What female figure do males find the most attractive?

I had a look at a couple of studies to find out which body shapes men found more attractive. They seem to blow the 0.7 hip-to-waist ratio as the golden rule for the ideal female body shape out of the water.

They showed 40 male students colour photographs of 50 women, with their faces hidden, and asked them to rate how attractive they found them. Unfailingly, the men opted for women with a BMI of 18-21, regardless of shape. Health-wise this category is at the light end of normal weight. The most attractive BMI was found to be 20, which the men awarded five points on average. As soon as women’s weights dropped below 18 their attractiveness started to plunge rapidly.

At the other end of the scale there was a gentle decline, so that a woman rated as overweight still rated a four. The slow decline in attractiveness mirrored the slow decline in health and fertility that accompanies putting on weight. In all, women’s weight accounted for 75 per cent of men’s preferences whereas waist-to-hip ratio accounted for two per cent.

With further analysis, the researchers examined other body shape dimensions, including waist/bust ratio, bust/hip ratio and leg length/torso length ratio. None of these was found to contribute significantly to attractiveness ratings. Dr Tovee said: “There’s been a lot of work on waist-to-hip ratio but it has all been very bad. They could not distinguish between it and BMI.”

 There has been a recent study into the changing shape of playboy centrefolds..

In the 1950s, the most attractive female body mass index was considered to be about 20, and the centrefolds reflected this. The optimum waist to hip ratio was believed to be slightly lower than 0.7.

But Voracek and Fisher found that over time, the bust and hip size of the models decreased, while waist size increased. Although weight remained fairly stable, height increased. “This means more recent models have a more skinny and tubular-shaped appearance,” Voracek says.

The typical body mass index of a Playboy centrefold from the late 1990s is 18 – lower than it was in the 1950s. The average waist to hip ratio of these later models is slightly above 0.7 – with an upwards trend.

It has to be said, that the first study still holds up the ideal BMI as 20, why it has changed to 18 in Playboy I’m not sure.  A quick rifle through the top shelf in the news agents will show that the cheaper magazines prefer a curvier model. Possibly they are preferring a slightly ‘classier look’ for Playboy, with lower body fat, as higher BMI does have associations with lower social classes.

For the average woman (5’5”) this would make the ideal weight about 8st 10lbs for a BMI of 20, 7st 11lbs for a BMI of 18. So centrefold models are about 13lbs lighter than the standard ‘most attractive’ weight.

A BMI of 18 is considered to be slightly underweight (according to the  BMI calculator), and right at the point were attractiveness rapidly drops off. I have to say, this is looking like a cultural trend not a biological one. Is the modern media really that fat-phobic?

The average man seem to rather less bothered by a few extra pounds than by being thin, as attractiveness slopes of slowly off with weight gain, but drops sharply with a BMI of under 18.

I’m guessing, for real life purposes, a BMI of 20 plus a hip to waist ratio of 0.7 would be most attractive.

As you can see, Marilyn Monroe was slightly better fed than these recent playboy centrefolds


15 responses to “What female figure do males find the most attractive?

  1. It is fascinating that women are so obsessed by this topic. Why? The answer is obvious. Women who are not attractive think they can change what men find attractive simply by criticizing men. Not going to happen. So far I have never heard of a single woman who was interested in changing how women view men! But that is also expected. Why don’t you find something useful to do with your time??? And no, your conclusions are not factual or reliable. I feel sorry that you can’t accept something that is. Instead you and many women spend your energy railing against something that will never change. Try spitting at the sun! That will have a larger effect!

  2. Matthew…

    Slightly missing the point that this is an anthropology blog, and this was solely about what men find attractive as part of human sexual behaviour. It was also one just one paragraph mentioned that what men actually found the most pleasing wasn’t was standardly what you see in ‘glamour photos’, which is hardly obsessive, in a pretty huge blog.

    You need to get a life, find something useful to do with your time instead of making shirty comments about subjects you only seem to partially grasp the meaning of. The only thing that comment showed was a deeply misogynistic streak in your nature.

  3. …well, if i wanted somewhere to hang my wet trench coat, i’d pick the pneumatic blond in the
    middle of those knock-out bookends, and
    marilyn, who would ever want lipservice from
    a body that is to pore over? is it because my
    maternal grandmother won the 1oo yd dash as
    a syracuse freshman way before jim brown
    was a glimmer, or that when she caught my brother, kit, with a girly mag offered to pose in the buff for him so he would know what a real woman looked like instead of handfluff?
    i suppose so, but what i really like about
    a woman are her legs whether coming
    towards me or walking away, any old way,
    thisway and thasway, does her skirt ruck
    up an inviting tuck, can she kiss and pout,
    or does she have beaker lips like a dizzy
    wild fowl stopping and starting with each
    beat of my heart and sliding her extra lid
    at me in what she thinks is gelid consumation?

