Muscles. Hot or not?
The general feeling is that men must have muscles. But why?
According to a study by UCLA professor David Frederick:
[…] men’s physical features are related not only to women’s expressed preferences for mates but also to men’s and women’s past mate choices and sex behaviors.
This fascinating paper actually includes 6 studies and is difficult to summarize. Here I will focus on just one of the studies:
- 141 college women aged around 20 looked at 6 computer generated images of men (created with MyVirtualModel.com).
- Note that only the images were shown to the women – not the labels (e.g. brawny, slender, etc).
- The women rated the images against four factors: sexual desirability, commitment, physical dominance (over other males), and volatility (e.g. bad temper).
Who Came Out On Top?
Okay, deep-breath guys…
- Attractiveness, sexual desirability? The built and toned guys came tops. The chubby guy was bottom of the heap. Brawny guy still desirable but not as much as built and toned guy.
- Physical Dominance? Brawny and built were tops, the slender guy bottom.
- Commitment? Chubby guy voted the best, brawny and built the worst.
- Volatility? Slender guy the least volatile, with brawny and built the most volatile. I guess this is why skinny guys want to gain muscle.
The Alternate View: Not All Women Like Muscles
Research from Australian’s Flinders University (published in Body Image) shows that the “average” sized male body is every bit as good as the muscle-bound one.
The researchers showed “mock-up advertisements for jeans, skin-care products and cologne – featuring muscular male models and men of more average dimensions – to more than 600 students in their late teens.” (source)
Neither women or men respondents found the muscular models any more appealing than average men. Lead researcher Diedrichs suggests that participants “may have associated the muscular models with vanity, femininity and homosexuality, and dismissed them as suitable comparison targets.”
Women reported “a more positive body image state after exposure to male models, regardless of their body size or muscularity”. In other words, advertising images of ripped guys and muscle-bound hulks didn’t result in any increased pleasure or positive affect over the average-sized guys.
In case you’re wondering what is “average-slim” and “average-large” used in the process, I’ve obtained a sample picture (from the journal article). The researchers constructed advertising imagery using Photoshop.
Diedrichs, P. C., & Lee, C. GI Joe or Average Joe? The impact of average-size and muscular male fashion models on men’s and women’s body image and advertisement effectiveness. Body Image (2010), doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2010.03.004