Breast Size: Does It Really Matter? Researchers Grope for Answers to This Age-Old Question
A recent study suggests that the type of breasts men actually find most appealing isn’t what we might expect.
From Dolly Parton’s famously fake boobs to Christina Hendricks’ all natural knockers, big breasts have long been a heavily sought after standard of beauty. Perhaps that’s why, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS), there were 279,143 domestic breast augmentations in 2015, making it the most popular cosmetic surgery procedure in the United States.
However, a recent study suggests that the type of breasts men actually find most appealing isn’t what we might expect. When paired with certain scientific studies, the ASPS statistics provide valuable insight into what really constitutes a perfect pair of breasts and how trends in plastic surgery reflect this standard of beauty.
Study One: What Do Men Want Most?
The Theory Behind the Research
Why did the researchers, a group of 14 scientists from Charles University in Prague, choose as their focus – men’s opinions of women’s breasts? Well, it’s all in the evolutionary theory behind the science. Unlike those of other primates, the breasts of human females contain fat deposits. According to the researchers, these fat deposits serve no purpose.
However, they are responsible for adding the volume and shape that distinguishes women’s breasts from men’s, which could signify that larger breasts evolved in women for aesthetic purposes. Due to their preferences, did men play an unwitting role in the evolution of women’s breast size? Using this hypothesis, the Charles University researchers endeavored to find out what exactly men’s breast preferences are and why they like what they like.
“Men’s Preference for Women’s Breast Size and Shape in Four Cultures,” in the March 2017 issue of Evolution & Human Behavior, functions from the premise that men favor large breasts. The researchers surveyed 267 men from four countries: Brazil, Cameroon, Czech Republic and Namibia. The men were shown two sets of images. One set contained a wide range of breast sizes and the other a range of breast firmness. The men were then asked to rate the images according to attractiveness.
While there was some variation in individual preference, the results showed that the majority of the men in the study ranked medium-sized breasts as most appealing and all four groups surveyed agreed upon the desirability of breast firmness. This came as a surprise to the researchers who had been operating under the common assumption that men are drawn to larger breasts because they indicate higher levels of estrogen and as such, greater fertility.
The researchers used the set of images containing varying breast sizes as a measure for what they termed “potential fertility.” The set of images showing varying breast firmness, on the other hand, was used to measure “residual fertility.” In other words, a woman’s fertility waxes and wanes with age. The size of a woman’s breasts signify her overall fertility. Women with large breasts have the potential to be very fertile but, as they age, this potential decreases as their breasts begin to sag. Conversely, breast firmness is an indicator of youth and young women represent greater fertility potential.
Given this, men’s preference for firm, medium-sized breasts suggested to the researchers that men value residual fertility (breast firmness) as much as potential fertility (breast size). In their own words, these men “prefer breast morphology that indicates both high potential and residual fertility.” However, make no mistake: Men still prefer larger breasts to smaller ones.
Study Two: What About the Perfect Shape?
Of course, theirs was not the only research looking into which type of breasts men consider most attractive. A 2012 study entitled “Population Analysis of the Perfect Breast: A Morphometric Analysis” and published in the Journal of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery’s September 2014 issue was less concerned with breast size and focused instead on shape and proportion.
The Cadogan Clinic’s Dr. Patrick Mallucci and the Royal Free Hampstead NHS Trust’s Dr. Olivier Alexandre Branford’s objective was to establish a standard of beauty by which plastic surgeons could measure breast procedures. The survey was conducted on 1315 men and women–including 53 plastic surgeons–of various ages and ethnicities.
Similar to the previous study, Branford and Mallucci had their subjects view a series of images of women’s breasts, some real and others computer-generated. The participants were asked to rank the breasts according to their level of attractiveness. The breasts were categorized according to their proportions below and above the nipple. For example, a breast labeled 40:60 would have 40% of the breast above the nipple (upper pole) and 60% below (lower pole).
The results were nearly unanimous in favor of breasts labeled 45:55. This ratio was favored by 87% of women, 90% of men and 94% of plastic surgeons. 50:50 came in a distant second. In short, people preferred breasts that were slightly off center on the vertical axis.
Study Three: More on the Ideal Shape
An August, 2016 study on the ideal placement of the areola had similar goals to the study described above. “The Aesthetically Ideal Position of the Nipple-Areola Complex on the Breast” was published last summer in Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. The five researchers who conducted the study sought to establish criteria to define the “ideal” pair of breasts.
In an attempt to succeed where they believed others had failed, the researchers surveyed a total of 812 people, both men and women. The participants were shown images of breasts and asked to rank them by attractiveness. The images displayed varying nipple-areola complex (NAC) positions. In other words, the nipples were located in different places on each pair of breasts. Some were positioned higher while others were centered or lower. The nipples were also placed differently on the breast in a horizontal manner, some more toward the outside of the breast, and others toward the inside. The breasts were shown from several angles, presenting the participants a clear view of the nipple placement.
Ultimately, the conclusions reached were similar to those from Study Two. Both men and women agreed that the ideal ratio of breast above and below the nipple was 40:60. In other words, 40% of the breast was situated above the nipple and 60% below. This study added another dimension to the research by also deriving an ideal ratio to the left and right of the nipple. Both men and women agreed that this ratio should be 50:50.
In other words, the nipples in an ideal pair of breasts should be placed dead center when considered horizontally.
What This Means for Plastic Surgery
The researchers in Study Two envisioned their results as a way to establish a consistent standard – an “aesthetic template” for the perfect chest. The researchers in the first and last study, however, seemed to be less fixated on improved plastic surgery and more concerned with the nubility hypothesis, and what breast preferences can teach us about the evolution of certain traits.
However, one thing is certain across the board: We are closing in on the perfect pair of breasts and plastic surgeons can use this knowledge to better serve and satisfy their patients.
Changes in recent plastic surgery trends suggest that patients and doctors are already responding to the research. As previously stated, breast augmentation remains the most sought after of all forms of plastic surgery. However, breast lifts have been on the rise since 2000, gaining on implants two to one. That’s a 70% increase in breast lifts, meaning more people are interested in the “residual nubility” look.
It’s unclear whether this shift is a result of the patient’s wishes or of better-informed surgeons guiding them toward the best solutions. In any case, the door is open for more breast lifts as patients learn that bigger isn’t always better.
The Perfect Pair of Breasts Revealed!
Taking the results of these studies into account, we can now identify with greater scientific accuracy what breast type is generally considered most attractive. And now, ladies and gentlemen, without further adieu, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. The perfect breasts are: firm, medium-sized with nipples that are perfectly centered horizontally and slightly higher vertically (with a little more than half of the breast below the nipple). They are even and shapely, but not too rounded (with too much of the breast located above the nipple).
Who knew rating physical attractiveness could be turned into an exact science?
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