Psychologists have confirmed something most women deep down know regarding male physical attractiveness: strong men are, by far, preferred to weaker looking men.
The study was based on interviews with 160 women. The female participants had to rate the physical individual attractiveness of men from two categories: a group composed of 130 psychology students and one composed of 60 gym-going university students who worked out a few times per week.
Aaron Sell, a psychology lecturer at measured the males' strength via weightlifting machines, grip strength tests and other methods.
The male recruits all came from the University of California at Santa Barbara. The assessors, students from Oklahoma State University and Australia's Griffith University, rated both strength and physical attractiveness on a scale from 1 to 7. Interestingly, the scores the women gave for strength were fairly accurate compared to the actual physical performances of the students.
"The rated strength of a male body accounts for a full 70 percent of the variance in attractiveness," Sell said.
None of the surveyed women showed a statistically important preference for weaker looking guys.
“No one will be surprised by the idea that strong men are more attractive,” said one of the study authors, Aaron Lukaszewski, told The Washington Post. “It's no secret that women like strong, muscular guys.”
“That is so obvious, people are going to wonder why scientists needed to study it,” said Holly Dunsworth, an anthropologist at the University of Rhode Island, also to The Post. “And the answer would be because they want to know how these preferences evolved.”
Dunsworth also raised questions about the reliability of the paper, because the study involved only 20-year-olds, who she adds, may not have very much experience with the meaning of attractiveness.
Lisa Wade, a sociologist at Occidental College in Los Angeles, also criticizes the study's interpretation: “It’s my opinion that the authors are too quick to ascribe a causal role to evolution,“ she told The Post.
According to Wade, culture has a bigger impact on male torso aesthetics.
“We value tall, lean men with strong upper bodies in American society. We’re too quick to assume that it requires an evolutionary explanation,” she said. “We know what kind of bodies are valorized and idealized,” Wade added. “It tends to be the bodies that are the most difficult to obtain.”
In her opinion, a few centuries ago, women would have preferred larger torsos, due to the scarcity of hyper-caloric food and the requirements of heavy physical labour. The preference for leaner upper masculine bodies was not universally valued at that time.
The paper published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B surely has many scientists arguing over it, but the team led by Sell and Lukaszewski plans to examine physical attractiveness on a larger scale, with a cross-cultural study on the way.