour of sugarcoated pornography, an hour of women
whoring themselves to photographers.

According to The View, a talk show, more than half of people who tuned were teenage girls.
They were interested in what the general public deemed as beautiful. What was on
television that night was nothing close to realistic. Imagine all the teenage girls who
are completely mesmerized these women. To achieve that look, those models have to go
through rigorous diets and dehydration. The lighting has to be perfect to glamorize their
enhanced features. Also, professionals are doing their hair and make up transforming them
into completely different people.

Access Hollywood had a special where male underwear models let us behind the scenes. They
admitted they loved the attention they received from the women, but dreaded the photo
shoots. They claimed they weren't allowed to eat or drink anything the night before, so
that their stomachs would be flat. Some even admitted in the use of diuretics, rapid water
loss pills, to dehydrate their bodies giving them that "ripped" look. To most males,
having nice abdominal muscles or a "six-pack" is a must. But what men, especially younger
men need to understand is, not even models can sustain the "six-pack" look all the time.
Even a bottle of water can make a stomach look bloated and un-proportional.

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Having a strong father figure, as a boy growing up, is quite important. Young boys look up
to their fathers, older brothers, uncles and even sports figures as role models. These
role models or heroes set the tone, "If we choose certain heroes as our heroes, and put
their voices in our male chorus, their voices can encourage and inspire their special
aspects of our character" (Pittman 184). This can also have a deep negative impact on boys
who aren't able to meet the high standards they set for themselves.

From pre-teenage boys to adult males, sports figures have a firm grip on the molding of
their character. When I was younger, I used to look up to my older brother. I wanted to be
just like him, imitating everything he did. I forced myself to play the sports he liked:
basketball and football. He was a natural athlete and accelerated quickly, but I could
never keep up. He became frustrated with my performance, complaining that I didn't try
hard enough. We slowly drifted apart because he was ashamed to take me out. The time we
used to spend together soon diminished and I feel into a depression. I felt like a
complete failure, I gave it my all and it just wasn't enough.

I wasn't sure who to could turn to; this wasn't something I could talk about to my
parents. I began watching a lot of professional football and became fixated with the speed
and build of the athletes. I thought that if I was stronger and faster, I'd win the love
and respect of my brother.

The earliest hints of body image derive from the toys children play with. Studies have
proved that the popular Barbie doll toy has become thinner and thinner over the years.
According to Olivardia, co author of The Adonis Complex, if Barbie were the as tall as a
real woman, she'd only have a sixteen-inch waist. Scientist believe this sends the

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message to little girls that being thin is beautiful, which leads to deadly eating disorders and a distorted body image.
Boys on the other hand, tend to play with more violent and exciting toys such as G.I. Joe
action figures. They were featured in two different versions. G.I. Joe introduced their
first eleven-inch figure in 1964, which lasted until the early 80's. In 1982, they were
replaced by four-inch figures. As the years rolled on, new figures were produced. By 1991,
the eleven-inch figures were brought back, and both are available today.

Olivardia and his team conducted a study where they examined the annual sales in
Playthings magazine, an industry publication in the field, to find out the top-selling
toys over the past few decades. G.I. Joe was definitely among the top-sellers, they choose
a figure from each decade and examined the changing body types. If these figures were all
real men, their dimensions were measured according to a five-foot, ten-inch tall man. The
first figure from 1964 would have a thirty-two inch waist, forty-four inch chest, and
twelve-inch biceps. The second figure from 1974 showed sufficient changes as he grew more
lean and muscular. His biceps measured at fifteen inches, about three inches bigger than
the average man. He also developed defined abdominal muscles, embarrassing the last
decade's figure. But in 1991, the figure examined put both of these figures to shame. His
waist shrank to a mere twenty-nine inches and his biceps beefed up to sixteen and a half
inches. He sported picture perfect abdominal muscles, just like the models on muscle
magazine covers.

In the mid 90's, G.I. Joe came out with a new line of figures called G.I. Joe Extreme. The
figure evaluated was full sized, measuring in with a fifty-five inch chest

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and twenty-seven inch biceps. The evolution of these toys is evident. Many boys are
exposed to these toys at a very young age, before they are old enough to distinguish
reality from fantasy. Thus forming a distorted image of what a realistic man's body should
look like.

G.I. Joe was the premier toy in my household. My brother and I used to collect these
figures religiously, putting them on display all over our room. I idolized the defined
muscles each figure had; they were the ultimate model of masculinity to me. They were
tough, strong, muscular and fought against the common evil. What kid growing up in America
wouldn't idolize them? On my quest to become more muscular, I began to do push-ups and
sit-ups each night. I can remember asking my brother for advice on how to become more fit,
he suggested modifying my diet. I believe that was the beginning of my unhealthy cycle of
crash dieting and extreme workouts. No matter how many push-ups or sit-ups I did, I was
never satisfied as I never saw results.

