If you're a bodybuilder – and by bodybuilder, I mean anybody who lifts weights to change the shape of his body for esthetic reasons – you probably spend at least a little time pondering the "hot or not" paradox.
Part of the reason you lift probably has to do with making yourself more appealing to the opposite sex but you know, through various articles and studies that have appeared throughout the years, that women just don't always go nuts for muscle the way we expect them to.
Case in point, an oft-quoted study of women from the U.S. and New Zealand found that they considered the average male physique to be just as attractive as a slightly muscled male body. And, disappointing to some yet comforting to others, the women also found an average length penis to be just as arousing as the more ponderous ones that make furrows in the earth into which Boy Scouts plant apple seeds.
Generally speaking, though, extremes in either category didn't do well, and fat guys lost out entirely.
But something doesn't quite fit. We've all seen women ogling muscular men, and we know they didn't all flock to see "Magic Mike" to see Channing Tatum flex his acting chops as his character struggled with self-actualization. Clearly, there are instances of women practically going intro estrus over muscle.
There appears to be a reason for these "mixed signals" regarding muscle, though. There also seems to be another physical trait of men that's clearly a turn-off for the majority of women, or at least the majority of younger women.
The authors of an earlier University of California study on what gets women going concluded that while women thought less-muscular men were a better fit for long-term relationships, they were more likely to be quite happy having short-term relationships or one-night stands with guys who had big muscles.
We're probably all familiar with the trope that bigger muscles send an evolutionary signal, perhaps inaccurately, that muscular guys produce healthier offspring.
In short, women might have sex with muscular guys, but they marry "regular" guys. So, as weightlifters, are we all doomed to live lonely lives, holed up in our hovels, sifting through old, gray underwear in order to find our lifting straps before we head to the gym?
Actually, it's easy to see the cause of this dating/marrying discrepancy. Women have no frame of reference when it comes to muscular guys, except for what they see on TV. Muscular guys, like beautiful women, are considered by the bulk of society to be shallow, unintelligent, and overly focused on their looks.
So this prejudicial attitude towards guys with muscles isn't grounded in aesthetics, but preconceived notions. There is, however, one physical trait that women, especially younger women, find almost universally repellant, and that's body hair.
That same study of a couple of hundred women from the U.S. and New Zealand that gave a big ho-hum to big muscles and big penises also showed that the more hairless a male body was, the more women liked it.
Clearly, a carpeted back has long been a well-known turn-off, but today's women don't want any carpets or shag rugs anywhere. They're turned on by men who have smooth, shiny, tile floors, or at least close to it.
Whether this is because women want to infantilize us all so they express suppressed maternal instincts or because, paradoxically, despite their professed aversion to muscle, they want to see muscle definition, no one seems to know.
It's enough to make your head hurt.
- Barnaby J. Dixson, Alan F. Dixson, Phil J. Bishop, Amy Parish. "Human Physique and Sexual Attractiveness in Men and Women: A New Zealand–U.S., Archives of Sexual Behavior," June 2010, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 798–806.
- David A. Frederick, Martie G. Haselton, "Why Is Muscularity Sexy? Tests of the Fitness Indicator Hypothesis," Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, August 1, 2007.