Big Butts and Breasts: What Sir-Mix-A-Lot Got Wrong About Beauty and Attraction

Ladies, gentlemen, and miscreants… You know that conversation that starts off something like, “what physical feature of mine do you most like”? I’ve been on the receiving end of that question from girlfriends far too many times (i.e., 1 or more). The question has a more crass iteration that goes something like, “are you a breast or butt guy?” I have a much easier time answering the open-ended first version. The second presumes not only a false dichotomy, but it never occurred to me to answer “breast” or “butt” despite the socialization implied in the question and expressed in American culture. My answer has always been, “abs”. I answered the “butt or breast” question that way as well. And don’t take any of this to mean I’m anti-butt or breast; it’s just that neither are el numero uno trait.

Beauty is an area of interest for me in general, but the timing of this piece is directly related to the Esquire magazine cover that has supposedly caused Apple to refuse to offer the offending issue for sale through its channels. It all kind of hearkens back to the “I Dream of Genie” midriff drama of the 60s. In any case, the pictures included here are to provide context.

My Bias Backstory (Optional)

Some may be tempted to cite Sir-Mix-A-Lot’s preemptive attempt to divide men’s perception of female attractiveness along racial lines. As a white, heterosexual, male, I am part of a group that represents a scant 1.47% of the human population that is supposed to prefer “big butts” marginally less. I submit that any supposed difference in this regard is a cultural influence that may correlate to race (because cultural influences often correlate to race), but is ultimately an exaggeration of a shared human nature. Further, I proffer that my preference for “abs” over “butt” (and/or “breasts”) is closer to the instinctual default.

Now, as a white dude, it would be easy to dismiss everything I say as bias. Perhaps that’s fair, but at least hear me out. One area in which I’m not particularly biased is against Sir-Mix-A-Lot. Like him, I’m “from” Seattle. In a geographical sense, we’re in-group. Recent studies have shown geographical in-groups to be more powerful than race on some levels. It does happen that I was always a bigger fan of his album Swass. Further, I’m one of probably 15 people who bought Kid Sensation’s solo album featuring Ken Griffey Jr. in his short-lived rap career. I can’t say I’d recommend it, but this is a historical fact.

I wouldn’t play this if I were you…
[cft format=0]

As far as “Baby Got Back” back is concerned, Mix-A-Lot did slip the correct answer into lyrics. And to be fair, “I like a toned midriff and I cannot lie” is not nearly as catchy as “I like big butts and I cannot lie”. Here’s where he got it right:

“…Cause your waist is small and your curves are kickin…”

“…when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist…”

Here’s another telling tidbit… I discovered evolutionary psychology while researching beauty norms. In the wake of the postmodernist dominated social science of the 20th century, I’d been told that my conceptions of beauty were the mere result of socialization countless times. Now, the thing about that is that I’m not supposed to be aware of such biases… and I get that. However, I specifically remember being told that beauty preferences were arbitrary time and again since a young age. Now, we could get all Society of the Spectacle and maybe even wax philosophical on semiotics, but I don’t want to get mired in this. My question (to myself) was this: If I’m being socialized to a certain set of beauty norms, why do I recoil when I’m told my conception of beauty is “wrong?” If culture is the sole influence, shouldn’t I absorb both messages equally and feel comfortable with a norm somewhere in the middle? Under competing messages, why did I only ever absorb one side of the argument?

So the first exposure I had to evolutionary psychology was in relation to beauty. One of the key areas of female attractiveness that’s been studied is referred to as waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). The EP hypothesis roughly states that a small waist in relation to slightly wider hips is a visual cue communicating reproductive benefits. Figuring out what the cues signal isn’t as easy as testing whether or not the cues exist, so we’ll start with the latter.

