A recent study by University researchers concluded that men tend to prefer women with specific lumbar curvatures — and its promotion prompted criticism on social media.
The study explored the correlation between women’s spinal curves and men’s dating preferences, suggesting that the optimal male preference for a female mate is a 45.5 degree lumbar curvature. The results of the study were based on two experiments with a total sample size of about 300 men, who found images of women with the 45.5 degree angle as the most attractive.
“The principal aim of the second [experiment] was to show that what was assumed to be a butt preference is not that,” said David Lewis, lead researcher and UT alumnus, in an email to the Texan. “Rather, it appears to be a preference for curvy spines.”
When the University’s official Facebook page posted an article about the study earlier this week, it prompted conversations about sexism, feminism and the scientific method generally.
The top-liked comment, from UT graduate Carolyn Fusinato, featured frustration about the focus of the study.
“Please show me a study about what women like [because] it’s 2015. That is all,” she wrote.
Another user called the study “embarrassing” and “shallow nonsense.”
Business sophomore Caitlin Walsh said she thought many people showed an unnecessarily strong reaction to the study.
“I don’t know why there was such a negative reaction,” Walsh said. “It’s just stating a correlation that was found, but they are treating it as inherently sexist.”
Several men and women who commented on the post wrote about women changing their bodies to fit this new standard of beauty. Walsh said she wasn’t sure how much women would be able to do to adjust to beauty standards involving lumbar curvature.
“Are women going to start, like, standing differently, hurting their backs or getting some weird surgery so that their spine is more curvy?” Walsh said. “I feel like it’s not something we can really change.”
Lewis said he felt many people misunderstood the purpose of the study. The research will be valuable to society because it addresses some of the roots of cultural perceptions of beauty, he said.
“If we want to create societal change, then understanding the deep roots of [perceptions of attractiveness] is critical,” Lewis said. “Without an evolutionary perspective, we might have continued to hold a misconception about the world. Instead, we now have both a clarification of our assumption and a new discovery.”