(Ergolog) Women are attracted to muscular men, but don’t want a long-term relationship with them, psychologist David Frederick claimed in interviews he gave in response to his article in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Our interest was piqued, so we read Frederick’s original article carefully. We’d like to share what we read with you.

Musculature is a sign of health. A man with muscles expends a lot of energy, so muscles are a sign that a man can take good care of himself. Muscles also represent strength and therefore mean that a man can offer protection. Muscles are a sign of good genes, which women are likely to want to pass on to their children. So that’s why women are attracted to muscular men. At least, that’s how the theory goes.

But does the theory hold water? There are also arguments that point in the opposite direction. Men with lots of muscle also have high levels of androgens in their body. Androgens mean infidelity and perhaps even violence, say biologists. A woman who goes for a man with a high androgen level may be risking her life. So muscular men are not attractive.

Frederick, of the University of California in Los Angeles, showed drawings of male bodies with varying degrees of musculature to 125 female students.

Then Frederick asked the students how attractive they found the different male bodies. The graph above shows the scores: the higher point on the curve, the higher the score. In women’s eyes, the ultimate bodybuilder’s body is definitely unattractive.

Frederick also generated realistic pictures of male bodies, with varying amounts of fat and muscle. These are shown below.

The female students were then shown these pictures and asked to describe the characteristics they associated with the different bodies. They were asked to say to what extent the men were sexually attractive, dominant, loving and volatile (i.e. violent). The figure above shows the scores.

According to the women, the brawny man is a tiny bit less attractive than the built man. He is not loving, is likely to be dominating and to have violent tendencies. When the researchers asked the women, it turned out that they had had frequent one night stands with this type of man, but very rarely a long-term relationship. Muscular men are there to have fun with.

All this is not particularly relevant to the average bodybuilder though: his physique will be more developed than that of the brawny and built physiques that the women said they found attractive. It’s strange but true: if bodybuilders want to attract women, they’ll have to rely on their character.

Pers Soc Psychol Bull. 2007 Aug;33(8):1167-83.

Muscles aren’t everything for men 22.06.2009