Subjective and objective measures of attractiveness and their relation to sexual behavior and sexual attitudes in university students

Arch Sex Behav. 2007 Feb;36(1):79-88. doi: 10.1007/s10508-006-9075-x.


This study examined both self-rated and objectively measured attractiveness in relation to sexual behaviors and attitudes in an undergraduate sample (N=456). About a quarter of the variance in self-ratings of attractiveness was predicted from combining standard objective measures of attractiveness, including face photo ratings, body mass index, and chest-to-waist ratio for men, and face photo ratings, body mass index, and waist-to-hip ratio for women. Correlations were investigated among self-rated attractiveness, measured attractiveness, the residual component of self-rated attractiveness (controlling for measured attractiveness), and a number of sexual and related variables. Measured attractiveness correlated moderately with sexual behaviors but not with sociosexuality or sexual moral attitudes, indicating that higher levels of observable attractiveness may serve to increase opportunities for sex with multiple desirable partners without affecting interests in or moral acceptance of casual sex. Self-rated attractiveness correlated positively with sexual behaviors and with sociosexuality, but the correlation with sociosexuality was based entirely on residual factors beyond the objective measures of attractiveness. Other predictors of sexual behavior were discussed in terms of their variable roles in affecting interest in, opportunities for, and social costs of promiscuous sexual activity.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Body Image*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Libido
  • Male
  • New England
  • Peer Group
  • Self Concept*
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Sexual Partners / psychology
  • Social Desirability*
  • Somatotypes
  • Students / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires