Jessica Alba wins in the mathematics of sex appeal

TOP MARKS: Jessica Alba has what men want, mathematically speaking.
TOP MARKS: Jessica Alba has what men want, mathematically speaking.

Forget size zero. Attracting men is about the waist-to-hip ratio, Sarah Harvey discovers.

Kiwi Women don't have to look like Jessica Alba or Kate Moss but - shock! horror! - our men would find us more attractive if we did.

You see, these celebrities with personal trainers, diets and plastic surgery have what a Wellington researcher has found to be the most desirable waist-to- hip ratio of 0.7 - their waist measurement is 70% of their hip circumference.

But fear not, women of New Zealand, you don't have to be a size zero to achieve this scientific definition of sexiness, it is after all, all about the ratio, so you could be a few sizes bigger than Alba and Moss but still achieve the desirable ratio, with 60s siren Marilyn Monroe an example.

"It is likely that the perfect 0.7 ratio sends a biological signal to men that this woman is most fertile and most likely to produce a healthy offspring, no matter what size that woman is," says anthropologist Barnaby Dixson, of Wellington.

Dixson has just completed his thesis titled Sexual Selection and the Evolution of Human Physique.

He has spent the past five years doing research in an area of Cameroon, West Africa, called Bakossiland, as well as in China, Samoa and right here in New Zealand; all in the name of finding out what the average man sees as attractive.

In the lab at Victoria University in Wellington, a group of male volunteers had their eyes tracked with an infra-red camera as they looked at a digitally altered picture of a woman. It was discovered - surprise, surprise - that within the first second their eyes tracked to the breasts and the waist.

Of all the digitally altered pictures men looked at, the most preferred was the one with the 0.7 waist-hip ratio - just like Alba or Moss.

Head to Cameroon though and the ratio changes to 0.8, which means a slightly more athletic or masculine physique is preferred.

This, Dixson said, was likely because they live a subsistence lifestyle where the women are out with the men competing for resources, which meant the healthiest women developed a slightly straighter and more athletic figure.

In China, they have gone to the other extreme, with men there preferring their women to be curvier, with an ideal waist- hip ratio of 0.6, which means the waist is even smaller compared to the hips.

"There are interesting cross-cultural differences, but men still find the low waist-to-hip ratio in the typical women's range of 0.6 to 0.8 as attractive."

Dixson's research follows on from similar research by his father, Allan, a Victoria University biological sciences professor, focusing on women's breasts.

He confirmed that men prefer women with medium-sized or large breasts.

Dixson Jr hopes his research will help us understand broadly what's behind a man's choice of partner. And, to square the ledger, his next study will feature women eye-tracking men's bodies to find out what women want.

Sunday Star Times