Killing the 'thin ideal'. Jan 2015

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 Rob 11 Comments

Why do women have sex? We find out, using the YSEX? questionnaire. Also, how to stop the ‘thin ideal’ messing with our minds. And forget Star Wars - it’s time for Sperm Wars: are men turned on by pornography that depicts ‘sperm competition’?

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Read the transcripts!
Why Do Women Have Sex?
How to Kill the Thin Ideal
What Kind of Porn do Men Prefer?

Most women in the media are skinny, and consumers are taking this 'thin ideal' to heart. But what happens if we tell them that men prefer larger women?

The articles covered in the show:

Armstrong, H. L., & Reissing, E. D. (in press). Women’s motivations to have sex in casual and committed relationships with male and female partners. Archives of Sexual Behavior. Read summary

Meltzer, A. L., & McNulty, J. K. (in press). Telling women that men desire women with bodies larger than the thin-ideal improves women’s body satisfaction. Social Psychological and Personality Science. Read summary

Prokop, P. (2015). Perception of intensity of sperm competition on the part of males. Personality and Individual Differences, 76, 99-103. Read summary


  1. So where does the thin ideal come from if that's not what men prefer?

  2. Thanks for the comment. Although I think men's preferences have something to do with it, we have paid far too little attention to the female-female interactions that can shape what women think is attractive. For example, it is becoming clearer and clearer that women's purchasing decisions (especially when it comes to fashion) are about signalling to other women, and not to men. The same could well be true with thinness.

  3. Hi Rob

    Love your work. Would you mind posting a link to the transcript for this podcast? Can't seem to find it on your blog.


  4. Hi Mike,

    Thanks, and sorry for not posting the transcript yet. Because I have done so many episodes, it is taking me a while to go through my backlog and post every script. But they will all be there eventually!

    Since you requested, I have posted the scripts for this episode. Links above.

  5. >be caveman
    >have preference for skinny women
    >most skinny women are young teen virgins
    >up end with a young teen wife with ovaries full of eggs
    >have lots of offspring
    >evolutionary success

  6. Hey, Bumface. I am glad that you have a life plan, but it might be possible to pick a few holes in this. Having lots of offspring may not be the best option as you will not be able to invest in them to the same extent as you would a small family. I mean, it works for jellyfish, but...

  7. But they only come out one at time every 3-4 years...

  8. According to the Binford anthropological statistics the age girls get married off clusters around 14 so it seems that actually is very good strategy.

    Putting aside our modern taboos over minor attraction etc and looking at it objectively, if girls in prehistory were typically chosen for marriage at about 12-16 (as they were on the verge of reproductive age) wouldn't we expect girls to have evolved to be the most attractive at that age to get male attention?

  9. It depends at what age women would have paired up in ancestral hunter-gatherer societies. It's not my area of expertise, but I think modern hunter-gatherers tend to be serially monogamous, with people pairing up and splitting up at all ages. Obviously mate value changes for men and women over their lifetimes, so the age at which women 'marry' depends will depend on the age of their mates.

  10. I dunno, it seems men have evolved to choose females more for long-term than medium-term relationships.

    In a system of serial monogamy wouldn't it best to go for females who have already reproduced and proven their fertility and mothering abilities? Because you're only pairing up temporarily you want a female who knows what she's doing. I think in serially monogamous bird species the males have been observed to prefer the females who have already reproduced. But the males in our species are turned off by the physical signs a female has already started reproducing such as stretch marks and droopy boobs. Men seem to prefer young females who have no physical signs of prior reproduction (a skinny tight waist is one important sign) and still have all their fertile years remaining. This is exactly what we'd expect if men have evolved to try to acquire females for long-term relationships. It doesn't always work out and they may get divorced after a few years but, on average, men who acquire virgin females get more offspring from them since they have more fertile years remaining (or eggs in their ovaries, if you look at like that). At least this is how I imagine it worked out in the ancestral environment. It may work out very different in modern societies.

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