What do men want in a woman? What do they want women to look like? It's important to know because you'll have a much better chance of attracting male attention if you know what makes men say "hubba hubba." This is simple evolutionary mate selection at work, and it applies to males as well. They have little chance of attracting females if they don't know what females are attracted to.
You'd think that women would be experts at knowing how men want them to look, but some research proves otherwise.* Women so consistently overestimate male preferences for slenderness that it leaves some researchers puzzled. Let's take a quick look at how academics discovered the discrepancy between what men like and what women think men like.
In the typical study,* men and women are presented with representations of the female form -- from very thin to very fat (these figures are mostly line drawings, but some studies use silhouettes, illustrations or photographs). They are then asked to circle shapes that represent:
1. Their ideal body shape
2. What they believe members of the opposite sex prefer
The results? Women overestimate male preferences for slenderness. Constantly. Consistently. In nearly every study. This phenomenon baffles researchers because it's completely at odds with the prevailing theory of how men and women pair up.
Mate selection theory holds that women intuitively know what men prefer, otherwise they wouldn't know how to attract them. This ability also allows them to assess their "relative value" against women they're competing against. This is an evolutionary characteristic that facilitates procreation in all species. Knowing male preferences allows females to feature the characteristics that will attract them.
Why are women losing their ability to gauge male preferences? Researchers theorize it's a direct result of the media's relentless presentation of women who can fit between a door and its frame. As the authors of a 1995 study in Sex Roles noted (citation below): "The media images emphasizing thinness cause a woman to downscale her own ideal size from her real size rating but may be powerful enough to cause her to distort her perception of her partner's ideal female."
The authors of a Journal of Psychology study on sex differences in perceptions of desirable body shape were particularly blunt in their assessment: "Our data suggest that women are misinformed and exaggerate the magnitude of thinness that men desire," write the authors, "probably as a result of promotion of thinness in women through advertising by the diet industry."
Women are just as bad at estimating what kind of bust lines men prefer. =Breast size preference studies (yes, they exist -- don't ask me how they got their funding) show that females believe men like larger breasts than men actually report.
So what do the studies show about men's preferences? What kinds of bodies do men prefer in women? Click here to read the surprising answers. It's a women's body image excerpt from my book Not Tonight Dear, I Feel Fat: How To Stop Worrying About Your Body & Have Great Sex.
Tantleff-Dunn, Stacey, and Thompson, J. Kevin. "Romantic Partners and Body Image
Disturbance: Further Evidence for the Role of Perceived-Actual Disparities." Sex Roles, Volume 33. (1995).
Armatas, Christine, Maschette, Wayne, and Sands, Rob. "Measurement of Body Image
Satisfaction Using Computer Manipulation of a Digital Image." The Journal of Psychology. (2004). Pp. 325-337