Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Woman's perfect body or perfect sex partner in bed?

Another day, another bloody survey telling us what men deem "beautiful" when it comes to women. This time it's a study done in New Zealand, which discovered that apparently blokes find women with a waist-to-hip ratio of 0.7 most appealing. Yep, it's this magic number that makes men stop, stare, go googly eyed, and dream of Jessica Alba.

The magic ratio number came about when anthropologist Barnaby Dixson gave a group of volunteers various pictures of a woman in which her bust, waist and hips had been digitally altered. The men were then asked to rate the image for attractiveness while infra-red cameras tracked their eyes as they looked at the photos. He then looked at what waist-hip-ratio scored the highest marks and voila – it was a whopping 0.7. (Sounds like an awful lot of fuss to me for such a simple answer.)

But here's the catch: while the male gaze is often analysed, questioned and attempted to be rationalised by scientists, psychologists, plastic surgeons, celebrities, gossip rags and bra manufacturers, let's take a look at a real life scenario for just a moment.

A male friend of mine, who a few years back was dating one of these "perfect" 0.7 femmes, dumped her to search for greener pastures. (It wasn't her looks that put an end to it, but the amount of money and time she spent to maintain them that got him riled.) After the break-up he headed overseas and found the woman of his dreams – a little shorter, a little plumper and her hip-to-waist ratio was more non-existent than a flawless 0.7.

What I'm about to say next might shock and awe anthropologist Dixson (and perhaps even lampoon his findings), but my mate has never been happier … without his 0.7 girlfriend by his side. The thing that drew him most to his new fiancee (aside from her bubbly personality, ambition and strong family values) was this simple fact: apparently she's damn good in bed.

"She's so confident with her body that it's such a turn-on," he told me. "Often pretty girls with great bodies are really shy when it comes to getting between the sheets."

Finally there's good news up ahead ladies: according to real blokes it doesn't actually matter what you look like naked or what your hip-to-waist ratio is, it's how you feel about yourself that counts.

To get more details and to assure you that I'm not pulling your leg on this one, I decided to call up sex therapist Bettina Arndt to get some answers, and she gave me exactly what I was looking for.

"Those surveys that purport to tell us what get a man's juices going using different pictures and scans are all a load of rubbish," she says. "It has nothing to do with real life."

To get the real scoop on what men want from their sexual relationships, including what they think of a woman's body, Arndt convinced 150 men to keep diaries of their thoughts for her latest book What Men Want – In Bed. And, no surprise – it wasn't the perfect ratio of waist-to-hip on their brains … but sex … and being able to enjoy their partner's naked bodies.

"Sex is centre stage for most men – it's a pulsating life force," Arndt tells me. "For so many men, it's the itch that never goes away."

When I ask her about the merits of having the perfect waist-to-hip ratio, she laughs it off.

"Men wrote so beautifully to me about how they love looking at their women naked no matter what her body looks like. One man glowingly writes about his 80-year-old wife and how much he adores looking at her naked. Others write of the delight they get from the visual element of sex. Simply feasting their eyes on a woman's naked body is such a treat for a man - they don't really care about the details."

Try convincing the average woman of that! In fact, it saddens me greatly that so many women are so quick to judge themselves on their bodies. Take one girlfriend, who says she refuses even to go on dates until she loses a little more weight. She's been using the same line for almost a year.

Another hates having sex with her partner because she fears he's judging her love handles.

I sent both these women a paragraph from page 21 of Arndt's book, which was written by James, a 50-year-old man about his wife Sophie. It reads:

"She has the tummy of a woman in her forties that has had a few children but I don't mind that at all. She has the beginnings of varicose veins, her neck is a bit saggy, her bum is flat and so. None of that matters to me. The unfortunate thing for me is that she can't seem to enjoy my attentions and she usually wants the lights out during sex. I tell her all the time how beautiful she is and how much I love to look at her - but she rarely lets me look at her in a sexual way.”

True, men are sex-driven Neanderthals, and, yes, many of them are visual creatures who like nothing more than to wolf-whistle at the hottest babe who walks past them while they drink their beer and talk about sport. And yes, 47 per cent of them will glance at a woman's breasts before looking at any other part of her body.

But what I wish more women would believe (and more men would prove to us is true), is a brilliant line out of the film Eat, Pray, Love which was said by Julia Roberts while encouraging her friend to eat another fatty delicacy in Italy. I'm paraphrasing here but I think it went something along the lines of this: Has any guy ever seen your naked body and turned you away from sex? I didn't think so …

What do you think?

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