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.


    • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

Have an opinion?

What Guys Said 3

  • the way things are portrayed in art isn't necessarily what the ideal body was. it's just the way things were.

    men have always been warriors and laborers. therefore, they have always been fit because their work makes them fit.

    women, however, worked in the house. their work may have still been stressful, but it wasn't the kind that burns a lotta calories. wealthy women would really only have to raise children. and there were no stairmasters or weight watcher programs. also, women used to marry very young, and there pretty much was no birth control. we all know what having children does to the body

  • Probably because men have sometimes needed women to be a certain way, to gratify their own peculiar tendencies. Women are more intuitive, emotional creatures who tend not to get so messed up. They know a hot body when they see it, and there isn't too much variety in what a hot body is. A hundred years ago, a respectable man might not even want a sexy wife, because she would be too much for him to handle. Nowadays, people are getting more and more sexually-liberated, and nearly everyone under 50 can agree, the hotter, the wilder, the sexier, the better!

  • The ideal male's body probably won't ever change because it is not only the body that is attractive, but the concept of being strong. A strong man can offer you comfort, protection, better sex because they are in better shape, and they are more athletic.

    As for the ideal woman, its just all preference. We live in a much more sex driven society today, and part of sex is being sexy. And having a nice toned body, with a nice ass, and good t*ts is a biiiiiiiig part of being sexy.

    • But the thing is that female body was considered to be the ideal of sexiness back then.

    • Perhaps the female ideal in the future will be bigger and more muscular, as the balance of power between the sexes plays out in terms of expectations, strength etc.

      for example, most guys of the current generation, who are "successful", look to be with other successful women.

What Girls Said 7

  • I think its because the family unit in society has changed. When the goal of a relationship was to marry and have children, a woman whose body was more "healthy" looking, and curvacious (great for breeding..hate to put it that way but...so it is) was very attractive.

    Nowadays...having babies isn't the primary goal...its not a given that we're going to pump out as many as our bodies will allow and stay at home with the kids, many more women are pursuing careers and make that a priority over starting a family and many people don't want to have kids at all. So having the body for it isn't really as important as it used to be.

    But then and still now...generally speaking, men are looked at as the caregivers, the strong one, the protective one, etc. Unlike the role of women, the role of men and how we perceive them hasn't changed too much over the years.

  • Not everyone likes the same things. There may be a guy that doesn't want his girl to look that way. And back then there may have been a guy who didn't want his girl to look like that.

    Just something to think about.

  • at many times through history the ideals of what a man and women should be has changed. Often, particularly among nobel europeans, the ideal man was very effeminate, rather then strong or physically tough.

  • Men are pigs. end of story...

    But those men don't cut it for me...I like a little koosh on my guys stomach...I like men who live life as normal, crazy people...not the "ATHLETE, WHUH!(That was a sound effect by the way)"

    • Lol I like this answer only because I have a little koosh on my stomach lol

    • Show All
    • Sorry, but you sound and I can only see a very pointy chin (interesting photo angle choice that may be telling)....like you are overweight and thus intimidated by the male athletic ideal.

      i won't even click on ur photo to confirm...

      just being honest :)

    • EXCUSE ME?!?!? What does my weight have to do with my opinion on life?

      And how can you tell my weight by a photo that you can only see part of a face in? And how do you even know the picture is of me, really?

      I am not intimidated by the 'male athletic ideal' I just don't think that anyone is perfect. I don't think anyone should strive for perfection. Life is messy. Love is messy. Perfect is boring.

  • Honestly I think it was supposed to be the skinny some what muscls. not like brad pit

    pretty much the 1500's

  • Well, if you go back far enough, it has. The ancient Greeks considered a small penis more attractive than a large one. That can be seen in their art.

  • this is a fascinating subject. I did a project on it once, I think part of why the standards of women have changed so drastically is because the their roles have changed. their role used to be to bear children and to stay in the home. a woman built like in the portrait would be good for bearing sons. but now women are more companions, they are active and out of the house.

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