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      Preferred Women’s Waist-to-Hip Ratio Variation over the Last 2,500 Years

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          Abstract

          The ratio between the body circumference at the waist and the hips (or WHR) is a secondary sexual trait that is unique to humans and is well known to influence men’s mate preferences. Because a woman's WHR also provides information about her age, health and fertility, men's preference concerning this physical feature may possibly be a cognitive adaptation selected in the human lineage. However, it is unclear whether the preferred WHR in western countries reflects a universal ideal, as geographic variation in non-western areas has been found, and discordances about its temporal consistency remain in the literature. We analyzed the WHR of women considered as ideally beautiful who were depicted in western artworks from 500 BCE to the present. These vestiges of the past feminine ideal were then compared to more recent symbols of beauty: Playboy models and winners of several Miss pageants from 1920 to 2014. We found that the ideal WHR has changed over time in western societies: it was constant during almost a millennium in antiquity (from 500 BCE to 400 CE) and has decreased from the 15 th century to the present. Then, based on Playboy models and Miss pageants winners, this decrease appears to slow down or even reverse during the second half of the 20 th century. The universality of an ideal WHR is thus challenged, and historical changes in western societies could have caused these variations in men’s preferences. The potential adaptive explanations for these results are discussed.

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          Most cited references 45

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          Cultural expectations of thinness in women.

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            The attractive female body weight and female body dissatisfaction in 26 countries across 10 world regions: results of the international body project I.

            This study reports results from the first International Body Project (IBP-I), which surveyed 7,434 individuals in 10 major world regions about body weight ideals and body dissatisfaction. Participants completed the female Contour Drawing Figure Rating Scale (CDFRS) and self-reported their exposure to Western and local media. Results indicated there were significant cross-regional differences in the ideal female figure and body dissatisfaction, but effect sizes were small across high-socioeconomic-status (SES) sites. Within cultures, heavier bodies were preferred in low-SES sites compared to high-SES sites in Malaysia and South Africa (ds = 1.94-2.49) but not in Austria. Participant age, body mass index (BMI), and Western media exposure predicted body weight ideals. BMI and Western media exposure predicted body dissatisfaction among women. Our results show that body dissatisfaction and desire for thinness is commonplace in high-SES settings across world regions, highlighting the need for international attention to this problem.
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              The role of the mass media in promoting a thin standard of bodily attractiveness for women

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Academic Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                1932-6203
                17 April 2015
                2015
                : 10
                : 4
                Affiliations
                Institute of Evolutionary Sciences, University of Montpellier, CNRS, IRD, EPHE, CC 065, Place Eugène Bataillon, Montpellier, France
                London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UNITED KINGDOM
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: JB MR. Performed the experiments: JB MR. Analyzed the data: JB MR. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: JB MR. Wrote the paper: JB MR.

                Article
                PONE-D-14-43729
                10.1371/journal.pone.0123284
                4401783
                25886537

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited

                Page count
                Figures: 3, Tables: 1, Pages: 13
                Product
                Funding
                This work was supported by the following: Agence Nationale pour la Recherche ( http://www.agence-nationale-recherche.fr/), ‘HUMANWAY’ project ANR- 12-BSV7-0008-01. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Categories
                Research Article
                Custom metadata
                All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.

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