Thursday, March 08, 2012

Sexual selection and small female feet

This new study in Evolution and Human Behavior provides evidence that the smaller female foot length to body length ratio is due to intersexual selection. Evidently, men perceive small feet to be more attractive since they are associated with youth and thus greater potential fertility.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not read through the whole paper. Previously, I had a look through some anthropometric data and it seemed like foot length to height ratio was mainly an allometric phenomenon - i.e. taller people have longer and wider feet relative to their height. Men didn't appear to have longer (or broader) feet relative to their height than women did, at the same actual heights, but of course, men are taller.

That might explain the response to the images - the men with relatively small feet (and women with relatively larger feet) may have been coded as shorter (and taller) by the female (and male) participants as a result of the relative lengths, possibly in disproportionate ways which make them more sexually attractive?

Anonymous said...

Sounds plausible. Or at least, not implausible.

I have to say though, on my own personal "check list" of physical attributes I look for in a woman, small feet are pretty far down the list.

Anne Pisor said...

Your proposition was addressed on page 14: "Whereas participants seem to be employing foot size in isolation primarily as the basis for inferences regarding proportionate foot size when they are judging women, the reverse appears to be true when they are judging men. In stark contrast to the absence of a preference for large feet when judging proportionate male foot size in Studies 1 and 2, Studies 4 and 5 reveal a strong preference for second largest male foot size when feet are viewed in isolation, along with an increased preference for the largest foot size and an increase in the dislike for the smallest foot size. Given that the second largest male body size is strongly preferred, followed by the largest male body size, and that the smallest male body size is overwhelmingly disliked, these patterns suggest that, when judging men on the basis of their feet in
isolation, participants primarily interpret feet as cues of male body size, and only secondarily attend to the question of
proportionate foot size."

Best,
Anne Pisor
Co-author

Anonymous said...

It's tough to disentangle the results of sexual selection from normal sexual dimorphism.

It's possible that, 30,000 years ago, women had bigger feet than they do today, and that via sexual selection the genes for bigger feet in women were removed from the gene pool. Which would mean that today, women have smaller feet "naturally" - meaning because that's the state of the current human genome.

Or not. There are myriad physical differences between the sexes in humans, and it seems unlikely that they all exist because of choices which individual humans have made over generations. In addition to smaller feet, women have shorter legs than men. Is that because men favor short-legged women? Because men favor short women? Neither of the above?

I'm inclined to believe that, along with higher body fat, a wider pelvis, a higher white blood cell count, narrower shoulders, shorter legs, etc, women's smaller feet are an innate part of being women. These natural differences may perhaps be accentuated by selection, but are not caused by it.

Anonymous said...

Given the fact that women are by nature shorter, fatter, and shorter -legged than men, it's peculiar that the standard of beauty for women in the West in 2012 is to be quite tall, with a high leg-to-height ratio, and low body fat. In other words, to be rather masculine.

bleach said...

Anonymous @ 3:22 is obviously a woman. No, that isn't the standard of beauty in the West, it's the standard for gay men and women working in fashion. Get a clue, most straight men like voluptuous

Anonymous said...

Anonymous @ 3:22 is obviously a woman.


That's a weirdly irrational statement. But note that I won't conclude on that basis that you are a woman.

Female models, actresses and so on are drawn from a certain subsection of the female poulation, and it ain't the voluptuous one. Arguably this reflects what women want to see as much or more than it does what men want to see. It's odd in any case though.

Anonymous said...

by nature shorter, fatter, and shorter -legged than men

Height and a lack of central obesity are good general cues of fitness, and women have longer legs from the hips because of a tall waist waist. Fat also isn't that independent. Fatter people also tend to have a larger and more masculine musculoskeletal structure, to support all that fat, which not feminine.

Which is why obese midgets with short legs looked at from the hips are not viewed as the most attractive women. The beauty ideal is slightly (but barely) taller than average women with a slightly higher body fat than average, but all of that invested in their hips and thighs and a little in the breast.

I have no idea why there are these obese women with few curves but lots of body fat and a heavy skeletal structure to support that fat, who are at or below average height on average, feel that they ought to be the beauty ideal and that if they are not, then gay men have done some sort of psychological voodoo to make straight men like normal women.

