Nature vs. Nurture
As a student and obsessive fan of human psychology, I found a recent article in the NY Times covering an upcoming study on what men find attractive infinitely fascinating. The study asked the question do we like slender curvy women more than slightly wider women because the images in the popular media tell us to, or because we’re just wired that way.
Part of what was so interesting about this study was the methodology that they used to test they hypothesis. To control for the influence of media they used men who have been blind since birth as their test subjects. They had them run their hands over mannequins with differing hip-to-waist ratios and asked them to choose the one that was most attractive.
Just as in virtually every study that has been done on the subject (the anomalies are dutifully covered in the article), the blind men went for women with hip-to-waist ratios of 0.7 (think of this as slimmer than average, but still curvy). The fact that blind men scored the same as sighted men, and that this test has been conducted many times in varying cultures all over the world with almost exactly the same results each time makes it pretty clear that from an evolutionary perspective this ratio confers some advantage – and thusly men seek it out in their sexual partners.
If the studies on the subject are to be believed, the Dove “Real Women” campaigns might not do much to sway the culture’s views on what is sexy. It’s pretty tough to outfox mother nature.