Going by the way millions of women sweat it out in gymnasiums around the world , one would be inclined to think that the most attractive female form is reed-thin and almost-anorexic-figures are very attractive. This is curiously in contrast to the fuller female figure that many men profess to find more desirable.
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The purpose of a female figure, it needs to be remembered, is not first and foremost to gratify male desire or for the female to enjoy sex. The female body rather has evolved around the primary purpose of procreation - of bearing and nurturing children. Fuller breasts, rounded hips and a wide waist are indicative of the reproductive function of the female body. In fact, the continuing male desire for curvier women is a throwback to the primitive times when the ability to successfully bear and nurture children was a prime consideration for men choosing their mates. Since the very survival of the group and indeed the species depended upon the females successfully bringing up their offspring, men would go for partners with fuller figures which indicated a greater success rate in bearing and nurturing children. While contemporary men do not see their wives and girlfriends as mere bearers of their progeny, the ancient concerns continue to inform - even though subconsciously - their physical preference in potential partners.
The male desire for curvier women has formed the subject of several modern studies as well. One such research project led by Dr Steven Platek of Georgia Gwinnett College found that looking at a woman with a shapely body brought about pleasurable feelings in the male mind, akin to those induced by thoughts of beer and brandy. As part of the study, researchers scanned the brains of fourteen young men as they looked at images of nude women before and after they had plastic surgery to give them curvier hips and breasts. The operation did not reduce their weight but merely redistributed it according to the journal Plos ONE which published the results of the study. The team found that the reward centers of the male volunteers got more excited when they viewed the post-operative images with the fuller bodies. In fact, high waist-to-hip ratios, more commonly known as “hour-glass figures” elicited the greatest degree to stimulation among the male research subjects. Dr. Platek believes that the results underscore the widespread male preference for curvier women since fuller hips have been traditionally associated with good health and a greater ability to bear healthy babies.
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The concept of the ideal female figure as a thin emaciated body first emerged on the ramps of the Western fashion world in the nineties and quickly gained currency in popular media and Hollywood. Top models like Kate Moss with their waif-like bodies and reed-thin Hollywood actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow came to be regarded as style icons. The size zero culture was further popularized by TV stars like Calista Flockhart and contemporary actresses like Keira Knightley. However even till twenty years ago, a majority of female models were a size eight which has now been replaced by an anorexic size zero. Interestingly, the ultimate sex goddess in male minds, Marilyn Monroe would have found difficult to adhere to contemporary notions of female beauty since her dress size was approximately size fourteen – a plus size now on the fashion circuit.
The irony of the fashion trend towards skinnier female figures is that it is in direct contrast to what is happening in the real world. In the last couple of decades the average American woman, who stands at around five feet four inches, has expanded from size ten to size fourteen. An increase in unhealthy dietary habits coupled with a sedentary lifestyle has been blamed for growing obesity among Americans in recent decades. Thus while most women feel undesirable or unhappy with their body size, they obsessively crave for the reed-thin female figure, proliferating in the fashion and lifestyle circuits.
The curious part about this obsession with the size zero figure is that it is far from what men seem to find really attractive. In a recent poll of four thousand adults conducted by British weekly magazine Grazia to find out the most attractive male and female image, the male respondents overwhelmingly voted for a curvier rather than skinny figure. In fact a huge majority of seventy-eight male voters said that they found a woman’s smile her most attractive feature. This perhaps only goes to show that while men are undoubtedly first attracted to a woman’s physical dimensions, it is only part of the whole with the overall package being the most important.
The above results are echoed by former plus size model, Nancy Hassen whose book '101 Sexy Secrets: How to be Hot, Sexy and Beautiful at ANY Size' reveals that as high as eighty percent of men in her opinion would rather go for a voluptuous rather than an angular woman. Another fifteen percent of men prefer an average-sized woman while a mere five percent would find a super skinny body really attractive. While this may not make for the most foolproof of studies, it seems to confirm pretty much the general preference for curvier female figures among men.
Apart from the fact that size-zero figures are rarely coveted by the actual flesh-and-blood men, it is also an indication of an extremely unhealthy lifestyle. In fact, taking the lead from Italy and Spain where traditional notions of female beauty have always veered on the voluptuous, now even France, considered the center of fashion trends, is on the verge of passing legislation that will ban the promotion of extreme thinness on popular media and fashion runways. The move by governments around the world is partially in response to an alarming trend among young girls who succumb to medical conditions like anorexia and bulimia in a misguided attempt to attain a size zero figure.
Finally even though the trend setters in fashion centers across the world may eventually take note of legislative moves while defining the ideal female form, if left to men – the largest group of female admirers on the planet – there would be little need to pass any kind of law largely because the great majority of men have always preferred curvier women and in all likelihood will continue to do.