The “Science”

A widely referenced cross-cultural study on the WHR preferences of men found that men tend to find a ratio in the range of .69 to .71 visually attractive (Singh 1993). Since this finding was quite problematic to the “there’s no such thing as non-cultural human beauty” camp, this was hotly disputed. Methodological challenges were levied, and subsequent research has been done. Another study comes even closer to the “butt or abs” question by measuring whether altering the ratio by waist or hips made more of a difference in perceived beauty (Rozmus-Wrzesinska, et al. 2005). They confirmed Singh’s hypothesis and found the “Sir-Mix-A-Lot hypothesis” to be incorrect. Waist size was more important to men than hip size. This still wasn’t good enough for the “beauty is a power structure plot” folks, so more research was done. This time researchers used 3-D models from varying angles and determined that men prefer 3-D flat stomachs when rotated to a side-view even more than the front and rear views tested by previous research (Rilling, et al. 2009). In yet another study, it was found that blind men also prefer a WHR in the same range as sighted men (Karremans, et al. 2010). In aggregate, the research seems fairly convincing to my culturally indoctrinated mind.

There are quite a few studies testing men’s preferences for breast and butt size specifically. Here are some excerpts from the same, fairly recent study:

“The findings of this study suggest that both male and female observers show a preference for small breast size… The finding… is particularly interesting, as it stands in contrast to previous studies which show a general preference for medium or large breast size.”

“Buttocks size, however, does not seem to play a significant role in determining female physical attractiveness.” (Furnham, et al. 2007)

I’m not going to delve into the specifics now, but there are multiple hypothesized reasons for the value of a WHR. An obvious one, especially in the light of the 3-D preference study, is that a flat midsection is a pretty good indicator that a woman isn’t pregnant. Other lines of inquiry are typically related to hormone levels. In both men and women, the flood of hormones during puberty are known to influence a variety of physical traits.

Lingerie Exaggerating WHR

Since these same hormones are related to fertility, any cues that signal a genetically optimal hormone level would be candidates for evolutionarily selective pressure. This has been studied and the average preferences of men are close to the theoretically optimal WHR. The main criticism is that men tend to prefer abnormally small waists in relation to the theoretical optimum. The argument against that criticism is the same as the argument against the “Sir-Mix-A-Lot hypothesis”.

Fitness signals tend to be heuristics. That is, shortcut rules that are generally helpful, but are not 100% accurate in all cases. For example, a useful heuristic in nature would be for men to simply prefer a low WHR if a low WHR is a more statistically valid assumption in terms of survival or reproduction. Thus, the heuristic is more amenable to cultural influence on the low-side. The “big butt” hypothesis exaggerates the WHR in the same downward direction. “Baby Got Back” points out both wide hips and an “itty bitty waist” as requirements. Thus, it follows the heuristic. Mix-A-Lot just put the “importance” of waist and hips in the wrong order. This fits with the tendency of culture to exaggerate natural instincts rather than exist in a completely arbitrary vacuum. And NO, I am not saying that all culture is based on natural instincts. I am saying that in domains in which natural instincts exist, culture will tend to amplify them through social reinforcement.

I didn’t get around to referencing one of the studies below (Confer, et al. 2010). It’s pretty interesting, but covering it would make this piece about twice as long. Another time

So… Is this all just another hierarchical power structure conspiracy, or do humans have a beauty instinct?

Male Physical Attractiveness: Part I

References

Confer, J. C., Perilloux, C., & Buss, D. M. (2010). More than just a pretty face: men’s priority shifts toward bodily attractiveness in short-term versus long-term mating contexts. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31(5), 348-353.

Furnham, A., & Swami, V. (2007). Perception of female buttocks and breast size in profile. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal35(1), 1–8. Scientific Journal Publishers.

Karremans, J. C., Frankenhuis, W. E., & Arons, S. (2010). Blind men prefer a low waist-to-hip ratio. Evolution and Human Behavior31(3), 182-186.

