Hunks Get More Sex, BUT…

Everybody Has Secrets 2004 누구나 비밀은 있다

If you’re a long time reader of this blog, then you’ll be aware that I’m a big advocate of people’s preferences in the opposite sex being very much biologically determined. For instance, the almost universal appeal of an hourglass figure to men is undoubtedly a reflection of the fact that women blessed with both large breasts and a relatively low waist to hip-ratio are by far the most likely to get pregnant, as they have 30 per cent higher levels of the female reproductive hormone estradiol than women with other combinations of body shapes (see here and here). Similarly, for men high levels of testosterone can result in them having a well-defined “masculine” jaw, but the flip-side is that testosterone also compromises the immune system, and so therefore a man with such a jaw that has survived to adulthood – say, Harrison Ford – must have particularly high resistance to disease, a valuable survival trait for mothers to pass on to their children.

But of course, cultural factors and one’s upbringing play a huge role in one’s preferences too, as is the fact that the vast majority of sexual encounters are no longer for the purposes of reproduction (were they ever?). In addition, friends of mine have justifiably argued that if certain body and face shapes confer such huge reproductive advantages, then why don’t all men have large muscles and well-defined jaws and all women have large breasts and hourglass figures (and so on), and my answer that there is always natural variation and that, once evolved, advantageous traits take a long time to become standard in a population, felt somewhat unsatisfying even to me, despite both being true.

Lucky Lee Jae-yoon Men's HealthHence I should have paid much more attention to this study when it came out last month, which found that while beefier men tended to both lose their virginity at an earlier age and have more sexual partners than their skinnier counterparts, on the other hand those muscles both increased their appetites and meant they tended to produce fewer infection-fighting white blood cells. In a nutshell, this means that for the over 99% of human’s evolutionary history that occurred before the advent of modern medicine and an (over)abundance of food, beefier guys often either starved to death or died from an infection before having children, or alternatively before helping in raising them. So, I don’t think it’s presuming too much of women to say that in fact skinnier men could sometimes have been more of a turn-on for them(!), particularly in times of scarcity.

I’d image that other traits that are advantageous in modern times similarly had their downsides in the past, and perhaps still do: hence the variation. I’ll be very interested in finding them out, and if any readers do know of any parallels then please pass them on.

(First image from the 2004 Korean film “Everybody Has Secrets” {누구나 비밀은 있다}: see here for a review)