Recently I was writing a blog post – this one, actually – and the subject reminded me of some particular conversations I’ve had over the past couple years. Working at a gym, the topic of bodies and fitness obviously came up. And as I worked with a good number of men, I had the good fortune of hearing their unvarnished opinions on any number of females that walked through the facility. Much to my surprise, they often seemed to express delight in women who I would have categorized as too heavy, too soft, or too big. On more than one occasion, they said wished that other women were a bit “meatier,” whereas I looked at those women and considered their bodies “ideal” (at the time). It seems there is, at many times, a great disconnect between what women and men think about the female form.
As I’ve said before, the only people whose opinions about my body have any bearing are me, my physician, and whoever I’m sleeping with monogamously (currently: no one. So any relatives who just read that last bit can pretend they didn’t.). The same goes for anyone else. Therefore, let this be my disclaimer: Women should look however they want to look, regardless of the opinions of any man or any other woman. That being said, most of us humans would like to look decently attractive to the opposite sex. I thought it would be enlightening and potentially edifying to get some completely raw and honest male opinions on female bodies, and vice versa.
I announced the project on social media and sent out surveys to anyone who wanted to participate, with the guarantee that their responses would be completely anonymous. The responses I received surprised me in both volume and quality, so much so that I decided to split the whole thing up into a series rather than a one time post. This will be the first installment in the “Menfolk Confess…” series, followed by the “Dames Confess…”series. Let’s swan dive right in, shall we?
The Menfolk: This was a pretty diverse group of men – I had 18 participants total, ranging in age from 21 to 30. A couple are married (not to each other), a couple are engaged, a few are dating, and the rest are single. Some work in finance, some are/were in the military, some work in higher education, a few work in retail, and some are students. Most were athletes- some collegiate, some Crossfitters, some runners, some powerlifters. Most of these guys are from the West Coast, but there’s one in Kentucky and one in Arizona, and I even wrangled a token foreign-national (Australian living in CA, but still). It’s not a perfect sample by any means, but it’s a fairly decent representation for young adult men (18 to 30) in middle- to upper-class America.
I did my best to include plenty of direct quotations. For efficiency’s sake, I also included a short summary of the “general consensus” for each question. The bullet points are direct quotes; the only editing I did was correct any grammatical errors that would severely impair coherence. Therefore, take these raw responses for what they are – you may be surprised, and then again, you may not. There’s a “locker room”-level kind of honesty here.
…and I’ll try to keep my commentary to a minimum.
Question 1: How much value do you (and/or most men you know) place on a woman’s body shape/type in determining whether or not you find her attractive?
- Subject A: “God made us all different. He made us all like different things. Physical attractiveness is inseparable from the body. It’s a fact of life.”
- Subject C: “The younger a guy is, the more shallow he can be…at 23, I put a relatively high value on physical shape and attraction. But later in life that may change.“
- Subject F: “No value at all.”
- Subject H: “First looks are most important only if you’re going to a bar, trying to pick up a quick one, or a very shallow guy….I would say only 30% of the attractiveness meter comes from looks.”
- Subject J: “I’d like to get things started off with the idea that all guys have two scales of measuring women. The first scale is called the “oh damn!” (with a head turn as the girl walks by him). This initiates the 1-10 scale everyone has (male or female). the second scale comes once initial contact has been made with the female. This is rated about 5-10 minutes after the girl starts talking. For instance, a girl on the “oh damn!” scale can be a 9, but one the second scale, she could be a 4…Thus rendering the whole person uninteresting. This is something that I have made up on my own and have run it by every guy I know; they are all in full agreement on it.”
- Subject K: “I’m all for women that are competitive and fit, but if her goal is to bench more than me, I no longer see her as someone I can take care of as a mutual companion. She becomes a threat to my masculinity, as archaic as that might sound. Same with girls that seem bigger (taller, thicker, more muscular, whatever) than me…I would say 90% of guys want to feel like the man and the provider, and physical presence and body type do play a role in that.”
- Subject L: “Being up front, I place a lot of value in a woman’s body/shape/type in determining my attraction to her…I would say that my personal value in body shape/type is 70-80% of the equation and the remainder (intelligence, wit, ambition, drive, independence, etc etc.) makes up the remaining 20-30%.”
- Subject M: “…it’s all personal preference…I have always liked women more curvy, while I know a very skinny friend of mine preferred a thinner woman so that he didn’t look like a child next to her. I have also found thinner guys like thicker women, and thicker guys liking thinner women.”
- Subject N: “If there is a possibility that I could date this girl, I look at her face and eyes first. I prefer light eyes and don’t really stray from that (’cause I want my kids to have light eyes). I have to find her face really cute (to me) in order for me to pursue or think about going after her. Oh and she can’t have a big nose because I have a big nose. I don’t want my kids having big ol’ noses. It all comes back to genetics for me. I then look at the body. i look at how tall she is (I prefer taller girls because I want tall kids). I prefer smaller boobs, I like a nice butt, and if she is a little thick that’s cool.”