  4. …i find criticism quite attractive in a woman
    who spits back at male rot and rut. altho
    the average male is like a spigot any female
    can turn on just by ohhhing and ahhhing
    at his hilariously spoiled ego, pretending
    an interest in the broken catch-all attic
    of his mind, his incredible poses as master
    of his micro-universe, and of course his
    feelings of gallimaufry when the horse’s
    ass of chivalry points his way.
    there is no reconciling a man who feels
    he has not gotten what he deserves from
    women, this usually goes along the lines
    of servitude or worse, and he feels free
    to bully them in absentia, which is also
    his way of having sex with them,
    but let’s leave irate onan and say that
    women are savory, and it’s in
    their flight as birds on the wing
    they are a delight right enough
    to banish any petulant skygod’s fury
    and turn it to warm rain.

  5. carlos lascoutx

    …female, hmmm, f/p/b/v/ue(N)=big, ok,
    she should be big, ah, fe/ue mal/tl=ma(i)tl=
    hand(letra)=maitl(N)/aite(Jap)=wife, she should have big hands and warm feet/foot/
    she should be the other foot as well.
    figure, ah, f/piqu/gure(letra), ah, -gure=
    g/col/re, hmm,, she shouldn’t be coleric,
    but curly, not coiled, a collen/coloa(N),
    and perhaps, colored, oh, ure/olé,
    and piquant, and pixie, and piqui(N)=creative=picks/pi-qui/who,
    not too picky, and, p/fi(n)g/qui(letra)=
    fingers feinting and finiky. there she is:
    my dame/dam/tame/tamati(N)/tamale,
    and no piccame/piccatl(N)= p/bicce(OE)
    need comply.tks

  6. Honestly – a sample size of only 40 males and all young students as well? That’s enough to render the first study you mention meaningless through far too small a sample size… try 100,000+ to get a halfway meaningful result, and that only within a given culture…

    The second study – looking at playboy centrefolds??? Really? did they actually get funding for that? LOL! – that’s ONE publication, with – globally – an insignificant circulation which only really tells you one thing – the preferences of it’s editors!!

    So both studies = garbage.


    male, 38 loves BBWs ( just for the record 😉 )

  7. …then again, the female figure lots of males
    find attractive is the $ sign, but that makes
    the men sweet potatoes/camotes(mex caló),
    or padrotes/big daddys/pimperknuckles.

  8. I know alot of guys who are to obsessed by BMI aswell. not just a female problem.. sad really. Love your body 🙂

  9. hmmm…interesting article.

    It’s pretty cool to see how this topic has evolved throughout the years.

    a little bit of fat doesn’t hurt anyone 🙂

  10. I just wanted to say it was interesting that you found those studies that expand on some information that is already available.
    I also agree with you on the cultural aspect of weight being a “lower-class” thing. its that same thing with tans, for hundreds of years they were the poor working class people, but once the wealthy could afford and wanted tropical holidays they became fashionable.
    as for anyone bashing on this, that answer is simple: if your not interested, don’t read it.

  11. Hi I love the blog and the subject is one that interests me so I decided to comment. I may objectify women here a bit but my intention is not to alienate women, but to articulate what makes men physically attracted.

    I’ve heard this been commented on before by many guys I know, coincidentally. For instance one of my best friends and I often disagree on the women we find attractive and to me it has something to do with the BMI and body shape. I believe that the women he is attracted to (taller, finer bones, broader shoulders and undoubtedly thin, like Victoria Beckham) have genetics that are better for the health and symmetry of male offspring; and the women I’m attracted to more often (petite, good leg shape, juvenile facial appearance, like Marilyn Monroe) have genetics that are healthier for the female offspring. Maybe this has to do with the fact that i’m already a broad shouldered guy, mesomorphic and bigger than average, and my friend is himself a more lithe and ectomorphic asian guy, and not as tall. So in a sense we are looking for what we don’t yet have. I’ve heard before that people seek mates that may make their offspring more symmetrical.

    I’ve also noticed how perceptions of female beauty change over the decades. The human mind is very plastic and tastes change from man to man a lot so I think it has a lot to do with the mind’s perceptions.

