Why has the ideal male body not changed over time?

The ideal female body has changed a lot throughout time, but it is not the same for the male body.


Ideal Male body circa 1500s: link

Ideal Male body 2000s: link

Ideal Female body circa 1500s: link

Ideal Female body 2000s: link

And by 'ideal' I mean society's ideal. Not necessarily what every woman or man sees as the ideal physique for the opposite sex.


Most Helpful Guy

  • I'll try to give you correct and complete answers to your question

    Concerning women, the answer is this :

    Until the twentieth century, having enough to eat wasn't evident every year or every month in Western civilization and much children (and women) died at birth/ giving birth or very young. Fertility has been a high necessity for mankind during thousands of years. People didn't live very old and had to get a lot of children to sustain them later: there were no pensions, no health insurance plans.

    All that was their children's' responsibility, and in a society based on agriculture many hands were needed. Having many children was their insurance and pension plan, their wealth. (family life & relations are still like that in most developing countries. Once they get social security, overpopulation can end)

    "Rounded" women had fat reserves to survive a period of food shortage and still bear children. Large breasts were perceived as (potentially) full of milk for the baby. That was the kind of female body a man desiring offspring would look for. During the fifties, fat babies were still very much in, as were full breasted Mae West style women: There had been two World Wars and poverty from the 1930 crisis.

    At this moment, youth is idealized and the slender woman looks more like an adolescent girl than a full grown woman.

    Male bodies?

    The David by Michelangelo was one of his first works (himself thus being young) and he was inspired by (Roman copies of) Greek statues.

    Later in his life Michelangelo will represent more solid and muscled men: link

    link (one should mention too that Michelangelo was bisexual, probably with homosexual prevalence)

    The male body shown is an American stereotype that originated in Hollywood but muscled men can be found in abundance in art history: men had to protect the family, to fight, to hunt.

    Thus, yes, body ideals changed and they changed under influence of civilization, economics and history.

    • Report

      At this moment, youth is idealized and the slender woman looks more like an adolescent girl than a full grown woman.

      ->only on this continent and some countries. certainly not in France, Japan etc, where people have healthier diets.

    • Report

      IDK about Japan, but the idealization of youth and thus the image of the ideal woman" seems about the same in Europe as in the USA. (with more accent on large breasts concerning the USA) and in the USA women seem to feel more inadequate if they don't conform to 'the norm'. Hence the abundance of aesthetic surgery clinics in the US (Europe has some too, of course)

      IDK if anorexia is the same plague among adolescent girls in the USA as it is in France, but in France it is a real problem.

    • Report

      I'm an admin on a French forum for adolescents since 6 years and the articles that got the most "viewings" there last years were articles about anorexia nervosa.