While body positivity has seen a rise on social media in recent years, there’s no getting away from the fact that thinner female body types have predominantly been favoured in the media.
The glorification of very thin catwalk models in Victoria’s Secret shows and in glossy magazines have left many women with different body types feeling inadequate, particularly when it comes to satisfying the opposite sex.
However, a new study, titled Gender Discrepancies in Perceptions of the Bodies of Female Fashion Models, has found that women tend to think men prefer thinner female bodies more than they actually do.
Sarah N. Johnson and Renee Engeln took a group of 548 college students, split almost equally between male and female, and asked them to evaluate the bodies belonging to 13 different female models.
The college students then rated the models’ size, which were all believed to be typical of the type of body types seen in women’s magazines, from one representing ‘way too thin’, to seven representing ‘way too fat’, as well as their attractiveness from one being ‘extremely unattractive’ to seven being ‘extremely attractive’.
They were then asked how they thought members of the opposite sex would rate them.
Neither men nor women were particularly good at guessing how the opposite sex rated the body types. However, they did both guess that the other gender would be less likely to say the bodies were ‘too thin’ and assumed that they would rate them as more attractive than they actually did.
Researchers described it as a ‘parallel misconception’ that saw both the men and woman overestimating the extent that the opposite sex would be attracted by the bodies.
Next, Johnson and Engeln expanded their study by asking 707 Americans between the ages of 18 and 86 to take part in the same survey. This time, the females involved in the story tended to lean towards the ‘too thin’ ratings, while the males gave the models high ratings of attractiveness.
But, again, both genders wrongly assumed that the other sex would rate the model’s bodies higher than they actually did.
Of course, because the researchers only used one body type in the study, they’re unable to make any judgements about what kind of body type is favoured by men or women. However, they were able to conclude that both women and men overestimated how the other gender viewed the body type most commonly portrayed in the media.
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