Among the many contradictions of contemporary culture is the curious representation of the reed-thin, almost anorexic female body as the most coveted female figure whereas in real life, obesity is emerging as one of the most common lifestyle conditions. So how do men want like their partners to be in actual life – skinny like the ramp models or with fuller figures like real women?
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Surveys and studies have again and again found out that a majority of men like their women to be curvaceous. One such research project led by Dr Steven Platek of Georgia Gwinnett College found that looking at a woman with a shapely body brought about pleasurable feelings in the male mind, similar to those induced by thoughts of beer and sex. As part of the study, researchers scanned the brains of fourteen young men as they looked at images of nude women before and after they had plastic surgery to give them fuller figures. The operation did not reduce their weight but merely redistributed it to areas like hips and breasts. The team found that the reward centers of the male volunteers got more excited when they viewed the post-operative images with the fuller bodies. The greatest degree of stimulation among the male research subjects was actually elicited by a high waist-to-hip ratio, more commonly known as “hour-glass figures”.
The widespread male preference for fuller female bodies that Dr Platek’s study underscored is actually grounded on evolutionary reasons. The purpose of a female figure is not, first and foremost, to gratify male desire. Rather the fuller breasts, rounded hips and a wide waist are indicative of the reproductive function of the female body which is why the female figure has over millennia evolved around the primary purpose of bearing and nurturing children. In fact, the continuing male desire for curvier women is a throwback to the primitive times when the ability to successfully bear and nurture children was a prime consideration for men choosing their mates. Since the very survival of the group and, indeed the species, depended upon the females successfully bringing up their offspring, men would choose partners with fuller figures which eventually indicated a greater success rate in bearing and nurturing children. While modern men do not need partners merely to bear their progeny, still the preference for the curvaceous female body seems to have been genetically wired into male choices.
However If the desire for the full-figured female body is so common then why are women repeatedly assailed with images of anorexic women claiming to represent the most attractive body type? The origin of this contradiction can be traced to the 1990s when the thin emaciated body made its first appearance on the ramps of the Western fashion world and quickly spread to Hollywood and other forms of popular media. Top models like Kate Moss and Hollywood actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow came to be regarded as style icons with their waif-like bodies. The size zero culture was further popularized by TV stars like Calista Flockhart and international actresses like Keira Knightley. Few people saw or pointed out that primary purpose of models in the fashion industry was to hang the creations of the designers and not to set trends for real women of the world. The fact that even till twenty years ago, a majority of female models were a size eight was conveniently forgotten as size zero became the latest must-have on the fashion circuit. Interestingly enough, even Marilyn Monroe - who is still voted as among the sexiest women the world has seen -would have found it difficult to please today’s trend setters since she was a voluptuous size fourteen.
The saddest part about this fascination for reed-thin female figures is that it is completely oblivious to what is happening in the real world. In the last couple of decades the average American woman, who stands at around five feet four inches, has expanded from size ten to size fourteen. Being overweight is defined as having a Body Mass Index between 25 and 29.9 while obesity involves a BMI of more than 30. According to statistics provided by the Weight-Control Information Network1 in association with the US Department of Health and Human Services as well as the National Institutes of Health, over two thirds of adults in United States are overweight and as many as one-third of them are clinically obese. Women make up the majority of the numbers suffering from obesity at 35.5% while men are slightly lower at 32.2%. This is all more unfortunate since women bear the brunt of unrealistic body images in popular media which portray skinny anorexic figures as most attractive to men when in reality so many women are actually battling obesity.
Even more pertinent to the question whether men like overweight women is the fact that men make up the majority of the adult overweight population in America. According to the above resource, 64.1 percent of adult women are overweight or obese in the US whereas the corresponding percentage for men is far higher at 72.3%. This fact demolishes any justification for singling out the female body as the site for unrealistic expectations when in reality it is men who have higher numbers of overweight bodies. Perhaps because of this too, the average guy is not too particular about his partner’s figure when he knows that he is himself far from having washboard abs.
In the final analysis, all discussions of weight-related issues must deal with the health aspect. Whether affecting men or women, there is no doubt that being overweight is akin to inviting a host of health problems ranging from hypertension and cardiac conditions to infertility and inability to enjoy sex. So while the real flesh-and-blood guy continues to enjoy being able to hold on to the love handles or his curvaceous partner, being overweight and worse obese can not only make one prey to perceived notions of unattractiveness but worse, actual health and sexual problems.
1. Weight control information network - Overweight and Obesity Statistics