“Single white male looking for thin, very attractive...”

Abstract

Sociocultural pressures on women to be thin and physically attractive assume many forms today. When these external pressures are combined with the excessive demands many women already place on themselves in these areas, chronic dieting, and ultimately binge eating, often result (Agras & Kirkley, 1986; Hsu, 1989). The present study investigated the extent to which single women currently were receiving the message that physical attractiveness in general, and weight in particular, were crucial factors in being selected as a dating partner. A total of 283 male and 231 female personal ads from a singles' magazine were examined. Twenty-eight categories were created to label the qualities designated as desirable in a partner. As predicted, physical attractiveness was the characteristic most frequently sought by males (56.9%). Significantly fewer females (26.4%) required this in a prospective partner. Furthermore, requests for a thin partner were made by significantly more males (33.6%) than females (2.2%). Sex differences also were detected for the quality sought most often by females: interpersonal understanding. The results demonstrated that males still attributed greater importance to physical attractiveness and thinness than did females when selecting a date. Possible explanations for these different emphases were offered, and features that distinguished the “physical attractiveness” seekers from others were explored. The link with today's high rate of eating disorders among women was reappraised.

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Correspondence to Jane E. Smith.

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Smith, J.E., Waldorf, V.A. & Trembath, D.L. “Single white male looking for thin, very attractive...”. Sex Roles 23, 675–685 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00289255

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Keywords

  • Social Psychology
  • Eating Disorder
  • Binge Eating
  • White Male
  • Excessive Demand