Average Jane



Dear Readers:

I've known people who have sex for money, have sex as a hobby, write about (or perform about or do art about or teach about) sex as an avocation, and still have enough interest and energy left over to have the occasional bit of relaxing off-line sex at home with a partner when nobody's watching or reading along. But I am not one of them. I get bored. There was a play about vibrators here recently and everyone asked me if I was going, but I said, "Eh, I'd rather see Up." I like to cook and read and watch shows about things that have as little to do with (my) real life as possible — high fashion, for instance, the nuttier the better. I like it when the models wear their dresses upside-down and have monkey-fur eyebrows and a teapot on their head. You don't?

So ... I'm a huge fan of Project Runway and a lesser one of its lesser successor, The Fashion Show. Every season, though, there's some kind of challenge involving "real women" and, while it's fun to see the contestants, used to dressing compliant stick insects, wrestle with a mouthy client who dares to voice her own, often scandalously après garde opinions (she often just wants to look nice, of all things), it's appalling to hear what the designers have to say about the non-model bodies. Faced with the task of dressing a modeling agency admin instead of the expected model, one of the Fashion Show wannabes pouted, "She's very normal. I don't do normal."

Well too bad for you, darling! Let us return the favor!

So imagine my glee upon discovering a recent study which found that regular men (as opposed to fashion designers of any gender or sexual preference) not only DO do average women, they vastly prefer us. I knew it! All these years of assuring women that jutting hipbones and sunken chests are not only not required to attract guys, they aren't even preferred, and now I have at least this one study to back me up.

This isn't about the "something to hang onto" hypothesis, although I do think that men in general do prefer some padding on those they plan to bump up against, and not only to avoid all the bruising. Men who are attracted to women tend to be attracted to women, and women have boobs and butts and that cunning part in between, where it gets smaller.

You've probably heard about the alleged universally preferred waist-hip ratio: it' s 0.7. This shows up constantly in popular-sciencey psych articles about men's hard-wired preference for female bodies that signal youth, good health, and fertility (they also like symmetry, even skin tone, and teeth) and depresses female readers who wonder if they measure up. Some researchers in Australia decided to take a closer look, and recruited a bunch of guys to rate line drawings of female torsos for attractiveness. (I may have read too much hard-boiled crime fiction to hear about female "torsos" without mentally adding the word "dismembered," but let's hope the test subjects had not.) From the NewScientist article:

The work, by Rob Brooks at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia, and colleagues, suggests that the popular notion that a waist-hip ratio of 0.7 is the most attractive only holds if the rest of the body is average (Behavioral Ecology, DOI: 10.1093/beheco/arp051 ).

"The orthodoxy says that you will be attractive with a certain waist-hip ratio no matter how the rest of your body varies. Our study shows this is not the case," says [researcher] Brooks....

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