Men’s fascination with women’s butts and breasts is well known. They will often debate the qualities of each feature when together in a locker room or at a bar. But did you know there is actually empirical research on whether men prefer booty or boobs?
In a series of studies, researchers at the University of Buenos Aires1 recently looked at heterosexual men’s preferences for women’s breasts or women’s butts. In Study 1, men were asked to first self-report their preference by rating their preference on a visual scale. Guys clicked the leftmost point of the scale if they considered that they relied on butts to determine whether a woman was attractive or on the rightmost point of the scale if they relied solely on breasts. They clicked on the center point if they felt that both butts and breasts contribute equally to their perception of a woman’s attractiveness. If they leaned towards butts but also had an appreciation for breasts, they would click a little to the right of the midpoint, and if leaned towards breasts but with a little butt influence to the left of the midpoint. Although the men preferred butts overall (approximately 59%), some men did prefer breasts (approximately 38.5%), but rarely did a man report that both traits contribute equally to a woman’s attractiveness (approximately 2%). Importantly, although men preferred butts, this study did not ask about the butt characteristics males find most attractive (size, firmness, shape, etc.).
In Study 2, the researchers showed a different set of male participants several photos of women’s butts or breasts (without any of her other features) and asked participants to rate the women’s attractiveness on a scale from 0 to 10. The researchers subsequently classified the photos as high, medium, or low on attractiveness. This study was necessary to generate 3 categories of pictures with statistically different ratings.
In Study 3, the researchers recorded a third set of male participants’ eye movements as they chose the more attractive of two photos of women’s butts or breasts. An eye tracker recorded the participants’ eye movements, including on which photo they kept their gaze the longest (fixation), fast eye movements (saccades), and blinks. In order to see where men tended to gaze most, researchers averaged fixations across 40 different pairs of butt and breast photos. The men also rated their personal booty or breast preference to see if their self-reported preference matched their eye movements.
According to the eye-tracking device, these men fixated first and last on the more attractive body feature that matched their self-reported preference. In other words, men who said they preferred butts tended to look first at the woman with the attractive rear. They then might look at both women equally, but finally their gaze goes back to the attractive bottom. The same holds true for men who prefer breasts—their first and last gaze is fixated on the woman with the most attractive rack.
Why are we concerned with such research (other than the fun it probably brought to the researchers)? Evolutionary psychologists have been long-interested in male preferences for female traits, because those traits are thought to indicate a woman’s fertility.2 Whereas most studies focus on what makes specific body traits attractive, such as the waist-to-hip ratio, body mass index,3 or breast shape and size,4,5 little research has looked at individual preferences for specific traits. Although there is a lot of discussion about the “ultimate debate” of breasts versus butts, quantifiable research is limited. Perhaps quantifiable attractiveness ratings of female curves could be linked to male relationship and sexual behavior in future studies. Or, the preference for butts vs. breasts could be evaluated for changes over time or be used to look at differences in preference between cultures.
The authors of this study do acknowledge that the booty and breasts are not the most relevant or distinctive female traits, but that men take many features and characteristics into account when determining a woman’s attractiveness (were they talking about a charming personality?). But with breast augmentation being the most popular form of plastic surgery in the US and rappers continuously singing about colossal a$$es, these researchers were interested in determining which female hump is viewed as most attractive by men, gathering ratings of actual breasts and butts to determine characteristics of attractiveness, and confirming booty/breast preferences with eye movements. Women may want to consider whether that is an honorable objective…
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1Dagnino, B., Navajas, J., & Sigman, M. (2012). Eye fixations indicate men’s preference for female breasts or buttocks. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 929-937.
2Buss, D. M. (2003). The evolution of desire (rev. ed.). New York: Basic Books.
3Singh, D. (1993). Adaptive significance of female physical attractiveness: Role of waist-to-hip ratio. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology,65, 293–307.
4Furnham, A., & Swami, V. (2007). Perception of female buttocks and breast size in profile. Social Behavior and Personality, 35, 1–8.
5Furnham, A., Swami, V., & Shah, K. (2006). Body weight, waist-to-hip ratio and breast size correlates of ratings of attractiveness and health. Personality and Individual Differences, 41, 443–454.
Dr. Michelle Kaufman – Science of Relationships articles
Michelle conducts research on sexual health and how power in heterosexual relationships influences sexual risk and family planning. She has conducted research in South Africa, Nepal, Tanzania, and Indonesia, and teaches a course on Qualitative Research Methods at Jimma University in Ethiopia.