Watching curvaceous women feels like drugs to men: study

February 25, 2010 by Lin Edwards report
A wooden hourglass. Image: Wikipedia.

( -- It has long been known that men find an "hourglass" figure the most attractive shape for the female body, and now scientists have found out why.

Research across a variety of cultures has demonstrated that typically find the curvaceous female form sexually attractive. Other studies have shown that wide hips in women are associated with health and reproductive potential, so the attraction makes evolutionary sense.

Scientists from Georgia Gwinnett College in Lawrenceville, Georgia, studied the responses of 14 men with an average age of 25 to nude photographs of women before and after undergoing cosmetic surgery that redistributed fat from their waists to the buttocks to give them more of an hourglass figure. The operations did not reduce the weight of the women, but gave them an “optimal” Waist to Hip Ratio (WHR) of about 0.7.

The fMRI brain scans of the male subjects showed the post-surgery pictures activated the same regions of the brain that are activated by rewards, alcohol and drugs. Changes to women’s (BMI) did not affect the reward centers, but instead activated associated with the of shape and size. This suggests judgments of female attractiveness based on body fat are based on society expectations rather than being hard-wired in the brain.

Steven Platek, an evolutionary cognitive neuroscientist, said the research may help explain why some men are addicted to pornography, and may also shed some light on other disorders “such as erectile dysfunction in the absence of pornography,” and add to our study of sexual infidelity. It also helps explain phenomena such as sexual harassment and whistling at curvaceous girls in the street. Platek said the BMI results suggest the female form projected by the media, of skinny waif-like models, is not the most attractive to men, and curves are worth their reproductive weight in gold.

The research paper, by Platek and Devendra Singh, presents the first description of the effect of WHR on men’s brains. It was published online in PLoS One on February 5.

More information: … journal.pone.0009042

Related Stories

Recommended for you

New study rebuts the claim that antidepressants do not work

August 18, 2017
A theory that has gained considerable attention in international media, including Newsweek and the CBS broadcast 60 minutes, suggests that antidepressant drugs such as the SSRIs do not exert any actual antidepressant effect. ...

Should I stay or should I leave? Untangling what goes on when a relationship is being questioned

August 17, 2017
Knowing whether to stay in or leave a romantic relationship is often an agonizing experience and that ambivalence can have negative consequences for health and well-being.

Kids learn moral lessons more effectively from stories with humans than human-like animals

August 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto found that four to six-year-olds shared more after listening to books with human characters than books with anthropomorphic ...

History of stress increases miscarriage risk, says new review

August 17, 2017
A history of exposure to psychological stress can increase the risk of miscarriage by upto 42 per cent, according to a new review.

Study finds children pay close attention to potentially threatening information, avoid eye contact when anxious

August 17, 2017
We spend a lot of time looking at the eyes of others for social cues – it helps us understand a person's emotions, and make decisions about how to respond to them. We also know that adults avoid eye contact when anxious. ...

Communicating in a foreign language takes emotion out of decision making

August 16, 2017
If you could save the lives of five people by pushing another bystander in front of a train to his death, would you do it? And should it make any difference if that choice is presented in a language you speak, but isn't your ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Feb 25, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
not rated yet Feb 25, 2010
Anyone else think of "You Don't Mess with the Zohan" when they spoke of Waist to Hip ratio?
Feb 25, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
4.5 / 5 (2) Feb 25, 2010
This is exactly, why I do prefer open approach in science with free access to sample dataset files used for research...
5 / 5 (3) Feb 25, 2010
A study of only 14 dudes? Come on, that's not nearly enough people.
5 / 5 (3) Feb 25, 2010
"This suggests judgments of female attractiveness based on body fat are based on society expectations rather than being hard-wired in the brain."
I didn't think we evolved that much from Ruben's time (c.1600).
Most unbelievable part of the study: that they could only find 14 young male volunteers for this study.
2.4 / 5 (5) Feb 25, 2010
Well, any study originating out of the global center for science and culture, georgia, is good enough for me. Id like to suggest that the next study be on why insecure bitches feel the need to make a career in pseudo-science fabricating evidence on why its everyone elses fault they can't get laid.
5 / 5 (2) Feb 25, 2010
i wrote tons of things but then i erased it like 2 times ... im proud of myself now
3 / 5 (2) Feb 26, 2010
that hourglass picture really turned me on!
2 / 5 (3) Feb 26, 2010
"the female form projected by the media, of skinny waif-like models, is not the most attractive to men, and curves are worth their reproductive weight in gold." Models skinny form mirrors what the men that dominate the fashion business love more: young boys. That I read for some yeras ago in some study. The homosexual culture is a part of the fashion world and it mirrors in the models, they wrote.
1 / 5 (2) Feb 26, 2010
"the research may help explain why some men are addicted to pornography" Oh, yes, because we needed more people saying men aren't expected to have self control. What a bullshit study, the supposed "hourglass" figure. I'd like them to show those men photos of women with -real- hourglass figures, who have deformed their bodies to achieve it, and see how attractive they find that. The 18 inch waist is never quite as appealing as it sounds. I think what's really been shown here is that men like proportionate women. It's okay to be overweight, as long as that weight doesn't consist of fat rolls on your stomach. It's okay to be underweight, as long as you don't look like a prison camp survivor.
not rated yet Feb 26, 2010
IS the opposite true for women?
Does a male's "V" shape affect women accordinly?
1.5 / 5 (2) Feb 26, 2010
The hourglass waist-to-hip ratio mentioned above is a modern western male preference and has no evolutionary significance.

Another form of attraction is called 'sympathetic magic' (well known in ancient religious & spiritual practices ~ see, for instance, Frazer's 'The Golden Bough'). An example might be the sending up of black smoke to make it rain (black smoke is like black clouds). If females look a bit like a mother figure then they appear more fecund for this reason.

The attraction to a healthy fecund female capable of nurturing young and having some degree of independence (so that she can perform wifely duties without assistance) and dependence (so that she will not wander from the male she depends upon) in the hunter-gatherer setting become all the extremes we see today because they morph into 'supernormal stimuli' such as the very narrow waist-to-hip ratio, plump or over plump women, adolescent or even prepubescent females, older motherly women, muscular amazon women etc
not rated yet Mar 01, 2010
Funky. Of course, I personally find the whole hourglass figure completely uninteresting. Skinny all the way for me. But hey, I also just read that article stating intelligent people have novel preferences ;)

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.