Men’s Mags Celebrate Varied Body Types

From time to time men’s magazines exalt body types that vary from the tall, skinny, buxom shape they typically flaunt. True, the lovely ladies on Maxim’s and FHM’s “Hot 100” lists look pretty much the same, but it’s nice to see a little branching out now and again, so let’s celebrate what we can.

Small Busted Bombshells

While buxom breasts are a highly appreciated part of the female form, Mila Kunis was just named #3 on Maxim’s Hot 100, which considers their picks “the definitive list” of the world’s most beautiful women. Mila also made #9 on FHM where male readers vote for their faves. Also on that list are Kristin Stewart, Paris Hilton, Pippa and her sister Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge. And Keira Knightly once made FHM’s #1 hottest hottie.

“Un-Skinny” Stunners

Slim figures are also admired, but Kim Kardashian, along with Scarlett Johansson and pear-shaped Jennifer Lopez, made FHM’s top 100 this year. And, Christina Hendricks, “Joan” of Mad Men, was picked as a “Girls We Love” covergirl.

When women see men gaping in appreciation of Joan’s full figure, I’m sure they are better able to appreciate their own curves. And when Mila Kunis asked Justin Timberlake if her breasts were too small in “Friends With Benefits,” I’m sure plenty of women were happy to hear him respond, “They’re breasts, aren’t they?” No problem. And then he falls in love.

Opening up the ideal is good for both women and men, even if there is still far to go.

When a woman sees herself as beautiful her self-esteem rises. It’s also easier to feel sexy. And when she feels sexier her interest in sex rises, too. She isn’t distracted, wondering if she’s attractive enough. And, women tend to get aroused by feeling that their partners see them as alluring. Plus, when men see that the ladies they love resemble Maxim’s Top 100 in some way, they can more easily see the beauty of their partners.

I suspect most women overestimate how harshly men see them and I suspect that most men are more accepting of women’s bodies than women are, themselves. So that’s good news ladies.

Our society’s ideals don’t have to determine our self-esteem, but they usually play a heavy role both in how we see ourselves and in how others see us. And so while we can work to move beyond the superficial, we’d all benefit if our culture expanded its notions of beauty, too.

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About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on May 23, 2012, in body image, feminism, gender, men, psychology, sex and sexuality, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I think its great that women of different ethnicites and body shapes are finally being represented in the media through magazines and television. I believe this will go a long way towards boosting a young girl’s confidence, when she is able to see someone that looks like her on the big screen. I also think the increased representation of various types of women is what is prompting men to become more versatile in their preferences. For the longest time they were encouraged to only be attracted to the tall, thin, blonde, and blue eyed women that were typically represented. Now men are given greater options, which allows them to figure out what they actually like. I would say that I completely agree with the statement made by the author that “women tend to overestimate how men view them.” I actually believe that a lot of the pressure on women to be perfect or look a certain way is generated by other women. This is because we often find ourselves comparing other women to each other or to ourselves. We also judge other women based on the way they look, the clothing they wear, and even the food they eat. We are perpetuating the need to criticize women for not looking or acting a certain way. Yes, men play the largest role in female oppression, but I also believe that it is up to us, as women, to uplift and support each other, instead of putting each other down.

  2. Though I understand the sentiment behind this, I’m never comforted by these “exceptions” because, let’s face it, all of these women are overwhelmingly gorgeous (by society’s standards) in ways that compensate for their “lack.” That offers little comfort to a woman whose face, or the rest of her body, is less than supermodel worthy. I know that you realize this already, and are merely taking small victories where you can get them. But I really don’t think it’s a victory at all, because these attributes (or lack thereof) are still not being seen as attractive.

    I’ll admit, I’m extremely cynical because of my own experiences. I have what would probably be considered a moderately pretty face (but not beautiful), and I’m tall and overall very thin. I’m often told that I dress elegantly. Yet I am almost never validated in ways that conventionally attractive women are. I’m hard pressed to remember the very few times I’ve received male attention for my looks. Yet, supposedly, thinness is highly valued.

