The Comforts of a Womanly Body… To a Man

The headline was irresistible: Why Stressed Out Men Prefer Heavier Women.

Nope. Not a joke. It’s a legitimate article from Healthland, with some common sense logic backed by a bit of data.

So here we have one more study, indirectly concerning the female form. Why not a (useless? useful?) conclusion that addresses womanly attributes, and how they’re shared with men at times involving their manly stress?

Isn’t it to be expected that both sexes turn to anything that provides relief when we’re harried, we’re frightened, or we’re anxious?

Maybe it’s chocolate, or homemade soup, or a few too many martinis. Maybe it’s a 10-mile run in the quiet of the morning. Maybe, if you’re a heterosexual male, it’s the warm and welcoming comforts of a woman’s body. 

Human Comfort Factor; Evolutionary Attraction

As to the Healthland article, it cites research which indicates that:

… the body type that a man finds attractive can change depending on his environment and circumstances…

And one of those circumstances? You got it. Stress.

The article points out:

… when men were placed in stressful situations, then asked to rate the attractiveness of women of varying body sizes, they tended to prefer beefier frames, compared with unstressed men whose tastes skewed thinner… [suggesting] body size preferences are not innate, but are flexible…

Well isn’t that good news! And don’t we know as much already?

What Men Find Attractive About Women

When men are asked what they notice first in a woman, sometimes they say the smile, the friendly manner, the eyes. (I’ve always been convinced that’s a lie at worst, and creative license with the truth at best.)

I suspect that what men initially zero in on is overall impression of attractiveness – how the woman presents herself and the attitude she projects. That (I believe) is followed by awareness of body part turn-ons (or turn-offs): chest, hips, legs, butt. Some men no doubt register hair color.

Otherwise? Your guess is as good as mine (and I will state plainly that the above is my opinion), though I would venture to add body language and voice as possible deterrents to attraction, or unarticulated enhancers.

Rubenesque Rondeurs

Of course, as men and women get to know each other, our impressions of attractiveness change. Pudgy may become “voluptuous.” Wrinkled may become “handsomely weathered.”  And then that smile kicks in after all, along with an understanding look, the sweetness of a kiss, the mirthful shared confidences, not to mention the warmth and responsiveness of an intimate embrace.

Yes, these are assumptions (and observations). Gentlemen – I’d love for you to refute if you think I’m wrong!

Isn’t there pleasure in experiencing the fullness of a womanly body? Something to hang on to, as it were? When you are passionately engaged, don’t all your senses kick in – not only the visual and the currently conventional tastes of what you are supposed to find attractive?

Skin and Bones

I’ve never been drawn to exceptionally thin men. Lean? Okay, but I genuinely prefer a male body with substance. I don’t find skin and bones attractive in either sex, though I clearly recognize our society’s preoccupation with achieving something akin to that – with big boobs (naturally?) if possible, when it comes to the women.

Personally, I wouldn’t want to bed a man who is bordering on anorexic; I can’t understand the desire to bed a bony woman. Of course, we come in all shapes and sizes, our preferences in sexual matters are a complex cocktail, and yet when we’re attracted to the person, for many of us, the physical fades in importance altogether.

A “non-negotiable”  becomes irrelevant. Tastes also evolve.

Womanly Body as Comfort Station?

A womanly body – of the sort we all seem to eschew in public – makes sense to some of us. For one thing, it’s our more natural form, which doesn’t preclude both health and fitness. For another, we’re stronger when we’re properly fueled with healthy food, and stronger could imply saner.

Saner suggests a better partner, no?

Not only does it make sense that a man who is stressed would be more attracted to a woman with something “to grab hold of,” but it seems like we all would feel more grounded, more competent, more able to take on the world – if we accepted a little meat on our own frames, and considered it life’s inherent reinforcements.

Average Heights and Weights, Comparison to Earlier Generations

When I went searching for weight comparisons to the America of 1960 or thereabouts, data reveals that men and woman are both taller and heavier. No surprise, considering the frightening statistics on obesity in this country.

Yet the ideal body type was Marilyn Monroe, and gorgeous healthy-sized women are, by today’s standards, left feeling inferior – and fat – when neither ought to be the case.

Returning to the originating article, which asserts that evolutionary reasons may be at the core of these findings, wherein “a woman’s thin physique may signal illness, frailty and the inability to reproduce,” I will mention that the referenced research relies on the participation of 81 heterosexual men, and that’s hardly a representative sample.

