A study that investigated whether a woman's sexuality is related to her satisfaction with her appearance and eating behaviour is being presented today, 15th July 2009 at the British Psychological Society Psychology of Women's Section annual conference.

The study, carried out by Caroline Huxley at the University of the West of England explored whether heterosexual women, lesbian women and bisexual women felt differently about the pressures on them to have an ideal body, and whether any relationships existed between how much pressure they felt, their level of body satisfaction and eating behaviour.

A sample of 472 women, 119 of whom were lesbian, 89 bisexual and 264 heterosexual, completed a number of questionnaires and the results were analysed. Preliminary findings suggest that the heterosexual women were significantly more aware of pressures on their appearance than the bisexual or lesbian women. The lesbian women in this study felt significantly less pressure on their body image than heterosexual or bisexual women, and they also internalised social ideals of attractiveness significantly less than heterosexual or bisexual women.

The women were also questioned on their levels of body satisfaction and restrained eating, but no differences between the lesbian, bisexual and heterosexual women were found on these measures.

Caroline Huxley said: "This result was surprising. As the heterosexual women were more affected by media, more aware of social pressures on appearance and they internalised social ideals of attractiveness more than the lesbian women, we would expect we to see a difference in the levels of body satisfaction and eating behaviours. We did not see this in our study.

"One possible explanation could be that although the pressures felt by the heterosexual women affected their appearance satisfaction and eating behaviours, lesbian women faced different pressures that impacted similarly on how they felt about their bodies and their eating behaviours, resulting in the similar levels we found across all of the women in the study."

Up to a 100 psychologists and other professionals with an interest in the psychology of women are meeting at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society Psychology of Women section from 15 to 17 July, at Cumberland Lodge, Windsor.

British Psychological Society