Men Seeking Masculine Features Turn to Cosmetic Surgery

Cosmetic surgery is being marketed to men the way sports cars are sold—as accessories to make them more masculine

| July-August 1999

On a Web site advertising the Beverly Hills–based Barron Centers Body Recontouring and Male Enhancement Clinic, a virile-looking man reclines on the grass as he embraces a lovely young woman. The site is promoting liposuction and penile enlargement surgery. “The positive results are the same for virtually every person: greater self-esteem, a new level of self-confidence, the ability to feel your best,” promises the copy. “This improved self-image is evident not only in your sexual life, but in most other arenas.” Below that, a large banner announces: “New Lower Fees.”

Talk about a hard sell.

Welcome to the macho world of cosmetic surgery. Once the hush-hush domain of aging society women, the fast-growing market for cosmetic procedures now increasingly draws male baby boomers. From 1992 to 1997, the number of men having liposuction has tripled, according to the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, and the number having face-lifts has doubled. In 1997, men spent almost $130 million on liposuction, face-lifts, nose reshaping, and eyelid surgery combined—up from $88 million in 1992.

“It's definitely a growing trend,” says San Francisco–based plastic surgeon Corey Maas. “After all these years of guys walking around with big beer bellies and wrinkly faces while women are looking better and better, finally, men are catching on.”

Cosmetic surgery, with ads promising quick and easy high-tech results, is being marketed to men the way sports cars and stereo equipment are sold—as accessories to make them more attractive, powerful, and masculine. “It's extremely important for the working man or woman to appear energetic and youthful,” says the Palm Beach Plastic Surgery Center's Web site. “You may feel young and ‘ready to go,’ but your sagging lids, loose neck, or thinning hair may portray a less vibrant impression than you would like.” As one male UC-Berkeley professor who has had plastic surgery puts it, “If it's available, and it makes me look better, and I have the money, why not? It's not any stupider than buying a Jaguar.”

Also, women are no longer settling for chubby, balding executives. They don't have to. “It used to be that men responded to physical beauty and women responded to power and status,” says David Sarwer, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Human Appearance. “Now women have their own power and status, and they're looking for more attractive men.”

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