Body Parts: Who Prefers What

by Alice Shirrell Kaswell, Improbable Research staff

(Image credit: Flickr user Genna G)

Wildman on Body Part Preferences (1963)
“The Relationship Between Knee and Arm Joints on Human Figure Drawings and Paranoid Trends,” Robert W. Wildman, Journal of Clinical Psychology, vol. 19, no. 4, October 1963, pp. 460–1.

Wildman explains:
Some years ago a colleague pointed out that there was a connection between paranoid symptomatology and the drawing in of joints on arms and legs on human figure drawings. [A researcher named] Buck states that emphasis upon knees suggests the presence of homosexual tendencies. Over a period of time, this investigator was impressed with the frequent connection between these two variables. This study was designed to determine the validity of this hypothesis….

30 subjects who had drawn knee and arm joints on the figure drawing of the H-T-P [the House-TreePerson Technique] were matched with 30 subjects who had not drawn the joints. 4 psychologists rated each S for paranoid trends. Ss who had a high degree of paranoid symptomatology drew joints twice as often as those without prominent paranoid tendencies. However, drawing the joints should not be considered pathognomonic but it is a significant sign.

Wildman on Body Part Preferences (1976)
“Note on Males’ and Females’ Preferences for Opposite Sex Body Parts, Bust Sizes, and Bust-Revealing Clothing,”
Robert W. Wildman, Robert W. Wildman II, Archie Brown, and Carol Trice, Psychological Reports, vol. 38, 1976, pp. 485–6.

The authors, at Central State Hospital, Milledgeville, Georgia, explain:
In Study 1, 55 young women responded that they preferred men with hairy chests and circumcised penises. The chest was the male body part reported to be most “sexually stimulating” to females. The busts were the female body part most “sexually stimulating” to males (n = 34). In Study 2, men (n = 35) preferred larger busts than women typically possess on the average, but the women (n = 48) tended to overestimate the bust size most preferred by males. The ratings of bust-revealing clothing showed the males were more desirous of actually seeing the naked bust than females appear to realize.

Furnham on Preferable Female Body Parts (1990)
“Sex Differences in the Preferences for Specific Female Body Shapes,” Adrian Furnham, Catherine Hester, and Catherine Weir, Sex Roles, vol. 22, nos. 11–12, 1990, pp. 743–54.
The purpose of this study was to examine the somatic preferences of males and females for detailed anatomical drawings of female stimulus figures to examine their ability to predict the preferences for members of the opposite sex. The figures were systematically varied on three dimensions (bust, waist, and hips), with three sizes of each (small, medium, and large). The 12 figures were rated by 100 male and female subjects on a 7-point bipolar construct scale, ranging from extremely attractive to extremely unattractive…. Male subjects displayed a preference for large busts and hourglass shapes, which are accurately predicted by the females.

Prantl and Gründl: Males Prefer a Larger Bust Size (2011)
“Males Prefer a Larger Bust Size in Women Than Females Themselves: An Experimental Study on Female Bodily Attractiveness with Varying Weight, Bust Size, Waist Width, Hip Width, and Leg Length Independently,” Lukas Prantl and Martin Gründl, Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, vol. 35, 2011, pp. 693–702. The authors are at the University of Regensburg, Germany.
What determines a female figure as attractive and is there a consensus of both sexes in judging female bodily attractiveness? To answer these questions, an extensive experiment was conducted using highquality photographic stimulus material, several systematically varied figure parameters (weight, hip width, waist width, bust size, and leg length), and a large sample of 34,000 participants. The results showed that women prefer slightly wider hips, a narrower waist, and longer legs than men (highly significant but small effects). A clear difference was found with regard to the ideal bust size: 40% of men but only 25% of women preferred a large bust.


This article is republished with permission from the January-February 2012 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can download or purchase back issues of the magazine, or subscribe to receive future issues. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift!

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