It is often said that men like curvy women — “Only a dog wants a bone.” Some women deride a decidedly skinny female form as boyish and less sexually appealing than the curvy silhouette. While popular culture features mostly thinner figured, many women and men alike praise the curvy figure as more natural to women, suggesting that it shows youth and fertility.
Those who disagree with this view mock such praise as invention of overweight women to feel better about the fact that their figures are not highlighted as beautiful. But what sort of figure do men truly find the most attractive — does the curvy form stand above all? And what exactly is “curvy”?
Shape vs. Size
A curvy figure is defined as one without a straight, continuous surface; a curvy woman has a shape which is rounded or contoured. Thus, curvy is a shape rather than a size, as some would believe — a woman can be curvy and thin, or curvy and heavy, and everything in between.
A better indicator of curviness, some say, is bust size (the larger, the curvier) and the Waist-Hip Ratio (WHR): the waist measurement divided by the hip measurement. The ideal WHR is said to be 0.7 or less, usually corresponding to a a hip measurement that is 10 inches larger than the waist. In combination with a larger bust size, this equals the revered hourglass figure, one of the rarest figures in Western society.
Body Mass Index vs Waist-Hip Ratio
If anyone was looking for proof of the reliability of the WHR in determining beauty, many studies have tied the ideal WHR of 0.7 to overall attractiveness, across cultures and centuries. However, other studies suggest that while WHR might be an important factor in judging female attractiveness, overall body size as indicated by the Body Mass Index (BMI) might be just as important, if not more.
In the United Kingdom, a large study containing over 700 men found that, among women of all sizes and shapes, BMI was a better indicator a woman’s being deemed attractive than her WHR. Men were presented with real images of female figures and asked to rate their attractiveness. They found that WHR, in other words, curviness, only accounted for a quarter of a female’s attractiveness rating while BMI was much more indicative. And the most attractive BMI was found to be 20.8 — a lower BMI than most women and roughly equivalent to a trim US size 4.
A smaller study, conducted in the US among male students also found that BMI was a stronger indicator of males’ perception of a female’s attractiveness than WHR. This time WHR accounted for only 2 percent of a female’s attractiveness rating, while BMI accounted for 75 percent. Again, the most attractive BMI was found to be the lower 19-20, on the edge of healthy weight.
So do men like curvy women or do they prefer thinner figures? It’s likely that many variables must be taken into account and there will never be a definitive answer that stands the test of time and culture. Researchers believe that WHR is a biologically wired feature of attractiveness while BMI is a socially ingrained determinant of attractiveness, hence its leaning towards the more lauded thinner figure.
In the end, no size or shape has ever been considered attractive by all men studied, and an individual’s perceptions may not always be in line with what society believes should be the most attractive figure.