    One thing I noticed is how in the 40’s to early sixties the babydoll look was in. But now society portrays women differently. I wonder if this doesn’t stem from the cultural attempt in that time to repress sexuality and present women as being tender and asexual; but this inevitably found an outlet by creating the babydoll type of ideal (Marilyn, Gidget) where secondary sexual characteristics are painted on top of an otherwise asexual canvas (the same is popular in Japan). The emotional focus is on her perceived heightened femininity and this causes a rise in the protection instinct (which is romantic). The physical focus is on tenderness. However society now is currently of a very different perception. Women now are perceived as being more resiliant and almost stereotypically urbane. The girls from sex and the city are a good example. These women are more approachable and casual, and have a few of the traits previously ascribed to men making them more well rounded. The physical focus on them is their sexual ability and availability. The emotional focus is on their emotional relativism which is feminine and which men often need in their lives.
    Joswitch comments that he likes BBWs, I had a friend explain this attraction to me from his point of view; he saw bigger women as being softer, less forced and not as overly physical. I guess to him that symbolizes femininity, as to me I like my protective instinct piqued, while my other friend mentioned earlier sees a woman’s femininity as refinement and being comfortable with her body. It all is very mental and goes to show much of attraction is based on perception more so than a primordial blueprint. Or maybe I’m wrong and we’re just acting on a blueprint without realizing!
    Again I’m sorry if I offended any women by objectifying them. It isn’t my intention to analyze and make anyone feel dehumanized.

    To me attraction is a predominantly mental affair for men, as it is with women, however men’s strong physical focus makes it seem as though men are more dogmatic which isn’t the case.

  12. Many women today are destroying their looks (body and face) thru a combination of too much dieting, and the wrong sort of exercise.

    Apart from the anorexic trending (Victoria Beckham — ugh), (USA) women are obsessed with wanting smaller butts and artificially flat ‘abs’. The exercises for the abs are particularly bad in in that they tighten the stomach (as seen from the side) at the expense of bulking up the waist (as seen from the front/rear) resulting in a more mannish waist-hip ratio.
    Not to mention that after lowering their body fat they then resort to breast implants.

    And the more gaunt, misshapen faces… example: Anne Hathaways face is less attractive since she is now Hollywood skinny, a shame.

    I’ll add that, culturally, in the US the tone is set for Hollywood by the fashion industry, which is dominated by women and gay men — yet the ‘patriarchy’ always gets blamed for women’s body hangups.

  13. The unfortunate truth is that overtly objectifying women has not reached its high and continues to climb. Our young impressionable youth is being fed lies; not just about aesthetics but about quality per object. I am 25, athletic, educated, hard headed and concerned about the young people in my life and in the world who can not identify Tom Petty and think that being an individual with no support system to keep them in rehab, Amy Winehouse etc., is the way to success. There is a cultural divide I can not understand. My parents did not understand why I wanted to listen to The Chronic…but I still stole their Zeppelin and Extreme and Robert Palmer albums and knew how to work a record player. Our youth is finding their news on TMZ instead of knowing about the extreme measures their families and others work on a daily basis to try and equalize the crap flooding our lives and the actual quality and joy of life so many of us want to share. Difference is beauty and difference of opinion might cloud your beauty but clouded opinions make beauty different. I will always heart different even if I am difficult.

  14. Oh yes I forgot to say: On average I want a man that has a sense of humor, education ans drive along with visible genitals….If you can not see them yourself I don’t want to see them…I expect that from anyone who wants to find a partner. Male/Female personal care is a direct reflection of how you feel and how you gauge your worth. Over/under weight is not the problem..health and equal expectations is the issue. Women want different aspects of men, some want a man that is “pretty” some want “the guy” we all have our perfect balance…forgetful to our meticulous; funny to our over bearing; whimsical to our over managing… men have the same but our society forces men to judge women physically and only by measurements… no offense if I wanted to judge any and all the men I know/been with/ am with by measurements only… only one measures up to a good vibrator and it is because he actually loves me and wants to make me happy and does love every part of me-it is crazy and disturbing at time but i wish my situation upon everyone. Friend or foe, b/c everyone should have a compliment. (the earth wouldn’t be round if a compliment didn’t exist for us all—someone who throw it off)

  15. Why do men think that women aren’t visual? That’s laughable. Male sex symbols are the ones making the most money. TV shows with hot guys (Lost for one) tend to be the most successful. Teen idols are cute young guys, bands with hot singers are the richest. Get over yourselves. It’s nerdy geeks who came up with that big lie.

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