It’s a hot summer day at the park and you’re throwing back a few White Claws with a couple of friends, when you start to get pit stains synonymous with being a sweaty man in the summer. But that’s no problem — you can just remove your shirt, right?
Not unless you want everyone to think you’re a dumb slut.
Or to be more scientific about it, recent research on the sexualization of men on dating apps has found that shirtless men on Tinder are seen as less competent and more prone to risky sexual behaviors. While previous research has shown that women who wear tight clothing and heavy makeup are often judged as more promiscuous, we’ve had much less insight into how scantily-clad men are perceived.
“I’m interested in how sexualized pictures of men and women in the media can impact our attitudes and behaviors,” study co-author JoAnna Diekera, a clinical psychology postdoctoral fellow at the University of Colorado, told PsyPost. “For this study, it was fascinating to consider how a man’s sexy dating profile can impact our reactions to the man and how we judge his positive or negative characteristics.”
Diekera and her team analyzed three different markers of male sexualization: skin exposure, muscularity and interest in casual sex. To do so, they recruited 567 undergraduate students between the ages of 18 and 25, about 43 percent of whom were men. The participants were randomly shown a series of Tinder profiles of the same young, white man, appearing from the waist up. However, each profile was manipulated to reflect one of the three areas — either showing his muscles, changing what he’s looking for from a relationship to something “casual” or removing his shirt.
The results showed that most women tended to judge the shirtless profile as more sexually risky, and lower in competence and social appeal. Men were similarly harsh in their assessment of Shirtless Tinder Guy, rating him as high-risk sexually and low in social appeal, but oddly, not low in competence. Less surprisingly, the profiles that were manipulated to show a preference toward casual sex over a relationship were judged as higher risk and less competent by men and women (women also found this guy to be lower in social appeal). Finally, the muscular profile was perceived as more attractive than the non-muscular one by both men and women, but only men rated the muscular profile as sexually risky.
“A man with a sexy presentation on his online dating profile (e.g., describing his relationship goal as seeking casual sex, showing off his body with a shirtless photo) risks being viewed as less competent, less likable and as a sexual risk-taker by others, compared to a man with a non-sexy profile (e.g., describing his relationship goal as seeking a committed relationship, having a picture with his shirt on),” Diekera explained.
So even if you’re not putting it out there on your profile that you’re looking for something casual, showing off your nips might give your intentions away. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a serious relationship, that innocent shirtless mirror selfie could send the wrong message. “In practical terms, women respond negatively to men with a sexy dating profile and it’s actually contrary to what women like on a dating profile,” Diekera concluded. “A sexy presentation on a dating profile may not be the best choice for men wanting to make a positive impression on women.”
So if you want to take your shirt off on a hot summer day, you do you. But if you’re planning to take a picture for your Hinge profile, you may want to consider throwing back on your tank top first.