Archives of Sexual Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 798–806 | Cite as

Human Physique and Sexual Attractiveness in Men and Women: A New Zealand–U.S. Comparative Study

  • Barnaby J. DixsonEmail author
  • Alan F. Dixson
  • Phil J. Bishop
  • Amy Parish
Original Paper


Men and women living in New Zealand and California completed five studies regarding human physique and sexual attractiveness. In Studies 1–3, women rated images of male stimuli and, in Studies 4–5, men rated female stimuli. In Study 1, women in both countries rated mesomorphic (muscular) and average male somatotypes as most attractive, followed by ectomorphic (slim) and endomorphic (heavily built) figures. In Study 2, amount and distribution of masculine trunk hair (chest and abdominal) was altered progressively in a series of front-posed male figures. In both countries, the image lacking any trunk hair was rated as the most attractive, with a steady decline in attractiveness as hirsutism became more pronounced. Study 3 assessed attractiveness of front-posed male figures that varied only in the length of the non-erect penis. Five lengths were presented: The smallest penile size was rated as less attractive than three intermediate sizes. The largest penile size was not the most attractive, but received higher scores than the unaltered and smallest penile size. In Study 4, men rated the attractiveness of back-posed female images varying in waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) (from 0.5 to 1.0). The 0.7 WHR figure was rated more attractive in New Zealand and the 0.6 WHR in California. Study 5 measured the attractiveness of female skin color; men expressed preferences for lighter skinned female figures in New Zealand and California. Results indicate very similar preferences for sexually dimorphic physical traits among men and women of European extraction, living in two culturally and geographically different environments.


Sexual attractiveness Evolution Masculine somatotype Feminine waist-to-hip ratio Penile length Secondary sexual traits 



We would like to thank all the students who responded to the questionnaires at Victoria University of Wellington and Otago University of Dunedin in New Zealand and the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California. We also thank three anonymous reviewers and the Editor for most constructive criticisms of the original manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Barnaby J. Dixson
    • 1
    Email author
  • Alan F. Dixson
    • 1
  • Phil J. Bishop
    • 2
  • Amy Parish
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Biological SciencesVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyOtago UniversityOtagoNew Zealand
  3. 3.Gender Studies DepartmentUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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