Are Muscular Men More Attractive?

By Jim F

2998-muscular-men-attractive.jpgMuscles. 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.

NOTE: Despite the many media reports– we need to understand that the subjects of the study were male and female undergraduates (aged 18-25) living in California, USA. Extrapolating that to all men and women everywhere is foolish. One of the studies interviewed 99 male undergraduates about their sexual histories, and, to be honest – can you really believe they didn’t “talk up” their exploits?

The Research

This fascinating paper actually includes 6 studies and is difficult to summarize. Here I will focus on just one of the studies:

  1. 141 college women aged around 20 looked at 6 computer generated images of men (created with MyVirtualModel.com).
  2. Note that only the images were shown to the women – not the labels (e.g. brawny, slender, etc).
  3. The women rated the images against four factors: sexual desirability, commitment, physical dominance (over other males), and volatility (e.g. bad temper).

The heads were deleted (by the study authors) to remove any ethnic or racial clue.

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.

1724-bodyimage.jpg
Average-slim (left) and Average-large (right).

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.

Reference
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

184 Comments

  1. Seba

    I am always intrigued by the fact that whenever this question is asked the frame is narrowly defined around the concept of heterosexuality. It is certainly a very narrow way of analysing attractiveness if you consider that it was homosexual men of ancient days who promoted musculairy as an ideal of male beauty and the main portion of men who would aspire to achieve muscularity both as an athñetic endevour as well as a practice to enhance their attractiveness for other men.

    People usually conclude gay men are more appreciative of muscualrity than heterosexual women. There is an explanation for this. Men find physicality more appealing than women, this combined with their attraction to men and the male figure is the prfect combination that makes them much more appreciative of muscularity.

    Also, and this may help some heterosexual men. Women tend not to like heterosexual muscle men because they subconsciously associate them with aggression/violence. They feel they may be vulnerable to a form of aggression if engaging with one of them. this is because, many times, heterosexual muscle men then to express or behave in ways deemed aggressive around their peers a sif muscles had to be validated in their potentiality through hypermasculinity. Women feel threatened by this and go for the norma-looking guy who to them doesn’t represent a threat to their own safety. This is different with gay and bisexual men. Because they are attracted to men they make sure not to behave or act in a way that may feel a possible partner threatened. This means their interaction with men are not based on the premise that in order to validate their muscularity and masculinity they must embrace aggressiveness in any degree. Because of this gays and bisexual men enjoy muscularity much more.

    Bieng a muscular man who embraces a sort of superhero-like attitude, one that will use his muscles to help and protect will always make you look more attractive.

    Reply
  2. Gary

    Becoming confident is much harder than building up muscles, so its probably better to work on the latter.
    Confidence is something that takes so long to build up (if you have zero to very low, it will take you at least 10 years to get to moderate confidence).

    Reply
    • Gopi

      Spot on, Gary. Getting into the habit of working out regularly and seeing results will build a ton of confidence and faith in oneself. And what is more is that, in addition to improving one’s appearance and health, you develop healthy habits — such as the ability to stick to a fitness plan (long-term goal), to complete a workout (short-term goal) and just simply showing up at the gym several times a week — that you can then carry over and apply to other endeavors in life. This will cause confidence to now multiply and literally ooze out of one’s skin. And women find such confidence the most irresistible feature in any man regardless of race, ethnicity, facial looks and…get this…height. But, yeah, it does take several years to build up to such a level of confidence. You have to start somewhere and “working out” is accessible to everyone. “Training regularly is one of those things that men and women should just do instead of thinking about.

      Reply
    • klepp0906

      You obviously have 0 background or knowledge in bodybuilding. A lifestyle which as one of its main health benefits is dramatically increased confidence.

      Course that wasn’t my point. The general masses have no conception of just how much work it is. All consuming on the majority of fronts. Sunday’s? Day off? Maybe from the gym but it’s replaced with 10 hours straight of cooking and portioning my food for the week.

      Reply
      • Effinbiatch

        This is exactly why many of us woman (particularly in all the studies) dont select built over toned. Toned means he lifts but anything above that means he’s way into himself and unfortunately we assume he has too much testosterone. So that may seem like a good thing to a guy who’s trying to bulk but to us it means abandoning us or abusing us. Men on roids have too much T and look at it was does to them. That’s my reasoning why so many woman select toned over overly muscular.