For children growing up, it is imperative that they are given the ample amount of love and
nurturing from their parents. Parental affection helps build the confidence and security
of a child. In most cases, parents are the foundation in molding the character of their

Having a strong father figure is extremely important, especially when it comes to raising
young boys. If a boy grows up without a positive male role model, he'll never realize how
important it really is. "It is possible to teach men a different model of masculinity, to
free them of their shame and isolation, to share their vulnerability with other men…. At
the heart of the matter of masculine excess is a great longing for the

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love and approval of a father..." (Pittman 44). The bottom line is, there is a big demand
for good fathers. Men who take on the responsibilities of fatherhood, instead of walking
out, will raise good sons. Their sons will grow up to be good men, and the cycle will

In a case study conducted Pittman, author of the book Man Enough, he worked with a patient
named Arch. Arch was a big and handsome man who grew up in the slums of Detroit. He lost
his father at an early age, and his mother was always working so he grew up on his own. He
excelled in athletics and landed a scholarship for college. During his second year of
college, he began using steroids to enhance his performance. The steroids took over his
life; he experienced uncontrollable, violent mood swings. It became very obvious as got
bigger over a couple of months. He was soon expelled for violating the substance abuse

Moving on with his life, he got married very young to a physical therapist that made
enough money to support their three children. Arch spent more money than he made. He
bought loads of materialistic things but his wife put up with it because he was such a
great lover. She grew up fatherless too, and wanted their children to have a father
regardless of his flaws.

Arch felt insufficient not being the bread winner, so he took up a traveling job. It paid
fairly well but it took him away from his family. He felt he could contribute more to the
family and make up for nothing being there by making more money. He then picked up a job
in South America, totally isolating himself from his family. His family began to complain
that he didn't spend enough time with them. Arch doesn't deal with conflict to

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well because he raised himself, so he just avoided coming home at all. Instead of talking
it over like a reasonable man, he ran away from his problems and had scandalous affairs
with random women.

I believe that Arch's behavior stemmed from growing up fatherless and with little guidance
from his mother. The desire to indulge himself in materialistic things came from living in
poverty most of his life. The use of steroids came from the desire of wanting to be the
best. If he had his father there to educate him on the risks and dangers he would less
likely use steroids. Once he started his family, he felt the need to support them. I feel
he didn't want to let his family down; he wanted to be there for his children. The problem
was, he was there the only way he knew how, the way his mother raised him: through
monetary support. When nagged by his family to stay home, he ran away because he was used
to doing things his way. I feel if he had stronger adult role models growing up, he'd be a
totally different person. He would be more secure with himself and his communication
skills would be better.

Why workout hard consistently when you can shoot up steroids and workout sparingly and get
better results? This is a question faced with males ranging from all ages. The
dissatisfaction of their bodies is the main reason men seek drugs. Researchers Arthur
Blouin and Gary Goldfield have found out that the main reason athletes used steroids was
to enhance their appearance.

The use of steroids has deadly side effects both psychologically and physically. When a
person is using steroids, they become very easily irritated and violently aggressive. When
they attempt to get off the drug, they become severely depressed.

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Some can become addicted and continue to use the drug even though it causes them to go
through psychotic episodes known as "roid rage." In most cases, men who get of steroids go
on abusing alternative drugs offered in gyms.

The physical side effects of steroids are a lot more deadly. According to Cowart,
co-author of The Steroids Game, the use of steroids can cause: heart disease, stroke,
prostate cancer, liver toxicity, infertility and cosmetic changes such as severe acne. The
most common tell that can be noticed by a man using steroids is he breaks out with acne.
Other signs are pattern baldness and breast enlargements.

The violent mood swings endured while on steroids is known as "roid rage." Cowart reported
a case of "roid rage," while driving the man got cut off. He became so irritated pursued
the offender and ran him off the road. When he got out of the car, he smashed his
windshield with a crowbar.

In another case reported, a man who worked as a prison guard was a model citizen before
using steroids. He had no past criminal record or psychiatric implications. He was
described as shy and well mannered. When he began to take steroids, his confidence level
shot up along with his temper. During one of steroid cycles, he took a little more than
the recommended dosage. That same day, his car broke down and he went inside the store to
ask to borrow the phone. The clerk made a comment on how everybody seems to be asking to
borrow her phone, and that she should start charging. He left the store furious and later
came back and dragged her out the store and into his car. As he was driving, he had to
slow down for construction. The woman attempted to leap out the

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car but not before he pulled out his gun and shot her. She was paralyzed from the waist down.
He had served several years in prison before Cowart evaluated him. He was now described as
a quiet and mild-tempered model prisoner. Since that one incident, he had no other
outbreaks of aggression. The only explanation could be that the steroids took control and
caused him to become violent.

Eating disorders can arise because of many problems. One reason why teenagers are inclined
to resort to anorexia or bulimia is because of what media imposes on them. The television
is filled with thin women and well-built men who are successful, powerful, and most
importantly happy. Researchers have found that "close to 90 percent of TV characters are
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