Human physique and sexual attractiveness: sexual preferences of men and women in Bakossiland, Cameroon

Arch Sex Behav. 2007 Jun;36(3):369-75. doi: 10.1007/s10508-006-9093-8. Epub 2006 Nov 30.


Men and women living in a rural community in Bakossiland, Cameroon were asked to rate the attractiveness of images of male or female figures manipulated to vary in somatotype, waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), secondary sexual traits, and other features. In Study 1, women rated mesomorphic (muscular) and average male somatotypes as most attractive, followed by ectomorphic (slim) and endomorphic (heavily built) figures. In Study 2, amount and distribution of masculine trunk (chest and abdominal) hair was altered progressively in a series of front-posed male figures. A significant preference for one of these images was found, but the most hirsute figure was not judged as most attractive. Study 3 assessed attractiveness of front-posed male figures which varied only in length of the non-erect penis. Extremes of penile size (smallest and largest of five images) were rated as significantly less attractive than three intermediate sizes. In Study 4, Bakossi men rated the attractiveness of back-posed female images varying in WHR (from 0.5-1.0). The 0.8 WHR figure was rated markedly more attractive than others. Study 5 rated the attractiveness of female skin color. Men expressed no consistent preference for either lighter or darker female figures. These results are the first of their kind reported for a Central African community and provide a useful cross-cultural perspective to published accounts on sexual selection, human morphology and attractiveness in the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Beauty*
  • Cameroon
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Female
  • Heterosexuality*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Skin Pigmentation
  • Social Perception
  • Somatotypes*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Waist-Hip Ratio