Supremely petite, slim and light
Across cultures and eras, poets are infatuated with slim waists, scientists have found. And what applies to the literati should probably also apply to the rest of the male world, because biology obviously has a hand in it: a delicate midsection provides excellent information about a woman's state of he alth.
Her plaits, the shape of her head, neck and neck were beautiful beyond all description, and the waist, which is hardly visible in the modern antique-style clothing of women, extremely dainty, slender and light, showed itself in her in Extremely beneficial to the older costume.
(Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, The Elected Affinities)
Is there any culture whose literature does not extol the virtues of female forms? Probably not. What inspired poets privately always found its way into their public work. However, there is no consensus on the question of what makes a woman beautiful: big breasts, small breasts, full lips or thin ones – evidence for all of this can be found in world history if you just look for it.
Scientists led by Devendra Singh from the University of Texas at Austin did exactly that. They combed through the pool of world literature and paid special attention to another much-vaunted characteristic: the wasp waist. Unlike the others, they suspected that this one might be a universal beauty feature.
Only those works that were uninfluenced by modern mass media and contemporary Western culture were selected - British literature of the 16th century.to the 18th century as well as classical Indian and Chinese poetry - and yet the findings were clear. Nowhere was the attractiveness of a wide waist sung about.
If coincidence can be ruled out given these results, there must be good reasons why precisely this trait is not subject to fads. The authors say that evolution probably tried to steer homo sapiens' choice of mate in the right direction.
What makes the slender waist appear so desirable to men is above all the information it reveals about its owner. It is the only part of the body known to date that allows reliable conclusions to be drawn about disease risks, estrogen balance and fertility - regardless of total body weight. Numerous medical studies have now been able to prove this.
Blame it on male-style fat stored in the abdomen. If too much of it encloses the internal organs, it can lead to he alth problems. On the other hand, the more attractive pear shape is found in women whose fat accumulates on the thighs, hips and buttocks.
If you follow Singh's literary search for clues, then there can be a little more of this fat without damaging the attractiveness. Therefore, simply losing weight does not automatically lead to a more beautiful body shape – the relationship to the rest of the body is what counts for the impression of a slim waist. By the way, Rubens' painted beauties are no exception.