Rilling, J. K., Kaufman, T. L., Smith, E., Patel, R., & Worthman, C. M. (2009). Abdominal depth and waist circumference as influential determinants of human female attractiveness. Evolution and Human Behavior, 30(1), 21–31.

Rozmus-Wrzesinska, M., & Pawlowski, B. (2005). Men’s ratings of female attractiveness are influenced more by changes in female waist size compared with changes in hip size. Biological psychology68(3), 299-308.

Post Sponsored by The Hollywood Physique for Men

 

44 Comments
  1. Jamie 5 years ago

    I wrote a similar post here on WHR: http://primalmuse.blogspot.com/2010/08/im-black-a

    It was fascinating to see the similarities across different cultures in terms of what was considered sexually attractive! I'm definitely a butt kind of a guy… so many small-breasted women wish they had bigger boobs, and then the ones with bigger boobs wished they were smaller. I'm pretty much indifferent either way on their size. That said, a big butt doesn't make up for no waist… I think I am likely to scan for a small waist, then make sure they have a butt (as a sign that they have some muscles), check out the face, and then the boobs from there!

    Great blog!

    • Author
      Andrew 5 years ago

      Cool. I downloaded the Dixson papers you referenced. It still shocks me when people claim that evolutionary psychology is imaginary, while also believing evolutionary biology is accurate. The "Blank Slate" hypothesis just won't die despite mountains of empirical studies refuting its tenets. So… It's nice to have even more confirmation of shared beauty cues via Dixson's cross-cultural studies.

      I think the concept of a quick "scan" that you mention is important to highlight. Humans can contemplate reasons and motivations after the fact, but the initial glance/assessment happens instinctively… just as it would if we were one of the many species of birds that look at tail feathers first, and don't seem to care about much else. If they had our cognitive abilities, they'd be having the same conversation… "using tail feathers as fitness cues? that seems arbitrary…"

      • Jamie 5 years ago

        There is a bucketload of literature around that talks about how we scan facial features and make quick (read as: instinctive) judgements about people. I see no reason why this doesn't also pertain to bodies, attraction, mate selection, etc.

        Despite what people will try to suggest, you just don't look at the fat gal (or guy) across the road and find them initially attractive because they have a great sense of humor and personality in a quick scan of body size and shape.

        • Author
          Andrew 5 years ago

          Yep, and there are interesting studies relating to the attractiveness of the "beholder" in influencing all of this as well. Long-story short: we all have an idea of where we stand on the attractiveness scale from a lifetime of social feedback. This doesn't necessarily impact our baseline considerations of beauty in others, but it impacts our willingness to give people a chance to demonstrate their personality. This is intuitive anyway, but it's another one I plan to write about at some point.

          • Jamie 5 years ago

            1's go for 1's, 3's for 3's, 7's for 7's, etc… At least a "3" generally wouldn't do anything more than note that a "7" is hot, being unlikely to find out whether the "7" has a good sense of humor!

      • Emily Deans, MD 5 years ago

        Evolutionary psychology? Pshaw. Evolutionary biology, hell yeah!

        (Probably years of repression at the hands of Winnicot and Kohut and Freud talking here).

        • Author
          Andrew 5 years ago

          Hooray for neck-down Darwinism!

          • Emily Deans, MD 5 years ago

            If it matters, I'm very attractive according to the man who was standing in line behind me at Chipotle yesterday.

          • Jamie 5 years ago

            Emily – No introvert would ever say that to anyone in a line anywhere for fear of getting shot down, no matter how much he/she thought it to be true!

            "Neck-down Darwinism!" – Like it… like it lots.

          • Author
            Andrew 5 years ago

            Yeah! I love that line. I've quoted it in other posts, but I'm in progress on another with that as a title.

            I can't claim the genius of the line. Zywicki first mentioned "Darwin from the neck up" in 2000, then coined "neck-down Darwinism" shortly thereafter.

            Zywicki, Todd J., Evolutionary Psychology and the Social Sciences (October 2000). Humane Studies Review.

