, Volume 24, Issue 3, pp 268-279
Date: 31 May 2013

Why Do the Karo Batak Prefer Women with Big Feet?

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Abstract

Men may find women with small feet relative to body size more attractive because foot size reliably indexes nubility—i.e., age and parity. I collected judgments of attractiveness in response to drawings of women with varying foot sizes from a sample of 159 Karo Batak respondents from North Sumatra, Indonesia, as part of a collaborative project on foot size and attractiveness. The data revealed a contrarian preference among the Karo Batak for women with big feet. The judgments were compared with the results of an existing cross-cultural study that found a preference for women with small feet in aggregate, but a mix of small- and large-foot preferences in the societies taken individually. Using contingency table analysis, I found that ecology and less exposure to Western media were associated with a preference for women with big feet; patriarchal values were not. The findings suggest that human mating preferences may arise in response to local ecological conditions, and may persist and spread via cultural transmission. This has implications for the concept of universality espoused in some versions of evolutionary psychology.