Peter said...

it's peculiar that the standard of beauty for women in the West in 2012 is to be quite tall, with a high leg-to-height ratio, and low body fat

I wish :(
In reality, today's standard of beauty for women involves something else. Or, more precisely, the lack of something else ...

Anonymous said...

Height and a lack of central obesity are good general cues of fitness, and women have longer legs from the hips because of a tall waist waist.


None of that makes any sense. Women do not have "longer legs". Women, as a rule, have shorter legs than men do. And in the normal course of things, women have greater body fat than men do - about twice as much.


Fatter people also tend to have a larger and more masculine musculoskeletal structure, to support all that fat


Again, this is nonsense. Women are "fatter people", compared to men, but they do not have "a larger and more masculine musculoskeletal structure to support all (that) fat".

If you are a man, please shut up and stop making the rest of us look stupid.

Anonymous said...

Women do not have "longer legs". Women, as a rule, have shorter legs than men do.

Height being a neutral signal of fitness makes perfect fucking sense, if you know anything about nutrition and health and the indicators that height tends to be an indicator of genetic load and nutrition, in addition to being dimorphic between men and women. Normal humans don't just select for the things that make men and women different when selecting a mate, but the things that make healthy and fit people different from unhealthy and unfit people. This is a motive for height differences.

Sure women actually do not have longer limbs than men and if anything have shorter limbs. What I am saying is that looked at from the waist down, women have a relatively longer portion than men do, even when their legs are shorter. This is generally what men mean when they say they like "leggy" women - they are just expressing it imprecisely.

Again, this is nonsense. Women are "fatter people", compared to men, but they do not have "a larger and more masculine musculoskeletal structure to support all (that) fat".

Christ, I think it's pretty obvious that what I mean is that what distinguishes fat women from non-fat women is that they have more fat and a larger skeletal structure than thin women to support that fat, while they have the same other body mass. Fat women do not lose other body mass when they get fat, they just get fat, and they need a larger body to support that fat carcass.

Obviously this is not what distinguishes women from men, because women have smaller other body mass.

This is just generally the way it works in a general population. "BBW" women tend to have larger bones and muscles under all that fat. That's unattractive to men. In addition to the fat that central obesity is probably unhealthier and more of a negative indicator of fertility than the bigger breasts and subcutaneous fat such women have. Nor that more feminine women are just generally smaller in every respect (males are larger than females), while big fat women are bigger.

Anonymous said...

Sure women actually do not have longer limbs than men and if anything have shorter limbs. What I am saying is that looked at from the waist down, women have a relatively longer portion than men do, even when their legs are shorter.



No, no, no, no, no.

It's true that, women being shorter than men overall, their legs are shorter in an absolute sense.

But what I've been trying to tell you, and what you keep resisting being told, is that their legs are also shorter in a relative sense.

"Women’s legs constitute only 51 per cent of their overall height compared with 56 per cent for men."

Women do not have relatively longer legs than men. Women have relatively shorter legs than men. Do you get it now?


I think it's pretty obvious that what I mean is that what distinguishes fat women from non-fat women is that they have more fat and a larger skeletal structure than thin women to support that fat


I have seen you make that allegation, but I have yet to see you offer a single shred of evidence to support it.

European American women are notable fatter than European women in Europe. (For that matter, European American men are notably fatter than European men in Europe - but you seem disinterested in that topic)

So if what you are saying is correct then it must follow that German-American women have a larger skeletal structure than German-German women. And so on for Italian-American women, etc etc.

Can you cite a single scientific study which has found this to be the case?

People can, and do, change their weight considerably by dieting. Some people will drop 100 lbs or more, and then sometimes put it back on again. Is it your contention that their skeletal structure changes it's size and/or density as they put on or take off weight? If it is, again, .... evidence?

Anonymous said...

"BBW" women tend to have larger bones and muscles under all that fat. That's unattractive to men.


Great. Let's stipulate that obesity in women (and in men, for that matter) is unhealthy and unattractive, since you seem to think that this is a point of fierce contention and something you need to keep saying over and over.

jewamongyou said...

Or maybe smaller feet made it harder for women to run away.