          • Emily Deans 5 years ago

            He was an odd man. Nor am I outstandingly attractive in such a way to be propositioned at Chipotle on a regular basis. I thought maybe it was the boots I wore, but these posts suggest something else. I'll never get a straight answer on the subject from my husband – he knows better than to answer such a question with perfect honesty.

          • Cameronmurchison 4 years ago

            Hey r u a gay girl

    • Author
      Andrew 5 years ago

      Thought you might enjoy this: A brief rant about waist-to-hip ratio. :)

  2. David Csonka 5 years ago

    (Karremans, et al. 2010) "blind men, without previous visual experience, exhibit a preference for low female WHRs when assessing female body shapes through touch". How does one sign up for studies like this? Heheh- I imagined Ray Charles examining their wrists.

    • cpen29 5 years ago

      interesting article. "Cavemen preferred full figured women" http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2007/03/27/fullfigu

      • Author
        Andrew 5 years ago

        Yes, that’s one of many references to carvings that fall into the category of exaggerated form. Also interestingly, almost all of the carvings and figurines that have been discovered have WHRs under .72. Many are even more exaggerated, and that fits perfectly with what I mentioned about the cue being a heuristic rather than an exact ratio preference.

        After his initial 1993 study, Singh studied life-size and larger statues around the world and found that this tends to apply to them as well.

        I didn’t get into this above, but these studies aren’t strictly talking about fat vs. thin. The “full-figured” label can be problematic. It’s often taken out of context and used for a justification of obesity. While it may be true that the ratio tends to break down with increased body fat, it’s generally the curviness that men find attractive. However, the Rilling study I referenced opens the door to challenge the claim that higher body mass remains attractive.

        • "Hey, I see you're fit, post-pubescent and not yet pregnant, why don't you come to my cave so I can show you my decorative hand axes? That's right, baby, not only can I provide security and sustenance, but am so competent I have spare time to create symmetry! If you find that impressive, perhaps you'll enjoy helping me create some symmetry of motion…"
          http://www.ted.com/talks/denis_dutton_a_darwinian

          I love how well this subject informs rather than obfuscates what I observe on a day-to-day basis.

    • Author
      Andrew 5 years ago

      I think great comedians are all just non-consciously expressing evolved impulses that they've been able to get in touch with and verbalize better than most. As such, we all have a common frame of reference that allows us to get what they're saying.

      From Curb Your Enthusiasm…
      Larry David: Oh, forget it. It's a comic book character wearing the red costume. The guy in the red costume!
      Blind Man: I don't even know what red is.
      Larry David: Hm. It's hard to talk to a blind guy, you have no references.

      Well Larry, we found a frame of reference for you! Actually, Larry's a step ahead of us there too. There's an episode of Curb called, obviously, "The Blind Date". In it, Larry sets the same blind man up on a date, but he breaks up with her when he touches her face and finds out she's ugly.

  3. Ishmael 5 years ago

    Hm. Not exactly sure what we are getting at here. Obviously, sexual attraction is based on instinct. Are there people that deny this?

    Men like women who exude signs of fertility, and women like men who look like they could fight off a tiger trying to eat her babies (in recent times though, women’s attraction mechanisms have shifted to focus more on a man’s social status, as money has replaced physical strength as a symbol of power, but this too follows a natural design – women want men who can take care of them).

    I guess I am not sure what you are debunking. Someone might have assumed that attraction is partly based in cultural norms, and that is certainly true for the more superficial aspects of it – that is, those things being more related to fashion than physical form. For instance, I don’t find women with dyed black teeth to be attractive, but a lot of dudes in the mountains of Vietnam apparently do. Similarly, certain behaviors and mannerisms, facial features, height, etc. may be have cultural significance when one is evaluating the attractiveness of a member of the opposite sex.

    But the idea that someone is arguing against the basic premise that “men are attracted to women who exude signs of fertility” seems rather far-fetched. I think it is a bit of a strawman to claim that this is what they are doing when they talk about attractiveness being determined by culture.