- Subject O: “Personality is SO MUCH more important than body…Body size is 75% is she taking care of herself and 25% will I be physically able to carry her over the altar?”
- Subject Q: “For me a woman who takes care of her body is extremely important. Looks aside, it translates into this: A woman who can take care of her body and has desire and discipline to take care of her body has the desire and discipline to excel and master any other avenue of her life….When you’re attracted to a woman, the chance is you’re seeking a relationship…and, end game, whether you want to admit it or not, is marriage. Possibly children. I know for me, I couldn’t be with a woman who didn’t have healthy habits and didn’t take care of her body, because if I ever had a child with her, I wouldn’t want bad habits perpetuated.“
- Subject R: “Well her body makes up like 95% area of her total appearance. Her face being the other 5%. So, very high.”
General Consensus: The menfolk agreed that a woman’s appearance is important. (Makes sense, since male brains are more responsive to visual stimuli than female brains, at least in terms of sexual attraction.) Most of them placed a fairly high priority on a woman’s appearance…as one gent put it, “If a woman isn’t physically attractive to me, I’m not going to pursue a romantic relationship with her.” However, what is considered “attractive” can vary wildly with each individual, as most of them pointed out. Moreover, many of them emphasized that physical attraction alone is not enough to interest them in a relationship. The bottom line seemed to be that looks matter, but they’re not all that matter.
Question 2: Do you (and/or most men you know) care how lean a woman is? How curvy she is?
- Subject A: “I think true men base things off of personality. If you base everything off of looks, you shouldn’t be looking for a relationship.“
- Subject B: “It is certainly something you take notice of…But does it necessarily change the way I look at them? No. There’s also a huge difference in my mind between ‘fat’ and ‘curvy.’ You could be the most hardcore gym rat and still have curves, and that is perfectly fine.”
- Subject C: “Curves are nice, athletic is hot, but a girl who is short of that level of ‘perfection’ is not a deal breaker.“
- Subject E: “…once the curves start turning into excess flab, I’m not super attracted…I like to exercise and work out and I’m attracted to women who like to stay in shape (not that I don’t have a few pounds to shed, lol). Once again though, lots of differences in opinions among the guys I know…”
- Subject I: “…Most guys prefer a girl a little thicker over skinny.”
- Subject K: “If she takes care of her body purely because seh wants to, that is extremely sexy.“
- Subject M: “…most men, I have found, prefer women who are fit. When I say fit I don’t mean not-curvy or wicked-skinny. What I mean is someone who is active, and cares about their health.”
- Subject N: “I have a very primal nature that sees ‘stick/twig’ women as not being able to bear healthy children. I prefer a girl that looks healthy and has a little meat.”
- Subject O: “It’s way more important how in shape she is. If she exercises…that’s a way bigger deal than exactly how curvy her body is…As a guy, I can tell exactly where you fall on the scale of ‘works her butt off’ to ‘sits on her lazy butt.’…I’m going to make a car analogy here because I’m a guy, and I can. If I buy a beautiful, brand spanking new Ferrari, it’s going to be beautiful just the way it is. Same with if I bought a Lambo. But if I constantly get into accidents, leave it outside, never wash it, never repair it, and never get the oil changed, it’s going to be a hot mess. It was beautifully made, but through lack of care, it fell apart. The same goes for girls (and guys!). Everyone is beautiful and unique. But if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t keep using the line, ‘I’m perfect the way I am.’ Our bodies are a temple of God…everything we say and do (and look like) reflects back on Him.”
- Subject Q: “I love a curvy woman…But being curvy can also be synonymous with being lean.”
General Consensus: Men notice women’s bodies and appreciate a female shape, curves and all. The specific shape, size, and proportion of a woman’s body is a factor in any man’s physical attraction to her. However, it seems that most of them are interested in women who are healthy and actively take care of themselves, with whatever figure that lifestyle produces. As they pointed out, curves are healthy – “…you can be the most hardcore gym rat and still have curves…”
Question 3: What do you (and/or most men you know) find more attractive – a woman who is very thin, or a woman who is a little curvier?
- Subject A: “I tend to be attracted to more of the skinny body type.”
- Subject B: “I like a girl that is, by your definition, ‘athletic.’…I want to know by looking at you that you won’t break!“
- Subject D: “I like women who are happy with themselves and find beauty in Christ. Not media, or others.”
