Hardwired attraction

We all know the generalization that all men are obsessed with physical beauty. We also know there is a great deal of conflict between the sexes. But why? Where did it come from? The key word here is evolution. Physical attractiveness goes hand in hand with the reproductive value of a woman. Because our ancestors had to be so concerned with passing their genes along via reproduction, factors like physical attractiveness were a big deal to them. Physical characteristics and certain behaviors indicated a woman’s reproductive value: full lips, clear skin and eyes, body fat distribution, shiny hair, high energy, lively facial expressions, and muscle tone were all important cues. Today’s male standards for female beauty have been shaped by these cues; and because men evolved by using these preferences in the past, these preferences are still prevalent today. Men who didn’t evolve with these preferences for characteristics that signify reproductive value would not have had as many offspring and would have eventually died off.While facial characteristics are important to men, so are the body features. Standards for the female body, such as favoring a plump or a slender figure, vary from culture to culture. In some cultures, food is scarce and so a plump figure suggests wealth and adequate nutrition. However, in cultures like the United States where food is abundant, the relationship is reversed and a more slender figure is valued. Men typically prefer a particular ratio of waist and hip size in a woman. Before puberty, men and woman have similar fat distributions; but after puberty, a woman’s body fat drops to her trunk, thighs, and hips. Healthy, reproductively-capable women have a WHR (waist-to-hip ratio) between 0.67 and 0.80. Diseases such as diabetes and heart disease have been linked with fat distribution, so a very high WHR is considered unattractive and is indicative of poor health. The lower the WHR, within range of healthy, reproductive capability, the more attractive the woman is to the man. Nearly all the Playboy models and beauty pageant winners over the past thirty years have had an average WHR of 0.70. It’s not the man’s fault that his eyes reroute to the thin, big-breasted women portrayed in the media or to the fresh-faced volleyball girls. He is simply wired that way, and the media has taken advantage of this hardwiring to turn it into a standard. This does not mean that all men are only attracted to girls with a .70 WHR, or that no man will look twice at a girl with a few zits or a flat chest. This is simply to help explain and understand the enigma of beauty standards in today’s society.