Ass men. Boob men. Leg men.
It comes as a surprise to absolutely no one that heterosexual men* are attracted to specific parts of a woman’s body. Myriad hypotheses attempting to explain why abound, some of them evolutionary, some of them aesthetic, and some of them just plain crass. Fewer hypotheses abound about female attraction, and even less about the homosexual counterparts.
But the attraction that most puzzles me is that of buttocks. Mostly because I find it hard to believe that large buttocks (aside from the correlation to a wide pelvis which aids in childbirth) have any evolutionary advantage. So I poked around the internet and learned the value of the concise Google search, lest my internet account be flagged by BU IT.
It seems readily apparent that I am not the only one puzzled, and even more apparent that there isn’t yet much of an answer. So here follows some of my musings with hypotheses, questions, and a very interesting scholarly paper mixed in.
Researchers argue that most heterosexual attraction has its basis in evolutionary biology- whatever traits produced the best offspring became the traits which now make us all hot and bothered.
The hypothesis vis-a-vis large buttocks posits that large buttocks are, reasonably enough, associated with a wide pelvis; a wide pelvis, in turn, means easier childbirth and less danger to the child and mother; viable mate and offspring are biologically advantageous, and thus was born the bane of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s existence.
My concern is this—in my experience, men don’t seem particularly discerning in their attraction to buttocks. Certainly there is a hierarchy of preference but, given the chance, most guys would stare at the buttocks of any woman in the appropriate age range. Which is to say that men do not take the time to judge the wideness of the woman’s pelvis. Not to mention the fact that there are women of a petite build with large buttocks who still attract many-a-look at the gym, despite a rather narrow pelvis.
Has the attraction merely generalized?
Perhaps we are all merely artists, appreciative of the female form.
This, at least, is what some studies seem to suggest. In 2010 Gallup & Fredrick did a review of the literature on attraction, with a focus on the evolutionary perspective**. They found that a low Waist-to-Hip Ratio (WHR) is judged more desirable by men—the preferred ratio ranging somewhere in the neighborhood of 0.7. In simple terms, this simply means that heterosexual men like hourglass figures.
So why is that? Do we simply appreciate, Da Vinci-like, the way the hips interact with the waist and bust to produce visually salient curves? Perhaps.
Also discussed in the paper is a study done with blind men, and it was found that when faced with mannequins of varying WHRs, the blind men preferred similar body types as their seeing counterparts—in other words, it is not merely in the eye of the beholder. There is something deeper going on.
Now, this often gets tied back to evolution—the wide pelvis and all that. But studies have also shown that women with low WHRs are not only more reproductively viable but also healthier. So maybe evolution does have something to say.
More interestingly, and perhaps more far-fetched, is a study which claims that women with large buttocks have more of a certain type of fatty acid important to brain development—indicating that women with large buttocks, and their offspring, may have higher IQs. I suspect there is more to it than that.
What about male buttocks? Certainly women have a preference towards the type of buttocks on a man. We know from research that women, in general broad strokes, are attracted to muscular, wedge-shaped torsos. That is, broad and muscular shoulders narrowing at the hips. But what about the buttocks?
Is it important that they, too, be muscular? One friend of mine suggested that muscular buttocks may correlate to a farther projection of sperm which may be advantageous in an evolutionary biology view. I have yet to see the paper which hypothesizes this.
And, in fact, while there is ample research on women’s attraction to wedge shaped torsos and a number of other factors—some of which they share with men, such as a love of symmetry—there is little, if any, work on their attraction to buttocks.
In the discussion of a topic such as this, homosexuality is an interesting factor to consider. Because what, if anything, can we say about the evolutionary perspective when it comes to homosexual attraction? Do the same general principles hold?
That is, are lesbians still attracted to hourglass figures even though they have no vested interest, from a biological perspective, in wide hips which could pass on their genes? Or perhaps they do. Perhaps lesbians do have an interest in their partner being able to bear children in case they want a family, regardless of who the male donor is. This certainly would be a perspective largely overlooked by modern evolutionary biological studies.
What about gay men? If their sexual intercourse involves anal sex more often than heterosexual couples, does that correlate with a different perception of buttocks? Do they tend to have an attraction to a certain type of buttocks?
The Take-Home Message
The questions are many, and the answers few. I do not intend by this post to give any definite answers or make any generalizations about any groups. It is patently obvious that we live in a time when sexuality, at least in the Western world, is much more freely discussed. As such, it becomes harder and harder to make generalizations—and perhaps they should not be made in the first place. We should seek to understand the perspective of every person, and treat others and their sexual preferences with respect, without categorizing them under this umbrella or the other.
*I speak about heterosexual men because it is the only group on behalf of which I could have the faintest pretension of speaking. While I discuss homosexuality in this post, I cannot claim any personal perspective or intuition in that regard. I would welcome any thoughts.
**”The Science of Sex Appeal: An Evolutionary Perspective” 2010 by Gordon Gallup and David Frederick, available online through BU Library.