- Subject E: “I prefer somewhere in the athletic-curvy range, but once ‘curvy’ starts developing into a serious gut, I’m kinda outta there.“
- Subject F: “I am very indifferent…”
- Subject H: “It is almost like saying, ‘Do you like blondes, brunettes, or redheads?’ The truth is I think one guy could like multiple body types just like multiple hair colors may attract his eye.”
- Subject I: “Definitely a girl more curvy than thin.“
- Subject J: “I find curves very attractive. Most of the guys I know are in the same boat.”
- Subject K: Most guys I know (myself included) prefer curves to stick-thin girls you can barely hug without feeling like you’re gonna break them in half. Especially if she squats…guys love butts. ‘Dat ass’.“
- Subject M: “My friends and I have always found women more attractive who are a little curvier.”
- Subject N: “I feel that curvy implies a girl has big boobs and a big butt – which aren’t necessarily important to me. To be honest I don’t really like big boobs.“
- Subject O: “I like a woman who’s a little curvier, aka Scarlett Johannson…I like a healthy girl, and by healthy I don’t mean ‘healthy’ meaning bigger, but meaning actually healthy, like in shape!”
- Subject P: “Curves by far…If a girl can be confident about her curves it makes her even more attractive.“
- Subject Q; “I love hips, I love ass, I love boobs, and I love all the curves that come along with that.”
General Consensus: Men like curves, in whatever shape and size you’ve got them. Each man can have his individual preferences, but those preferences usually span a fairly decent range rather than a single, particular body type.
Question 4: Do you (and/or most men you know) find a significant difference between the media’s portrayal of women compared with the women you see in real life? If so, does this difference change your thoughts on what makes a woman attractive?
- Subject A: “I personally find a woman who is comfortable in her own skin and aware of her ‘flaws’ to be most attractive. Own them! I own mine!”
- Subject B: “It breaks my heart to know what the media is doing to women. Nothing is ever good enough. Photoshop is everywhere. People talk about every ounce of weight celebrities gain or lose like it is national news! It’s stupid!”
- Subject C: “Media sets impossible standards glorifying the 0.1% of ‘ideal’ women….A smile, pretty eyes and confidence goes a long way!”
- Subject D: “I do believe that it has started to change the image that males of have of women in their minds.”
- Subject G: “It definitely has/had altered my view on what makes a woman attractive.“
- Subject H: “You can definitely see that women are trying to change/imitate the women they see in media. Especially in high school girls. I think men are being flooded with images (through advertisements, sports, pop ups, and especially porn) and that those images do affect a young person who is flooded with them.”
- Subject I: “It doesn’t change my thoughts but I mean hey…any guy would love to say a girl that looked like Scarlett Johansson was his.”
- Subject K: “In my age group (mid-20s) and in the [college] town I live, most of the women I see in real-life don’t look significantly different from the way they’re portrayed in the media.”
- Subject L: “Publicity portrays tons of different things differently than the reality. Not solely women!…I think that ‘curvier,’ ‘thicker,’ or ‘healthier’-looking women are making a comeback in the media eye. And I love it!“
- Subject N: “I hate that supermodels are like these twig 12-year-old boy-looking creatures. I like that some actresses (like Jennifer Lawrence) do not get super skinny…I stick with my personal preferences and don’t really listen to the media.”
- Subject P: “I prefer a non-media-portrayed body frame to be honest. There is something incredibly sexy about a natural girl.“
- Subject Q: “What men consider to be ‘sexy’ is fluid, and changes…Age is completely dependent upon how much a man will let that [media] determine what he finds sexy.”
General Consensus: Men realize that the media’s portrayal of women is very unrealistic and showcases a very narrow spectrum of women and body types. They also notice that women are not the only ones given unrealistic standards – male bodies are edited into oblivion, too! (And that deserves to be talked about in its own right – see here.) While they can see the disconnect between real life and the images on the screen/page, the repeated exposure does seem to have an effect on how some of them view women. This doesn’t make them appreciate women in real life any less, though, and a good number of them actively combat the media’s attempts to dictate what they should find beautiful.
Tell me, what do you think of all this? What surprised you the most about these responses?
If you’re interested in hearing more details from the men themselves, shoot me an email at eatprayliftblog [at] gmail [dot] com, and I can send the (fully anonymous) responses in their entirety.
And of course, a big thank you to all the men participated in this survey. Your input is what made this project possible, and I am very appreciative that yall were willing to step up.
Thanks to the ladies, as well, who submitted questions for the survey. (And any ladies who would like to respond to the women’s survey, please let me know!)
To be continued in “Menfolk Confess…” Part 2:
- Of all the women you see in an average day, what percentage of them would you consider (generally speaking) attractive?
- Do you (and/or most men you know) worry very much about your physical appearance? Is there much difference, in your opinion, between the societal pressure to conform to a certain body type for men vs. women?
- If there was one thing you could let women know, what would it be?
- …and more…!