Are beauty standards just arbitrary rules the patriarchy created to oppress women? Or are they based on science? Here’s what men want.
Ladies, you know what features you find attractive among men, but do you know what men want in a romantic partner? The idea of “beauty standards” is appalling to most modern women, but knowing them may be important if you want to make a memorable first impression.
Men are more visual, and they value physical qualities even after marriage. So if you’re already married and just want to fire up your husband’s hormones a bit more, there are some things you can do. But first…
Before you crucify me, remember that I wrote a full article grilling men for having dad bods. The research shows that women generally prefer a fit, strong, lean, and masculine body. Now it’s time for the tables to turn because, you know, equality.
Sure, we all have our preferences, but beauty is actually not all subjective as the data indicates. Still, data speaks of general averages. If you’re an outlier or trying to attract a man who’s an outlier, that’s great. Go live your life. Neither us have to die on any hill.
I don’t. I’m trying to help. The research exists and male biology is male biology regardless of what I say. I’m trying to make you aware in case this info improves your chances of landing a guy, which you may want. You can thank me later.
It wouldn’t be fair to call women shallow for preferring high-earning fit men (but they do), so simmer down. And yes, men care about more looks, but if we’re talking looks here’s what most male brains prefer.
Our days from caveman up till now haven’t changed much. Sure, we have technology and memes now, but human biology and psychology have always been the same.
If we’re going to connect intimately with someone for a lifetime, they better be healthy and able to reproduce. This is the biological intent of both sexes; thus, attractive people have more reproductive success (1). Not to mention, men rate attractive women as healthier. This begs the question, what kind of body is a man’s brain noticing?
Primarily, it comes down to one thing: your waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). A ratio of 0.7 and a more curvaceous hourglass body is what men desire most (3). This is universal across cultures and generations (4,5).
Unsurprisingly, WHR can reliably predict a women’s reproductive health (6). Larger breasts and smaller waists are also detected as reproductive potential in men (7). This is even true for men who don’t want to have kids. It’s baked into our biology.
Don’t believe me? Even male children as young as 3 years old can screen for the same WHR as adult men and have the same brain reaction whether given images or computer models (8,9). Young boys might think all girls have cooties, but their brains biologically know which girls have a healthier distribution of tissue.
As visually responsive as women are, the male biology is exponentially more visual than that. Men can detect your breasts and hips for reproductive success within .2 seconds (10). The man’s brain is analyzing this WHR and notices it before he even notices skin tone or breast size (11).
In fact, one study found men looked at breasts more often, but when asked to rate attractiveness, the correlation followed optimal WHR and overall waist size regardless of breast size (10). So while breasts are mesmerizing to men, the waist-hip area is what seals the deal.
Even the most noble guy is biologically calculating this. It’s automatic. Men don’t need to take an obvious or direct look to assess the information their biology is searching for.
Men can compute your WHR through their peripheral vision, and can map out a female body even with minimal information detected, so long as the woman isn’t overly covered or wearing too much make-up (12).
Furthermore, humans can accurately detect how healthy someone is by the color/shade of someone’s white outer layer of their eyes. In other words, his brain is sizing up your health and reproductive potential at first glance (13).
Men like the same things women like: a leaner, fitter individual, ideally with some muscle.
One study looking at female body fat levels and distribution found the WHR to be the primary factor, but attraction kept increasing with lower BMI’s down to BMI 19 (14). So there’s a reasonable level of leanness that men find most attractive. This is not to say deviations are unattractive, but less so generally.
To get even more down to the nitty-gritty, based on interactive models of body fat percentage and BMI ratios, the most attractive sweet spot was a BMI and body fat percentage of 23 and 23% (16). If you were to interpret this by real-world looks, this is a somewhat muscled women with a favorable WHR, and lean enough to have a relatively flat stomach. Ab definition isn’t required.
Many women describe this look as fit, toned, or athletic. This is NOT the super-thin 90s model look that many women fear they have to live up to. Nonetheless, there’s a spectrum of looks a man desires and the closer to the sweet spot he sees, the more his biology takes over. Literally.
The closer to a man’s desired WHR he observes, the more his brain’s reward pathway is stimulated (17). In fact, the brain pathways that regulate reward and activate decision and behavior get stimulated more when a man sees his desired body (18,19,20).
So assuming a fella has the balls to approach a women, his brain initiates behavior to approach and flirt based on attraction. This is why some women get approached more than others. Their body is beckoning the men around them more than other body types. Call it shallow, but it’s out of our control.
Most guys aren’t even aware of it. Even when we are, it’s not something we can simply shake off. Just like a female brain calculates data based on other metrics and sparks romantic feelings, ours drives behaviors based on appearance.
It’s not the most fun news to hear about the male species. I get that. But you can complain about biological design all day, or you can read on for some practical tips.
Ladies, there’s more within your control than you think. A man’s brain isn’t asking you to be taller or make more money. Okay, that was a bad joke. But anyway, you can alter your WHR and grow muscle over time via behavior change.
