On gender differences in expectations of thinness, and the impact on guys who live in their parents’ basement


At dinner a few years ago, one of my friends brought up a study (which I can't find, so who knows if it's actually true, but let's assume it's true for the sake of the story) that examined the effect of gender differences in expectations of thinness. One of the factors that the study considered was sexual orientation, and they found that homosexual men were, on average, thinner than their heterosexual brethren, and conversely that heterosexual women were thinner on average than their homosexual um, what's the female counterpart to "brethren"?

In other words, the conclusion of the study was that the pressure to be thin depends not so much on your own gender but rather on the gender of the person you're trying to attract. If you want to attract a man, you are more likely to be thin.

Like I said, whether what is now a thirdhand report of the study's conclusions is true isn't important to the story. It just served as a catalyst for this snippet of conversation that ensued.

Deborah: "I can see that. My friend Eleanor [not her real name] is a tall, beautiful Asian woman, and she says she won't date guys unless they have a bit of a pot belly."

Me: "You do realize that you just instilled hope into the hearts of thousands of guys who live in their parents' basement?"

Sorry guys, I didn't ask for Eleanor's number.

Comments (16)
  1. Anonymous says:

    Brethren is just an old-English plural form of ‘brother’. There were multiple similar forms for ‘sister’ : the Oxford English Dictionary cites sustren, sostren and sistren, but says all had largely fallen out of use by the mid-16th century in favour of the simple ‘sisters’.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’d guess ‘sorors’ as the counterpart to brethren?

  3. peterchen says:

    the operative word being "a bit"?

  4. DWalker59 says:

    The word you want is "cistern".  :-)

  5. Anonymous says:

    Deborah should warn "Eleanor" that the human male, when caught and domesticated, often does put on weight. The pot belly that charms her today could be several sizes larger by the fifth anniversary.

    And there are whole demographic ranges apart from the basement where men run to pot bellies even before settling down. In some I can think of, "Eleanor" could have her choice of suitably pudgy men of 30 who not only had met women but had divorced two or three.

  6. Anonymous says:

    "Pressure to be thin depends not so much on your own gender but rather on the gender of the person you’re trying to attract. If you want to attract a man, you are more likely to be thin. "

    Yes it is so much FACT… Of course you think so much of how will you make that person fall for you… From that Losing weight will be the first resort.. though mostly it reflects too much to women…

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’d argue it is over 50% culture: we’re told to be this way over and over again, so eventually we assimilate it into our own views. We think being tan is attractive in the US, yet in the Victorian era being pale was regarded as attractive.

    Many characteristics of physical beauty are arbitrary at best.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The pale/tan one is (as far as I’ve heard) all about class.

    Working class toiled in the fields, so were tan.  The upper class didn’t, and were pale, so pale was  regarded as the best way to be (see bluebloods)

    Now everyone works indoors (for the most part), being tan means being able to be outside, vacationing, whatnot, and so better off than the working class, so tan is the best way to be (well, this bit is pure speculation).

  9. Anonymous says:

    I know a woman who only dates people with glasses.  It’s a Thing.

  10. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know if you’ve ever read Freakonomics but that book quotes a study of an online personals website where they found that women routinely understated their size/weight by about 10% and men overstated their salary by about 10%.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I have a female friend who like short bald men (no inclination towards pot-bellies has been demonstrated to date). While there’s someone for everyone, it is inevitable that sometimes it will be a 1:M relationship, not a 1:1.

  12. Anonymous says:

    That’s not called a pot belly.  It’s called *prosperity*.

  13. Anonymous says:

    @Andrew: If so, I’m disappointed in my sex’s lack of ambition. Ten percent is not a raise I’d turn down, but there are few places on the income scale where it makes the difference between living large and barely getting by, though I suppose there’s often the pyschological effect of changing the leading digit.

    But 10% of body weight is a lot, the difference between my current Eleanor-approved build and the rail-thin shape I once had. For most of the boxing weight classes a 10 percent decrease in weight drops two or three classes, e.g. light heavyweight to middleweight. (Not that I was ever looking for a woman to spar with, mind you.)

  14. Anonymous says:

    The silly thing is that I’ve heard some (female) acquaintances obsess about weight differences that no one would notice.

    It’s funny, the way you made the connect between Asian and people living in their parents’ basement. But I doubt she would date any of them, not even if they would have the exact right amount of pot belly and otherwise look like Greek gods.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Deborah: "I can see that. My friend Eleanor [not her real name] is a tall, beautiful Asian woman, and she says she won’t date guys unless they have a bit of a pot belly."

    Well, that’s reassuring to we of the slight paunch. Personally, I have a preferred body type, but the thing that really seals a relationship has got to be goals & values: The physical stuff just has to be close.

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