What Scientific Studies Reveal About The Bodies Men Prefer
“I’ll be having a great time watching TV with my boyfriend, when a beautiful model in a commercial comes on and I just lose it. I go from thinking, “He’s in love with me,” to “He’s settling for me.” Same thing when he gets those “Babe of the day” pics on his gaming sites. I know he’s comparing me to them and thinking, “I wish she’d look like that.” It’s not like he says it or acts that way but he doesn’t have to. Guys say they don’t necessarily want a skinny girl with big boobs but they always snap to attention when one of them walks by.”
Alicia, 24, Atlanta, GA
What do men want in a woman? What do they want women to look like? It’s important to know because you’ll have a much better chance of attracting male attention if you know what makes men say “hubba hubba.” This is simple evolutionary mate selection at work and it applies to males as well. They have little chance of attracting females if they don’t know what females are attracted to.
You’d think that women would be experts at knowing how men want them to look, but the research proves otherwise. Women so consistently overestimate male preferences for slenderness that it leaves some researchers wondering what world women are living in. Let’s take a quick look at how academics discovered the discrepancy between what men like and what women think men like.
In the typical study, men and women are presented with representations of the female form–from very thin to very fat (these figures are mostly line drawings but some studies use silhouettes, illustrations or photographs). They are then asked to circle shapes that represent:
- Their ideal body shape
- What they believe members of the opposite sex prefer
The results? Women overestimate male preferences for slenderness. Constantly. Consistently. In nearly every study. This phenomenon baffles researchers because it’s completely at odds with the prevailing theory of how men and women pair up.
Mate selection theory holds that women intuitively know what men prefer, otherwise they wouldn’t know how to attract them. This ability also allows them to assess their “relative value” against women they’re competing against. This is an evolutionary characteristic that facilitates procreation in all species. Knowing male preferences allows females to feature the characteristics that will attract them.
Why are women losing their ability to gauge male preferences? Researchers theorize it’s a direct result of the media’s relentless presentation of women who can fit between a door and its frame. As the authors of a 1995 study in Sex Roles noted:
“The media images emphasizing thinness cause a woman to downscale her own ideal size from her real size rating but may be powerful enough to cause her to distort her perception of her partner’s ideal female.”
The authors of a Journal of American Psychology study on sex differences in perceptions of desirable body shape were particularly blunt in their assessment: “Our data suggest that women are misinformed and exaggerate the magnitude of thinness that men desire,” write the authors, “probably as a result of promotion of thinness in women through advertising by the diet industry.”
Women are just as bad at estimating what kind of bust lines men prefer. Breast size preference studies (yes, they exist—don’t ask me how they got their funding) show that females believe men like larger breasts than men actually report.
What men actually prefer
Okay, so now we know what women think men like, and it’s wrong. What’s right? What body types do men prefer? The only way to find out is to ask them and that’s what a great many researchers have done. Before I share the results, let’s talk about how these studies were conducted.
When studying male preferences researchers use two essential measurements of female attractiveness. The first is Waist To Hip Ratio (WHR), which you get by dividing the circumference of your waist by the circumference of your hips.
A narrow waist set against full hips has been a consistent feature of female attractiveness throughout most of history. Because it’s such an erotic marker, women have put themselves through a lot of pain to achieve the look. The earliest cosmetic surgery in England consisted of removing two lower ribs to enhance the narrowness of the waist. It also explains the popularity of corsets, despite the internal injuries it caused so many women. The corset was replaced by girdles and then by wide belts, and today, Spanx.
The second measure of attractiveness researchers use is the Body Mass Index (BMI), which again, you calculate by dividing your weight (in kilograms) by the square of your height. Interestingly, BMI is a far greater predictor of attractiveness than WHR. But whether it’s measured by WHR or BMI, studies consistently find that men are attracted to women who fall between…
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