Looking for a picture that would be worth 1,000 words
October 19, 2008 1:30 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to find a psychological/sociological study on men and women's views of the ideal female body type.

Several years ago, in college, I took a "human sexuality" course where our textbook showed two full-body illustrations of adult women standing next to each other. The women were very generic-looking and looked identical aside from their body shape. This was illustrating the results of a study in which men and women were asked to specify what they considered the ideal female body type.

Women's ideal was distinctly skinnier than average, while men's ideal was around average and notably curvy.

I want to do a blog post riffing on this disparity, and I'd love to be able to link to a study like this to use as a starting point. Here are my main criteria:

(1) There has to be a discussion of both men's and women's views contained within a single study.

(2) It has to be about perceived attractiveness of female body types.

(3) I'm interested in reasonably recent studies about current perceptions (not a critique about how Marilyn Monroe used to be considered ideal and so on).

(4) I'd hoping to find that same study or a similar one with illustrations of the different perceived ideals.

(5) It can't be something you'd need to have a paid subscription in order to see.

I've found this surprisingly hard to Google. I've found lots of references to the ideal "hips-waist ratio," but that's limitedly useful since it's only about proportions.

Since this is just for a personal blog and not academic research, there are no real standards for what kind of source I use. But I do want to find scientific data -- not anecdotes or trenchant social commentary.
posted by Jaltcoh to Society & Culture (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I remember seeing this go around a while ago.. it was a survey by a magazine, and the illustrate it using photos of models.

Then there's this academic study [pdf] but it doesn't really have good illustrations.
posted by polexa at 2:00 PM on October 19, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks -- that would be perfect ... if only it were a bit less NSFW. I'd prefer something that doesn't have in-your-face nudity.
posted by Jaltcoh at 2:34 PM on October 19, 2008

"FEMALE AND MALE PERCEPTIONS OF IDEAL BODY SHAPES: Distorted Views Among Caucasian College Students" has illustrations on page 74 (but not actual pictures).

You can check around socimages too - it's a goldmine for this stuff. If you have time, email them - they're sure to have some good stuff for you.
posted by cashman at 7:44 PM on October 19, 2008

Bergstrom, R. L., Neighbors, C., & Lewis, M. A. (2004). Do men find “bony” women attractive? Consequences of misperceiving opposite sex perceptions of attractive body image. Body Image: An International Journal of Research, 1, 183-191.

Bergstrom, R. L., Neighbors, C., & Malheim. J. E. (in press). Media comparisons and threats to body image: Seeking evidence of self-affirmation. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

Not sure when the second is being published yet, but I know Bergstrom et al has a few illustrations that would work and all of the reference articles you would need.
posted by Silvertree at 5:45 AM on October 20, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. I ended up using the second link in the first answer (the one marked best).
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:48 PM on November 22, 2008

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