Factors influencing the attractiveness ratings of the male body

In the study entitled “Factors influencing the attractiveness ratings of the male body” 1,900 people participated, of whom 1,200 were women whose assessment was at the center of our interest. The study consisted of three parts, first we asked for data that would describe the sample of participants and delineate a number of factors that may influence perception of attractiveness (such as body weight of the participants, socio-economic status, use of hormonal contraceptives or their partner status). In the second part, a series of 25 silhouettes of real male bodies differing in their constitution (amount of muscle mass, body fat and their distribution) were presented to be evaluated for the degree of attractiveness, and in the last, third, part real photographs of men with covered faces were used. In this section, two photographs of the same man were presented in random order, one of the man before putting on muscle mass, and the other one of him after a few weeks of putting on muscle mass.

There has been very little effort put in the research ot the attractiveness of the male body so far, previous studies have often been based on unrealistic, very rough descriptions and demonstrations of the male body, and none of the research teams has dealt with individual differences in evaluation have not previously been dealt with by any of the research teams. The results were therefore often inconsistent, and concluded that male bodies with noticeable muscle mass development of the upper body (the so-called mesomorphic somatotype) with a typical “V” shape were rated as the most attractive.

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An example of a few silhouettes of real male bodies differing in their constitution. On the left, the figure is ectomorphic (low percentage of fat and muscle tissue), in the middle there is an edomorphic figure (high proportion of the fat and low muscle component) and the figure on the right is mesomorphic (high percentage of muscle and low fat).

However, our results show that the mesomorphic, hence the most muscular, figure is not rated as attractive. Rated as the most attractive is the ecto-mesomorphic figure, which should point to a high level of general physical fitness (strength and endurance muscle performance, not only the power performance typical of mesomorphs), but at the same time this somatotype also points to the quality of the health of the wearer, because fat and muscle tissues bring with them cardiovascular (and, in the case of fatty tissue, further metabolic) diseases. These findings are confirmed by the results of the second part of the study. According to previous studies, a man could increase the attractiveness of his body by gaining muscle mass through strength and endurance training. That’s why we used the photos of men before and after a few weeks of putting on muscle mass. Women´s ratings suggest that they found male figures more attractive before putting on muscles. However, these results could have been caused simply by the men involved in this muscular build-up being so muscular before the start, that the addition of several kilos of mass more simply crossed the threshold that was still rated as attractive.

An example of a figure before and after a few weeks of muscle gain.

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Two of the factors that may influence attractiveness ratings and which we dealt with were BMI (body mass index, ratio of body weight and height of an individual) of the raters, which is a good indicator of the attractiveness of the female figure, as well as the stage of the menstruation cycle of the raters. These results show that with the increasing raters’ BMI the tolerance to a higher proportion of the endomorphic component of the body increases (describing the amount of body fat and predisposition for its storage). Even the phase of the menstrual cycle profoundly influences ratings of attractiveness. In line with previous studies of, for example, the attractiveness of the male face, more women in the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle showed preference for higher representation of the mesomorphic component of the figure (describing the amount of muscle mass and predisposition for its formation).