    I believe that the idea that thinness is, in and of itself, “sexy” to the average man is false. Sure, supermodels are thin. But they also tend to have either long waists, or a small waist-to-hip ratio (though I’m thin, I have neither, giving a rather “stump with legs” look to my figure). And it’s undeniable that thinness is prized, but it seems as if it is ONLY seen as good in conjunction with other attributes. It’s also obvious that most men find the curveless runway models unattractive. They’re very vocal about it. It seems that real people are way more attracted to larger women than the media suggests.

    I’m also acutely aware of how much of a setback it is to lack both sizable breasts and butt. I’m a B cup and my butt is small and flat. I often hear people say that most women can get by if they have one or the other, but if they have neither then they have no sexual appeal. (Side rant: I hate it when people say a woman has “no _____.” As if something’s existence can be denied when it fails to arouse you personally. As if a fully functional body part might as well not exist if it doesn’t get you off. Little is more demeaning than being told you’re nonexistent because you fail to fulfill someone’s desires and therefore don’t even deserve to have your existence acknowledged).

    So I find myself in this very awkward, never discussed, state of invisibility due to my body type. I don’t suffer the injustices that many overweight women, or supposedly “ugly” women, do. So there’s a level of beauty privilege there, simply for not being discriminated against. In some ways, I even fit the general description of what people believe our culture values. Yet I am not considered sexually attractive or treated like attractive women are treated, because I have no sexual “assets” (or beautiful face to make up for it). My curvy mother and sister, on the other hand, can’t leave the house without being told how attractive they are by multiple men (interestingly, everyone says I look just like my mother, and my face is visibly younger, so facially I’d probably be considered “prettier” than her. Therefore I know the reason she gets so much more attention is solely for her body).

    I tend to agree with the idea that a small waist to hip ratio, regardless of overall size, plays a huge role in a woman’s perceived attractiveness. Whether this is a biological or learned preference, universal or not, I hear conflicting claims and studies being referenced all the time so I’m still confused. People hopefully point out larger celebrities who are seen as attractive, and I hate to be a debbie downer, but show me a large woman with small breasts, a high WHR, and a flat bottom (they exist—I’ve fit that description before) who is considered attractive by many people, and then I might take some comfort.

  3. Louisa Engels

    The fact that men are able to celebrate different body types on women is very telling. For one thing it shows that It is not necessarily men who are feeding into women’s obsessions with becoming physically perfect. Recently, People Magazine voted Gwyneth Paltrow the most beautiful woman in the world. Gwyneth is 40 years old, has very small breasts and loves to eat. The blog article also mentions Keira Knightly, another very small breasted woman who has won worldly acclaim for being very beautiful. Kim Kardashian and Scarlett Johansson, also considered beautiful women, are featured in the article as example of women carrying extra weight.

    While we women are definitely fed images by the media of women whom the majority of us could never look like, we are also now seeing more women with whom we can relate on a physical level. What this means to me is that perhaps low self-esteem is not caused by media images of very thin women with botoxed faces and breast enhancements. Certainly, these images have their effects on women, but I think that low self-esteem begins at home and comes from the messages we receive about our bodies from the time we are born – long before we’re able to read magazines or recognize such things on TV.

  4. Good that men are appreciating more body types and not just the images portrayed in the media of a woman with big breast, small waist and big butt. Women come in all shapes and sizes and it’s also comforting to hear that men aren’t as critical of our bodies that we are. So maybe now we can be nicer to our body images!

  5. Becky Gardner

    I’m looking forward to the day when men’s magazines not only celebrate diverse body types, but recognize women for their intelligence and talents rather than their bodies. To see a “Top 100” list with successful, independent women would be revolutionary.

  6. Women are often held to the standards that society portrays as a “pretty” or “sexy” woman. Magazines, TV, and movies all portrays a sexy woman as a particular type, usually skinny with long hair and clear skin. Women tend to feel the pressure taht all men and society expects her to look a certain way in order to be seen as sexy. This article shows that finally society is starting to categorize “sexy” in many different ways. Although the article does not yet state that plus size women are on the top 100 list, it does state that the list now has women with smaller breasts and some women with more curves. This is a good first step towards equality and women being viewed and viewing themselves as pretty and sexy no matter what their body shape is.

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