Then again, I return to my own “common sense” reasoning. Surely a woman who isn’t hungry has more to give emotionally. Surely, she’s more able to express passion, compassion, and to support those who love her including the partners who seek comfort in her heart and her arms.

And now, where’s the companion study on easing a woman’s stress? What comforts, conditions, or practicalities might be warranted?


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  1. says

    I am in favor of any study that embraces a woman’s natural form as positive – even in a study about men who are stressed. But, who thought of this idea? Was it a man or a woman who came up with research?

    I think that no matter what someone is attracted to initially; ultimately, we are attracted to the person who is on the inside. Personality and character will likely remain consistent throughout the years (if anything they mature and improve), but everyone changes on the outside as time moves forward. Whether it is pregnancy, illness, exercise, or aging; the outside at 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, 90, 100 is always changing.

  2. says

    Being stressed out is a serious issue. I can now say it’s a weighty matter and I have science to back me up.

    What do men find attractive about women? Yes, lies and creative license, Ms. Wolf because as I said elsewhere it’s promise. Ignoring the far ends of the spectrum, the majority fall in the middle and there is no one defining attribute except promise.

    I’m reading. Oh, and looking too. -wb :-)

  3. says

    There’s an interesting article on the female form and men’s attraction to it in this month’s Psychology Today; Curve Appeal. It’s a wonderful thing to take comfort and give comfort in the physical form. Touch and the delight in touch is one of the sweetest joys in life.

  4. says

    Stress and weight preference: As is my habit as a research scientist, I will be awaiting the independent replication.

    p.s. I had a lady friend who was very healthy, very fit, and very slender. We did well together. I have also done well with women considerably heavier. So what.

  5. says

    I once heard a stone mason say how the softness of his spouse’s figure was his favorite thing (to our standards, she would be described as plump) and I loved that he appreciated the difference between male and female -ness.

    I’m counting on my man to appreciate that I’m very different in form from his lean, athletic self. He’s a coach, marathon runner and very fit. As a single mother, working full time and with a real life of my own, I choose to be fit but not perfect – it just isn’t that high on my list of priorities.

    My guy seems to be alright with that. I think he appreciates my responsiveness more than my actual form.

  6. says

    This makes sense to me. One of the things I love about my husband is his solid bulk – he’s not a fat man, but he’s not small, either – and I also love the comfort of being smaller than he is and feeling, well, protected by him. He in turn seems to appreciate the comfort of my curves which you talk about.

    So glad to have found your blog – I will be back!

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Nice to meet you, too! Cool blog you have!

      There is something sexy (for some of us) about feeling smaller than our men, and yes, offering the comfort of our curves as you say. What a wonderful way to put it.

  7. says

    Manorexia is definitely a turn off!
    I agree with your assumption, men zero in on overall attractiveness first and then scan for the body parts they find the most appealing/sexy.
    I wonder if stressed out men feel more comforted by “beefier”( horrible phrase) women because they more closely resemble their Mommy when they were little boys.

  8. says

    Fluidity, gesture, grace. Eyes, legs. Hair. It all goes to hell if the conversation is wrong. The thing that amazes me is the look that gives permission. Promise, as W. Belle said. That is why eyes.

  9. Diff N. Bachia says

    Why do men like “bony” women? Well, not bony, but thin? I asked my wife, who is a scientist (and skinny, no matter what she eats, even after all these years), and she said: Because fat turns testosterone into estrogen (she said it was a bit more complicated and doesn’t apply at the extremes, but close enough). And testosterone makes men *and* women more interested in sex, which surprised me. She said that’s where the expression “skinny bitch” comes from (she said it, not me). Ask any man: thinner women are more into “it” in general. And we men just have one thing on the brain, at least according to this blog: we are just plants.

    Now, from my perspective (I’m a plumber), guys like me worry about clothing and feeding their families, and when things are rough, like in this economy, maybe having a heavier wife is one less thing to worry about. Just my 2 cents.

    Mandelstam, reliable plumber (I didn’t get the thing about poet??)

    • BigLittleWolf says

      Mandelstam, you make me chuckle. “One less thing to worry about.”

      Did you ever see “Moonstruck?” I got the impression plumbers do very well…

      Mandelstam, as in the Russian poet… Osip Mandelstam.

      When you get down to the bare bones of living, what else is there besides poetry? And poetry is everywhere, Madelstam.

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