    There is a concept relating to this I find much more interesting though. I think culture can be used to reenginer the natural attraction mechanism in both sexes. For instance, we were, in the 80s and 90s, inundated with images of unhealthily skinny women – women so skinny they were probably not having periods, and thus should offer no appeal to men – “heroin chic”, they called it. Even though putting up models with this stick-like form has fallen out of vogue in recent years, do in part to a lot of talk shows doing pieces about how these women were actually mentally ill and killing themselves to look like this, there are still men that, having fallen victim to this malicious social engineering project, still prefer women with no boobs or ass, who are so skinny they aren’t having periods. So just as the natural instinct to avoid conflict whenever possible can be subverted by a bunch of NLP spewing talk show hosts and televangelists, our natural sex mechanisms can also be restructured in unnatural ways by modern media.

    • Author
      Andrew 5 years ago

      I guess I am not sure why, as you imply, everything I write needs to "get at" or "debunk" something. I write about things I find interesting or informative that I think other people will also find interesting or informative… simple as that. That said, you apparently missed the point alluded to in the title: neither "big butts" nor large breasts are the ne plus ultra of male instinctual attraction. Since I introduced and referenced no less than 4 studies to this point, I'll ask you to forgive me for not rewriting the article in this comment.

      You haven't heard the arguments that beauty is a nefarious male plot to suppress women? There are bestselling books with it right in the title: "The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women". The postmodern denial of beauty is so pervasive that I'm confident you can find plenty more examples. Ease off on the bogus strawman charges.

      To my mind, the "heroin chic" example that's batted around is a distraction that obfuscates the mechanism at work. The main oversight is that, like anorexia, the competitive mechanism being played upon is intrasexual (Li, et al. 2010). Fashion, and its advertising, is directed at women to incite competition between women. It further ignores that fashion designers don't want their customers to be enthralled with the models. They're trying to sell the image of the commodities possessed by the models. Their interest is in the beauty they create apart from reference to any other human.

      Reference
      Li, N. P., Smith, A. R., Griskevicius, V., Cason, M. J., & Bryan, A. (2010). Intrasexual competition and eating restriction in heterosexual and homosexual individuals. Evolution and Human Behavior, 31(5), 365-372.

      • Ishmael 5 years ago

        Don’t be mad, man. I comment on your blog because I find the topics interesting, and feel that you are intelligent enough to debate and defend your positions, offer stimulating discussion. Not posting because I find your view stupid or necessarily wrong – there are millions of blogs I could do that on.

        My point is that you are mixing concepts here. I haven’t read the entity of “The Beauty Myth”, but I got it from the library and skimmed it once after hearing an interesting interview with her (in the interview, she seemed quite intelligent and forward-thinking with regards to feminism, but the book just had way too much “overthrow the patriarchy” gibberish for me to take it seriously).

        Wolf’s focus is on the unrealistic portrayal of women in media creating a false standard for male desire, which in turn sets women up for obsession over their inevitable failure to meet impossible standards set by photo-shopped images of women who are already genetically gifted and surgically altered. This is obviously happening. I don’t think that point can really be debated. Women don’t really look like the pictures in Victoria’s Secret catalogs, but there is a part of us that expects them to, given that we have looked at these images, which are constantly surrounding us, with great interest, since we got our first boner.

        You are mixing this correct assumption that modern images of beauty set an unrealistic standard that women cannot ever live up to with the simple concept that “fertility is naturally attractive to men”, something which I don’t see anyone debating. That is where my “strawman” accusation came from, though I don’t think you were purposefully making such an argument.

