University of Worcester Worcester Research and Publications

Searching for ontological security: women’s experiences leading to high drive for muscularity

Edwards, Christian ORCID:, Molnar, Gyozo ORCID: and Tod, D. (2021) Searching for ontological security: women’s experiences leading to high drive for muscularity. Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health. ISSN Print: 2159-676X Online: 2159-6778

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Women with high levels of drive for muscularity (DFM) may display what could be perceived as non-normative corporeal desires because their commitment to muscle may contrast Western societal expectations of femininity. Little, however, is known about women’s experiences with high levels of DFM. Thus, we explored the stories of women with high DFM and disclose the socio-cultural and personal influences shaping this desire. In-depth life-history interviews were undertaken with 10 females who had extreme scores on the Drive for Muscularity Scale. Participants’ stories focused on a set of early social interactions, in which they were exposed to dominant social narratives of femininity. As a result, they felt pressured to comply with contemporary appearance-related gender norms. Such pressures often manifested in situations where their body was perceived to be outside of gendered contours. Participants’ narratives also identified the lack of control they had over their circumstances. In turn, participants revealed that they developed a strong desire to gain control over their situation and, as a result, they responded by ‘tightly controlling’ and shaping their corporeal self as per gendered expectations. However, through a range of problematic moments (e.g. relationship breakdowns), participants’ gendered ontological security became unsettled. Consequently, these disruptions prompted them to reconsider their relationship to embodiment and its connection to their circumstances. This realisation led to the emergence of a muscularity-focused coping strategy eventually leading to high levels of DFM. Findings reveal that, similar to men, women in this study also use muscle to cope with and negotiate life events.

Item Type: Article
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© 2021 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the
original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.

A pdf file of this article is available to download from this WRaP record.

Uncontrolled Discrete Keywords: drive for muscularity, ontological security, women's experiences, identity, life-history interviews
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: College of Business, Psychology and Sport > School of Sport and Exercise Science
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Copyright Info: Open Access article
Depositing User: Christian Edwards
Date Deposited: 10 Sep 2021 12:07
Last Modified: 10 Sep 2021 12:17

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