There's been a lot of buzz in the health and weight loss community lately about Fabulous Magazine's body survey. The headlines scream "Men prefer a size 10!" (UK sizing, in the US that would be an 8)
But I don't put a lot of trust into this survey because of its sensationalistic tactics. Fabulous claims that "women's ideal" is a size 8 (US 6), but only 32% said so. 24% said size 12, 22% said size 10 and 14% said size 6. Sure, the majority, when forced to choose, picked size 8, but wouldn't a better analysis have been that there is not a clear, one-size-fits all "ideal?"
The shoddy way in which they came up with the "men's ideal" was even less logical. They didn't ask "What female size is most desirable to you?" They asked, "What size is your girlfriend?" Of the survey questions listed on their website, I can't see any other way that they came up with the "Men's Ideal" they listed on the photo. Are we to conclude that men only date women who have an "ideal" body type?
Men choose partners based on many other factors besides body shape (sense of humor or intelligence, perhaps?!). And unless only women with an "ideal" shape have boyfriends, it's more sensible to conclude that the shape of these men's girlfriends represents the shape of an average woman. It's also very possible that these men's wives and girlfriends are actually the national average, size 16, but the men think they're 12's. There are all kinds of theories.
Australian FHM conducted a similar survey, and seems to have used better research methods. They showed men images of size 8, 10 and 12 models, (or 6, 8 and 10) and the results were varied. 41% of men preferred the size 10, 39% chose the 12, and 20% chose the 10. (Note that we know absolutely nothing about what these bodies looked like other than their size.) But yet the magazine still chose to perpetuate the idea of an ideal. If 41% picked one model's body over a choice of two others, does that make it an ideal?
I don't know why the media, especially the magazine world, insists on allowing the notion of an "ideal size" to persist. Yes, if you put pictures of women's bodies in front of men and demand a preference, they will choose. But it's not because of the dress size of that body. It might be a curve of the hip or a slim ankle. He might be especially enthralled by her butt, her boobs or her waist. Men's opinions about women's bodies are as varied and nuanced as every other view they have. Let's not simplify them.
(Photo from Fabulous Magazine's website)