Human physique and sexual attractiveness in men and women: a New Zealand-U.S. comparative study

Arch Sex Behav. 2010 Jun;39(3):798-806. doi: 10.1007/s10508-008-9441-y. Epub 2009 Jan 13.


Men and women living in New Zealand and California completed five studies regarding human physique and sexual attractiveness. In Studies 1-3, women rated images of male stimuli and, in Studies 4-5, men rated female stimuli. In Study 1, women in both countries 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 hair (chest and abdominal) was altered progressively in a series of front-posed male figures. In both countries, the image lacking any trunk hair was rated as the most attractive, with a steady decline in attractiveness as hirsutism became more pronounced. Study 3 assessed attractiveness of front-posed male figures that varied only in the length of the non-erect penis. Five lengths were presented: The smallest penile size was rated as less attractive than three intermediate sizes. The largest penile size was not the most attractive, but received higher scores than the unaltered and smallest penile size. In Study 4, men rated the attractiveness of back-posed female images varying in waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) (from 0.5 to 1.0). The 0.7 WHR figure was rated more attractive in New Zealand and the 0.6 WHR in California. Study 5 measured the attractiveness of female skin color; men expressed preferences for lighter skinned female figures in New Zealand and California. Results indicate very similar preferences for sexually dimorphic physical traits among men and women of European extraction, living in two culturally and geographically different environments.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Beauty*
  • California
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Female
  • Hair
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Penis / anatomy & histology
  • Sex Characteristics
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Skin Pigmentation
  • Somatotypes / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Waist-Hip Ratio
  • Young Adult