You know, science requires a lot of courage. It takes courage on behalf of the scientists, trying new things, developing new techniques. And it takes courage on the part of the participants. It takes a really courageous person to give birth in an fMRI. To orgasm in an fMRI, to have SEX in an fMRI, to...well people like to do freaky things in fMRIs. I bet there's a fetish for that.
But it takes another kind of courage to walk into a bar with a stuffed bra and sit quietly at a table for an hour, waiting to see how many dudes ask you out. It takes a special kind of courage...to stuff your bra for science.
Gueguen. "Women’s bust size and men’s courtship solicitation" Body Image, 2007.
The idea was simple. We've all HEARD that guys prefer bigger breasts. Victoria's Secret really wants you to believe that guys prefer bigger breasts. Bra companies in general want you to believe it so very badly that they will stuff any bra smaller than a DD.
But is it true? Previous studies have shown that men prefer the silhouettes of women with larger breasts. They prefer pictures of women with larger breasts, and written descriptions of women with larger breasts. But apparently all this isn't enough.
No, you gotta get a woman out there, and make her sit (probably uncomfortably) for an hour with a stuffed bra while guys try to pick her up. For science.
The author said his sample size was 76 guys for experiment 1 and 30 for experiment 2. But not really, that was just the number of guys who approached the girl. There was only one girl. One 20 year old girl who had been previously rated as being "of average attractiveness". They sent her out for more than 40 nights, wearing nice jeans, sneakers, and a tight white shirt. And she went as either an A, a B, or a C cup. For one experiment she sat in a bar for an hour, and for the other she sat outside on the patio of a bar. A guy sat watching her the entire time (probably trying very unsuccessfully to look non-skeezy) and counted how many guys came to up to offer her a drink or to dance with her. Whenever asked, the woman was instructed to say that she was waiting for her boyfriend.
The results were pretty striking, more than double the dudes came sniffing around when the girl was a C compared to an A. So...guys prefer girls with bigger breasts. The miracle bra is backed up by science.
STOP THE PRESSES. THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.
Oh wait? We knew that? Oh. Ooops.
Obviously there are lots of issues with this study. The first issue is this: One woman, three cup sizes. One woman. From this they conclude that dudes like boobs. Sure. But it's kind of like presenting the men of the world with Angelia Jolie and asking if they find her attractive, and when a large number say sure, deciding that she's the standard for beauty. Different breast sizes look different on different women, and bigger is not better to everyone.
Not only that, we have to keep in mind, the girl was stuffing her bra. With latex, sure, but stuffing. Stuffed bras look and ride differently on the chest than actual breasts. Those were probably some quite perky Cs she was sporting. Probably a bit perkier than might occur in reality. And we know from previous studies that breast shape has as much to do with what men think of the breast as the size does. A little sag or unrealistic perk could make a big difference.
And what about the women herself? She was instructed to sit quietly, but she's not made of stone. For many women, a stuffed bra adds confidence (mostly from knowing guys like big boobs), maybe she felt more attractive? Maybe she looked around more, appeared more inviting?
And finally, this paper's from 2007 and they only went up to C?! I mean, I know it's France, but you coulda shot for a D cup. And I'd be curious to see if this is a linear association, or more of an inverted-U. Is there a point at which boob size becomes LESS attractive? What is that point?
Basically, I think you need a larger number of women, varying their cup size in a larger number of ways. And even then, I don't think we'd necessarily be looking at a biological drive toward men preferring big breasts. The promotion of breasts as sexual objects may have just as much to do with culture as it does with biology. But hey, if you really WANT to start stuffing your bra for science...well we can still learn something! It's about time those miracle bras earned their price tag.
Gueguen N (2007). Women's bust size and men's courtship solicitation. Body image, 4 (4), 386-90 PMID: 18089285
PS: I noted something else...weird about this paper. The methods say the girl went out on 12 on hour trials, with the bust size varied...but only 3 trials per are displayed in the results. Yes, that's a total of 9 trials, but where were the other three? The pavement condition (7 trials for each condition, 21 total trials) adds up just fine, but the club one has some numbers missing. Probably it's a typo, but still.