        It’s our preference to be the one dotted over. We prefer our men to masculine and it’s a feminine trait to be overly considerate of ones looks. I’d rather see a man cry than primp himself in the mirror #majorturnoff

        If you want to spend your Sunday cooking all day, that’s wonderful for you but to a woman, it gets very boring very quickly. She much rather go out with that toned guy likely on his jetskii flying through the water at the beach. He’s hot, confident, fun and playful.

        Reply
  3. Adam

    I find this interesting. Those who responded made themselves sound smart, but forgot one critical item.
    Grammar.
    I am eight teen years of age, and because of my life circumstances, look down upon those who impose on intelligence with idiocies. The lean man will beat out chubby, skinny, or ripped. The skinny will beat out the chubby and ripped, and the ripped will beat out the chubby.
    Label me a know-it-all, but this is truth. This is very sad truth. You may as well settle for the man who gives you his heart and thinks about you every day, or you’ll be as miserable as eeyore. (or how ever you spell that plush donkey’s name)

    Reply
    • Hugh Wottmeigh

      what the bloody hell did you just type there mate

      Reply
  4. Danielle F.

    We do like muscular guys, but there is a limit. Personally I find overly muscular men kinda scary (and gross) looking. I’m a skinny gal (not that I’m trying to brag, if fact I think I can stand to gain a few pounds,) and if one of those guys tried to hug me, I’d snap like a tooth pick!

    Reply
  5. Danielle F.

    Everyone judges by looks to an extent whether we like to admit it or not (are brains are hard wire to do so.) Am I saying that looks make the man? No. A guy with a good personality with average looks trumps good looking jerk any day.

    Reply
  6. Danielle F.

    I find it very interesting to see how the girls are rating then men. I personally thought that everyone would have gone for toned and built for second place but I guess I was wrong.
    Here is my order. As for me, I like my guys to be lean (or toned,) but not too muscular. I don’t want to worry about my ribs being broken when I get hugged. But I don’t want someone who is too skinny either, my knight in shining armor can’t have the physique of a toddler.

    toned
    built
    slender
    brawny
    typical
    chubby

    Reply
  7. bob

    ^That.

    Reply
  8. RR

    Money and power are more appealing than muscular, toned, built, or chubby guys.

    Reply
    • Effinbiatch

      Now you’re talking. Authority figures make me become ultra submissive even if he’s chubby. I love power, status, leadership, masculine traits because I’m really really girly and it brings out the bad girl in me in bed. (Thank you internet for being anonymous)

      Guys at the gym appear more feminine because they look at themselves in the mirror way too much (some even purse their lips like female porn stars without realizing it, you know that mirror look). Any girl who lifts weights would agree. It’s all around us.

      Reply
  9. byron

    From a man’s perspective, there is a strong desire to become physically fit. Sure men wish to impress the ladies, but there are other factors that contribute to the desire of building mass. I build muscle for my own benefit, I am taking care of my body and I am proud to see results and feel myself getting stronger. You feel more empowered and protected in a muscular body. Men do not want to feel weak among there counterparts. I strive to become strong enough to be able to protect myself from being jumped by a group of men, or to fend off anyone who might want to attack me in the future. I could care less about what women prefer I’m building muscle mass for me! your opinions don’t matter! plus many guys who build muscle are very self conscious about there appearance so there is no need to insult them for trying to improve themselves. That is just ignorant on your behalf.

    Reply
    • Soulencrypta

      Good point. Men are assholes with big egos and want to be better and tougher than the rest. I came across a lot of men in my life (I’m a man too), and because of jealousy or other stupid small things, they want to fight and prove themselves. Big muscular bodies, but a very small brain.

      Reply
    • Effinbiatch

      Too often I see men who look good but can’t fight.
      If you want to protect yourself (and your family) go learn kickboxing not how to become a toned mannequin.

      Reply
  10. CoCo

    If your IQ is so high why can’t you see the big picture?

    Reply
  11. CoCo

    Not necessarily…yes the skinny guy or the chubby guy may have to try harder but ultimately the “adult secure women” will ultimately chose the reliable guy…provided you can demonstrate other genetically worthy traits…which all of us have!

    I’ve looked at a guy accross a bar and told my friend I have to date him…based on physical appearance. I got what I wanted but needed a muzzle to stop the stupidity flowing from his month. At that point he became the most unatractive person I had ever met…total loss of respect. Thus he was quickly dismissed. Saddly this has happened one too many times.

    Don’t loose hope! Use your time and ennergy in becoming more interestting and above all confident…very attractive.

    Reply