A new study published in PLOS ONE this week says that stressed-out men are attracted to heavy women–which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t lead to any terribly illuminating conclusions about human sexuality or relationships. But it has led to some pretty heinous media coverage, especially by (you guessed it) The Daily Mail, once again pitting women against each other based on body types.
For the study, researchers asked two groups of heterosexual men (aged 18 to 42) to judge photos of women with various BMIs on a scale of one (very unattractive) to nine (very attractive). The first group had just been asked to take on the role of a job applicant in front of a hiring committee, to raise stress levels; the second group was simply asked to sit in a room. Everyone gave underweight women similar ratings, but the stressed-out men gave normal and overweight women significantly higher ratings than their un-stressed counterparts, and the largest women they rated as attractive had higher BMIs than the men who hadn’t been pre-stressed for the study.
The researchers’ conclusion doesn’t go far beyond simply restating the findings. From the study abstract:
This study found that the experience of stress was associated with a preference among men for heavier female body sizes. These results indicate that human attractiveness judgements are sensitive to variations in local ecologies and reflect adaptive strategies for dealing with changing environmental conditions.
But news outlets like The Daily Mail are using the study as yet another excuse to drag out photos of celebrities and compare attractiveness based on body type. From their article, “Why men who are stressed look for a woman with curves“:
When coping with life’s twists and turns, men apparently want something to grab hold of.
Researchers have found during times of stress, they are attracted to heavier women.
The study suggests if work or finances are playing on their minds, they are more likely to turn to a lady with the figure of shapely Nigella Lawson than skinny Angelina Jolie.
The rest of their article details the study, but singling out women’s body types and framing the study around which women will get a “man’s attention” just fuels the attitude (which the paper has been known to promote in the past) that women are in constant competition, and if one woman’s body is attractive or attention-grabbing; others’ must be repulsive.
But it’s important to note that the study doesn’t actually say stressed men find underweight or normal weight women LESS attractive than overweight women, or even that they find them less attractive than unstressed men. So using the study as an excuse to put down one body type over the other isn’t actually accurate at all; it’s mostly just a cruel interpretation.
Photo: Daily Mail