The good news? Research finds that women with a more favorable WHR have no hormonal difference from those who lack it (21). It always comes down to lifestyle.
You can do the following to get and stay lean while building a fit physique. On top of becoming more attractive, achieving this physique will likely raise your confidence:
- Strength train hard enough to build muscle.
- Train your legs, delts, upper back, and glutes with a big emphasis on glutes to get a more hourglass shape.
- Eat adequate protein to fuel muscle growth.
- Eat within a caloric deficit if you’re not at your desired level of leanness.
- Eat a nutritious diet, get lots of sleep, minimize stress, and go to the doctor regularly to ensure good health, hormone levels, and reproductive potential.
You don’t have to get all the way down to a 0.7 WHR and be epically jacked, but statistically speaking, the average women would be much healthier and subsequently more attractive to male biology if she got a bit leaner and built a bit more muscle.
Nobody’s saying you have to change if you don’t want to. These are merely suggestions if you’re interested in men and want them to be interested in you.
- Jokela M. Physical Attractiveness and Reproductive Success in Humans: Evidence from the Late 20 Century United States. Evol Hum Behav. 2009 Sep 1;30(5):342-350. PubMed.
- Mathes EW et al. Do Men Believe That Physically Attractive Women Are More Healthy and Capable of Having Children? Psychol Rep. 2005 Jun;96(3 Pt 2):1002-8. PubMed.
- Singh D. Adaptive Significance of Female Physical Attractiveness: Role of Waist-to-Hip Ratio. J Pers Soc Psychol. 1993 Aug;65(2):293-307. PubMed.
- Singh D. Mating Strategies of Young Women: Role of Physical Attractiveness. J Sex Res. 2004 Feb;41(1):43-54. PubMed.
- Singh D. Universal Allure of the Hourglass Figure: An Evolutionary Theory of Female Physical Attractiveness. Clin Plast Surg. 2006 Jul;33(3):359-70. PubMed.
- Singh D. Body Shape and Women’s Attractiveness : The Critical Role of Waist-to-Hip Ratio. Hum Nat. 1993 Sep;4(3):297-321. PubMed.
- Jasieńska G et al. Large Breasts and Narrow Waists Indicate High Reproductive Potential in Women. Proc Biol Sci. 2004 Jun 22;271(1545):1213-7. PubMed.
- Yarosh DB. Perception and Deception: Human Beauty and the Brain. Behav Sci (Basel). 2019 Mar 29;9(4):34. PubMed.
- Di Dio C et al. Body Aesthetic Preference in Preschoolers and Attraction to Canons Violation: An Exploratory Study. Psychol Rep. 2018 Dec;121(6):1053-1071. PubMed.
- Dixson Bj et al. Eye-Tracking of Men’s Preferences for Waist-to-Hip Ratio and Breast Size of Women. Arch Sex Behav. 2011 Feb;40(1):43-50. PubMed.
- Garza R et al. Male and Female Perception of Physical Attractiveness: An Eye Movement Study - Ray Garza, Roberto R. Heredia, Anna B. Cieslicka, 2016. SAGE Journals. 2016 Feb;14(1).
- Bovet J et al. Mapping Female Bodily Features of Attractiveness. Sci Rep. 2016 Jan 21;6:18551. PubMed.
- Russell R et al. Sclera Color Changes with Age and Is a Cue for Perceiving Age, Health, and Beauty. Psychol Aging. 2014 Sep;29(3):626-35. PubMed.
- Wang G et al. **The Relationship of Female Physical Attractiveness to Body Fatness.**PeerJ. 2015 Aug 25;3:e1155. PubMed.
- Brierley ME et al. The Body and the Beautiful: Health, Attractiveness and Body Composition in Men’s and Women’s Bodies. PLoS One. 2016 Jun 3;11(6):e0156722. PubMed.
- Platek SM et al. Optimal Waist-to-Hip Ratios in Women Activate Neural Reward Centers in Men. PLoS One. 2010 Feb 5;5(2):e9042. PubMed.
- Spicer KR et al. **Curvaceous Female Bodies Activate Neural Reward Centers in Men.**Commun Integr Biol. 2010 May;3(3):282-3. PubMed.
- Holliday IE et al. BMI NOT WHR Modulates Bold Fmri Responses in a Sub-Cortical Reward Network When Participants Judge the Attractiveness of Human Female Bodies. PLoS One. 2011;6(11):e27255. PubMed.
- Del Zotto M et al. Electrophysiological Evidence of Perceived Sexual Attractiveness for Human Female Bodies Varying in Waist-to-Hip Ratio. Cogn Affect Behav Neurosci. 2017 Jun;17(3):577-591. PubMed.
- Jones BC et al. No Compelling Evidence That More Physically Attractive Young Adult Women Have Higher Estradiol or Progesterone. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2018 Dec;98:1-5. PubMed.