Tag: curves

Even blind men prefer curves

Posted in news by jenapincott on March 8, 2010

When traveling around the world, even to the remotest regions, anthropologists have often carried with them illustrations of the female figure. Some of the women represented have thick waists, what is known as a high waist-to-hip ratio, or WHR. Others have tiny wasp waists, a low WHR. Some have WHRs somewhere in between. The anthropologist will show these drawings to the menfolk, and ask them which figure they prefer.

About 90 percent of the time, men prefer women with a WHR of about .7, the waist being 70 percent the width of the hips, which is rather low. Some cultures prefer heavier women and other cultures prefer lightweights, but the preferred proportions are about the same.

For decades researchers have debated the importance and veracity of these findings. As detailed in BLONDES, many researchers think there are some very good reasons why men prefer wider hips and smaller waists: fertility (wider pelvises are good for childbirth and high estrogen prevents excess waist waste), sexual dimorphism (it’s what makes women “womenly”), youth (the exception being wasp-waist-record-holder Cathie Jung, above, who modified hers), and health (the fat that accumulates on the thighs is good for a baby’s developing brain, while abdominal fat is harmful).

These are all good reasons. But naysayers claim that Western culture has influenced the rest of the world through TV and other media, which is why men prefer such small waists in proportion to hips. These critics believe that the preference is the result of visual learning. Kids grow up seeing that women with low WHRs are considered most attractive, and they believe it. This is reinforced by the Western media. Drawing on this logic, these skeptics think there is nothing intrinsically sexy about curves.

But now a score for evolutionary psychologists.

A recent study led by researchers at Rahboud University in the Netherlands and the University of California at Los Angeles confirmed that men prefer small-waisted women — by sight or by touch. Nearly forty men, half of them blind from birth, were invited to a lab containing mannequins. One mannequin had a figure with a 70 percent WHR, often considered the golden ideal, while the other had a thicker 84 percent WHR. The men were asked to rate the attractiveness of each figure. Sighted men gazed and blind men groped. Later, reviewing the results, the researchers saw the same clearcut pattern: both groups rated the hourglass-shaped mannequin as sexier. (Vision did play some role, with the sighted group giving the slimmer-waisted mannequin higher ratings, but the difference was slight.)

No doubt cultural relativists will refute this, saying that the sightless are also influenced by Western media. Blind guys might not see shapely female bodies, but they’ll hear about them and form a bias in their favor. In the immortal words of singer Sir Mix-a-Lot: “I like big butts and I can not lie/You other brothers can’t deny/That when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist/And a round thing in your face…”

What body region are you judged by most?

Posted in news by jenapincott on July 8, 2009

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Which do people fixate on most when assessing women’s physical attractiveness — the stomach or the hips?

As I discuss in BLONDES, weight, as estimated by body mass index (BMI), and curves, as measured by waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), are two major factors when assessing women’s bodily attractiveness. Which matters more is a point of contention between various experts.

A new study led by University of York psychologist Piers Cornelissen tries to settle the argument. Implementing a novel way of tracking eye movements, Cornelissen asked male and female volunteers to rate nearly 50 photos of women. The longer their gaze rested on a particular body region, the more that region counted.

There’s a strong argument that curves should matter more than weight when evaluating attractiveness. A low WHR — a relatively thin waist to hip ratio — suggests something about a woman’s hormonal status. Estrogen increases the deposition of body fat on the hips thighs, and bust. Higher estrogen is linked with higher fertility.

But those aren’t the body regions that people fixate on when they look at you, according to Cornellisen’s experiment. The stomach apparently has the most impact. When judging attractiveness, both sexes appear to settle their gaze on the central torso, an area that reveals much about a person’s overall body mass, and not the pelvic and hip areas. This outcome, according to the psychologists, suggests that body mass index is more important in assessing physical attractiveness than curviness.

The study is not conclusive. It’s possible that WHR is assessed more quickly than body mass, which could be why people fixate longer on the torso. Or perhaps the study participants, aware that their eye movements are tracked, are abashed to linger on the pelvic region of the models. The central torso is also quite close to the bust.

Still, it’s another study that falls definitively in the body mass-over-curves camp. And perhaps it helps explain the new rage in stomach-cinchers.

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