        Also, your point about fashion designers selling a commodity is totally wrong. Marketing is never about selling a product, it is about selling an emotion. This is very basic, and key to understanding modern society. Post Edward Bernays, all advertising is aimed at psycho-emotional manipulation; no other form of advertising exists at this point in time. Fashion designers are selling an idea – that you will be sexy if you wear these clothes – so it always has more to do with the model wearing the clothing than the clothing itself (just look at a fashion magazine, and try to make the claim that the clothes are the focal point; that’s absolutely ridiculous).

        Your point about anorexia being fueled by intrasexual competition may be correct; I don’t know, but that seems logical enough (this would of course be a secondary mechanism, and the primary is the media – if it were not for media images of dangerously skinny women, no one would have ever gotten the idea that it was attractive in the first place, as it is counter-intuitive – I know the article you site claims that it originates from the idea that thin=youthful, but that is wrong; the media invented this image, it was not a natural development). It’s a non sequitur though, as my point was that media creates these images and then men, after being inundated with them, accept them as attractive.

        • Author
          Andrew 5 years ago

          I'm not even a little mad. If I was, I wouldn't continue the discussion by breaking it into two distinct threads over in the forum. Sorry to keep doing this to you, but these comment threads tend to get orphaned. Once they've aged a week or two, the conversations are largely skipped. Also, almost everyone else who's commented thus far is a forum participant.

          Considering the line between natural beauty and cultural standards

          Fashion Advertising: Selling the model or the merchandise?

          • Ishmael 5 years ago

            Hey, sorry I haven't posted on the forum yet. I made an account but I've had a bunch of idiot real life stuff going on. It is on my to-do list though.

            I did find the time to finish up and post an essay I wrote regarding issues somewhat similar to those discussed here, although focused on what constitutes a desirability in a male partner, from the standpoint of the evolution of societies.

            I'd be interested in your take on it. I imagine we've got pretty similar ideas about this one.

            The Reproductive Cosmologies of the United States and the Philippines: A Comparative Look
            http://iwannadieinthepi.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/

  4. NomadicNeill 5 years ago

    It’s been pretty clear to me that the feeling I get in my dick and balls when I see a hot girl (0.7 ratio, nice skin and hair etc.) is instinctual… but I’m glad it’s now backed up by mainstream science 😉

    Ishmael, maybe things are different where you live but in the UK I often hear the ‘attraction is social programming’ line. Though not always overtly. I remember a while back there was a big advertising campaign for a brand of soap celebrating ‘real women’.

    All the women on the posters were of course overweight implying that it is the norm we should all just accept. And what does that mean? That men being attracted to anything else are looking for something abnormal or unrealistic.

    • Author
      Andrew 5 years ago

      Thank you! I thought I'd been taking crazy pills when challenged on the existence of beauty deniers.

      The idea that we should just get over ourselves (on so many levels) and normalize obesity is problematic… especially in light of the studies that came out about a year ago linking obesity more strongly to peer group obesity than any other variable.

      Did you know there's (or was) a National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance? The website seems to be offline, but it used to state their history as an activist organization originating in the 60s. Of course, their goal was to popularize/normalize being "fat" (their term). This issue is tricky, because there also appears to be research indicating that non-acceptance leads to increased obesity. But… I gotta wonder about an argument that leads to inevitable obesity in every instance.

      • Ishmael 5 years ago

        So wait, someone is claiming that fatness is natural and that we should accept it as attractive? The only argument along the lines of the “Beauty Myth” that I have ever heard is that women are being subjected to an unnatural standard of beauty that they can’t possibly meet, which I feel is true.

        In the interview I heard with Naomi Wolf (BBC or NPR, can’t remember) she was speaking on the effects of pornography, talking about how men lose attraction to normal women because they view them as not being “porn worthy”. This is something that does happen, I think, and it is not just from porn that we get are imprinted with these unrealistic standards of beauty, but all media. I personally suffer from this. I only date badass chicks, and would rather spend an evening with rosy palms and her five naughty sisters than be with a girl who is not absolutely gorgeous.

