Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher

Hot mannequins and blind men!

Are ideal female body types (according to heterosexual men) innate, or culturally conditioned by advertising and suchlike? Dutch researchers loaded sexy mannequins into the back of a van and visited with straight men who have been blind from birth to see what they could find out. Past research indicates that around the world, while men in some cultures have preferred larger women than their counterparts in other cultures, the proportions of the ideal female body have been remarkably consistent. This suggests that there must have been some evolutionary advantage to idealizing women of a particular corporeal form.
But there have been studies that contradict this.


Amid all the conflicting evidence, Karremans sent his mannequins around the Netherlands. The blind stood before them; they were told to touch the women, to focus their hands on the waists and hips. The breasts on both figures were the same, in case the men reached too high. The men extended their arms; they ran their hands over the region. Then they scored the attractiveness of the bodies. Karremans had a hunch, he told me, that their ratings wouldn’t match those of the sighted men he used as controls, half of them blindfolded so that they, too, would be judging by feel. It seemed likely, he said, that visual culture would play an overwhelming part in creating the outlines of lust. And though the blind had almost surely grown up hearing attractiveness described, perhaps even in terms of hourglass shapes, it was improbable, he writes in his forthcoming journal paper, that they had heard descriptions amounting to, “The more hourglass shaped, the more attractive,” which would be necessary to favor the curvier mannequin over the figure that was only somewhat less so.
But, with some statistically insignificant variation, the scores of the blind matched those of the sighted.

Read the rest of the article to find out possible explanations.

Comments read comments(3)
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Franklin Evans

posted April 17, 2010 at 11:35 am

I just can’t read this without visualizing a young Kim Cattral’s face… who, even in her youth, did not have an hourglass figure. (Not that I’m complaining, no sir.)
Now that I’ve gotten my male chauvinist pig creds out there, the hue and cry over this finds its simplest explanation well before Freud entered the picture: There are physical signals — “secondary sexual characteristics” for those who like to look things up — on which males judge whether a female is attractive… and, “attractive” starts and often ends in whether that female is fertile and likely to bring a fetus to term, survive childbirth and nurse the child. Thus, larger breasts and wider hips are the simple descriptions of the signals.
None of it has anything to do with aesthetics. Indeed, aesthetics will either play into the secondary sexual characteristics or play against them depending on the intent of the aesthete. One can even find a relatively recent meme in US culture on this: The girl a man would like to have sex with vs. the girl he would want to marry, the blond bombshell vs. the girl next door.

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posted April 17, 2010 at 12:42 pm

Agree about the ability to be fertile and look the part. That’s why a woman’s stock drops drastically once she looks post-menopausal. Which is why women are inclined to use makeup, hair dye, diets & excersize (that help keep that middle-aged thickening at bay), and even cosmetic procedures to keep the appearance of youth (which equals fertile). There are some older women who are still hot, like the afore-mentioned Kim Catrall (who I might think was hourglass enough; she isn’t pot-bellied, is my point), but they look years younger. I just saw an interview with 70 yr old Raquel Welch who looks decades younger and still has an hourglass figure and I know most 40 yr old women would give their eye teeth to look like her now.

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Tara H

posted June 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm

I think there’s a lot more to it than just the hourglass factor. What about muscle tone, breast shape and size, skin elasticity? I’ve written an article that lists five factors for the ideal female body ( but I’m pretty sure there are a few more.

Don’t even get me started on the face!


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