Sexual Outcasts: The Perceived Impact of Body Weight and Gender on Sexuality1


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    Special thanks to Kelly Caryl for her assistance in data collection.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Pamela Regan, Department of Psychology, California State University, Los Angeles, 5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles, CA 90032-8227. e-mail:


A person's weight may be perceived as an important aspect of his or her sexuality and a significant determinant of his or her interpersonal sexual experiences. However, researchers interested in body weight and sexuality have focused exclusively on sexual disorders found in individuals with eating disorders; consequently, little is known about people's beliefs about weight and sexuality, despite the individual and interpersonal significance of such beliefs. Undergraduates received information about a male or female, obese or normal-weight stimulus person and then evaluated that person along several dimensions related to sexuality. Participants believed that an obese man's sexual experiences would be highly similar to those of a normal-weight man. However, participants viewed an obese woman as less sexually attractive, skilled, warm, and responsive, and perceived her as less likely to experience desire and various sexual behaviors than a normal-weight woman. In addition, participants believed that an obese woman was less sexually attractive, skilled, warm, and responsive than an obese man.