        Never have I heard the claim that “fat chicks would be attractive if it weren’t for media.” If some group is making that claim, they are extremists; generally, society accepts that although a majority of people in the west (save mainland Europe) are overweight, it is unhealthy and something should be done about it.

        If this is what you are talking about in this article, than maybe I am out of touch and have mistaken what you were getting at. If that is the case, I apologize. lol. Although I don’t think Wolf’s book can be accused of making this claim, as it does fall into the category of thought which I have outlined.

        Being attracted to fat chicks is unnatural, as they are obviously unhealthy, or, more likely (in a time before transfats and processed foods), that they already have a bunch of kids (or are presently pregnant, even), which in a natural situation would normally mark them as being unavailable (or at least having someone else’s brats which you would have to spend resources feeding and looking after; the goal being to propagate one’s own genes, such a situation is less than ideal).

        No one likes fat chicks. Except black people. But as you say, that is a cultural phenomenon, which we would need an army of sociologists to determine the origin of. This isn’t just some made up thing either. I have been around black people a lot, and a majority (at least a much higher percentage than among whites/Asians) of them that I have known like fat chicks. Also, I vaguely remember seeing something on one of the documentary channels about a tribe somewhere that puts women in cages and feeds them excessively until they become obese in preparation for marriage. I forget what that was about, but it was (obviously?) black people doing this.

  5. Jenice 5 years ago

    Wow, is the above comment either bigoted or just being a little "controversial" to prove a point? Or just trying to get a rise? I stumbled upon this blog from Twitter. And wondering, being new to primal/paleo lifestyle, is this a place for a black girl? Geez. Some black women are naturally curvy. Little waist or not. Hell, white women too. We are all made differently but health is key of course. I'm sure I would be considered fat to the above ideas. To say no one likes fat chicks except black people means if no one likes something and another group does, that group only likes what is considered cast offs. People, however we have evolved, are more important than that.

    • Author
      Andrew 5 years ago

      Unfortunately, my policy of generally allowing most comments leads to some ridiculous junk getting through. I disagree with a lot of what Ishmael says in these comments (and elsewhere), and welcome all to question them strongly.

      Natural curviness is more or less what's considered in the research I originally referenced. And… the research generally shows that natural curviness is a "good" thing with respect to health.

      As I mentioned somewhere in the comments above, the research isn't about fat vs. thin, but how hormone balance influences body shape. In fact, some of the studies explicitly state that the findings about ratios are the same even when adjusting for body fat. The hypothesis of most of the studies is that the closer a woman is to optimal hormone levels, the closer her body will be to a ratio that men find attractive. And further, that men find this attractive because it is a reflection of optimal hormone balance. The studies find that men's preferences tend to be almost identical across cultures. I'm not sure that skin tone is controlled for in any of the research, but some of the studies do represent a range of cultures that strongly correlate to "race".

      This all applies to women's view of men's attractiveness as well, but in different ways. I have a post scheduled on that too.

  6. Jenice 5 years ago

    Hallelujah for intelligent discussion and response! Received and appreciated. I will continue checking this site because I'll admit my curiosity has lead to readership. Censorship isn't encouraged on my part at all. I've tangled with lots of lions in my career. I know that guy will come back and let me have it. Probably find me online and decide I'm one of "those fat girls" and I will decide I don't care and know my butt still gets checked out. It's a win for everyone. And you get more comments posted to this entry. All is right in the evolvify world.

  7. js290 5 years ago

    Posture is the most important physical attribute of a woman. 😛

  8. Quinlan 4 years ago

    Interesting post, I have never been attracted to "abs" as you say on women, I thought this was normal. Don't Abs mean a pretty low body fat level? Low enough to effect fertility? I'm not a chubby chaser per se but I am definitely attracted to larger women with relatively small waists, the "hourglass" shape is attractive to me at almost any size. I like the soft curvy look, plus size models (even though they aren't plus size compared to the general population) and historical artworks best exemplifies the look I mean.

    Most of the "beautiful" women displayed in art and media up untill the start of the 20th century were pushing into the overweight BMI range, possibly even moderately obese, so I think it's natural to be attracted to technically "fat" women as long as they have that same hourglass shape (WHR). I think part of the confusion is when people think "fat" they don't think BMI 25.1, they think of fat waists or central obesity. So basically, I'm still not getting where Sir Mixalot went wrong?

    • Author
      Andrew 4 years ago

      The title of the last reference sums it up: "Men’s ratings of female attractiveness are influenced more by changes in female waist size compared with changes in hip size." The prioritization of "big butts" over waist is the reverse of what the data show. I'm not saying that "big butts" aren't (or can't be) attractive, simply that it's not as important as it's portrayed in these lyrics (and culture by proxy).

  9. David Csonka 4 years ago

    "Don't Abs mean a pretty low body fat level? Low enough to effect fertility?"

    I find that question intriguing.

    • Author
      Andrew 4 years ago

      Fertility is a function of total energy budget, not body fat percentage per se (Ellison 2001). Clearly, body fat is part of the energy budget equation, but it can be misleading to zoom in on body fat percentage at the exclusion of diet.

      Reference
      Ellison, P. T. (2001). On fertile ground: A natural history of reproduction. Harvard University Press,
      Cambridge, MA.

  10. claudiine 4 years ago

    I'm interested to know and find out what is attractive….. in places, cultures and countries where the WHR is low.

    On a somewhat different topic: my friend and i were debating the other day on Evolution. He said that men's desire/attraction of big breasts or big butts in a group or culture would over time result in big breasts/big butts. I somewhat argued this in saying that big breasts or big butts are genetic. This debate started in my asking why some cultures have big breasts/ butts and others may have little or none.

  11. jonjon 4 years ago

    butts

  12. John 4 years ago

    From what i have read, wider hips indicate that there is a pretty good chance of a female giving birth without any complications. Hips of humans are wider in comparison to other primates since we have a larger head to accommodate our brain(avg 13500cc). A larger brain is required for various human activities which are absent in primates the most important of this is a high degree of socializing and cultural activities. There is also a difference between the waist to hip ratio of various races. Blacks have narrow hips,whites wider and orientals have the widest. It has been scientifically proven that the IQ scores of different races are directly related to the hips i.e orientals>whites>blacks. The opposite is true for testosterone levels and sporting abilities. So, wider hips in comparison to waist would mean that there is a higher chance of a successful delivery and of giving birth to more intelligent offspring's which in today's world is of much more importance than physical strength. This I believe is why a lower waist to hips ratio is attractive in females. About the fat part, im pretty confused. For all i can think of(i have no scientific proofs to back me up whatsoever) an optimum level of fat is attractive in females. Without a minimum reserve of fat deposits it would've been rather difficult for a female to successfully deliver and bring up a baby(this of course is irrelevant in today's world due to the availability of various supplements and high calorie foods). Then again, an overweight mother would not be able to protect her offspring's from potential predators. Therefore, rationally speaking, an optimum fat level in a female body would be sexy(remember the last time you drooled over those creamy thighs of a pornstar?). At least for me size zero is repulsive. If you observe the nudes of females in renaissance paintings and other such works, you will observe that none of them were 'size-zero' but had an optimum amount of fat. Those are elegant indeed. It is probable that the media is to blame for the so called 'size zero' mania.

  13. Cameronmurchison 4 years ago

    Im a les

  14. Dan040482 4 years ago

    My Annaconda dont want None! unless you got BUNS hun!

  15. Mike_in_Sitka 3 years ago

    God made most women worth looking at, some worth talking to, and a rare few with both qualities. That being said…Beth Chapman is super hot.

  16. Free Stuff 11 months ago

    Everything is very open with a really clear explanation of the challenges.
    It was truly informative. Your website is extremely helpful.
    Thanks for sharing!

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