David Bainbridge + curves = shape sense

Author David Bainbridge scrutinises the female figure

“I’m interested in the female form, but particularly fascinated by the focus on women’s bodies in contemporary media. That was the inspiration behind my sixth book”.

1. On typical female over-analysis

Women think about their bodies for more of the day than men, and Bainbridge, author of Curvology: The Origins And Power Of Female Body Shape (£14.99, amazon.co.uk), says we also think about our bodies and how men see us in more complicated ways.

“Women think they understand how men see their bodies – thinking it’s as rudimentary as women, analysing areas from different angles. But men aren’t hard-wired to notice details like cellulite.  And there’s very little of this analytical thinking going on with men about their own bodies”.

2. On the social complexity of the female form 

“I’m amazed by the pressure on women over their bodies and how they respond to it.  Size, and the psychology over how much space you take up is ingrained from a small age – the sexes are treated differently from birth.

“Even when dressing women are encouraged to take up a certain amount of space”.

  • 3. On the reality of cellulite “Cellulite occurs because female fat tissue is squidgy and held in place by fibrous collagen, and that collagen is laid down differently in men and women. In men it’s parallel. With women it’s arranged more perpendicular to skin, which means that when the fat swells, and limbs are put into certain positions, the fat bulges out from those fibrous sub divisions. This is entirely natural”.4. On having feet like bear paws

    “Going up onto two legs and developing a weird floating gait was the first distinctive thing our ancestors did. I suspect we did it because we are incredibly efficient, almost up there with donkeys and horses in terms of being able to cover ground quickly. If you look at X-rays of human feet they look more like bear’s paws than monkey’s, which appear more like hands to the naked eye”.

    5. On the development of the wiggle

    “As we became upright womens’ hips and pelvis’ evolved, both becoming bigger. This is what gives you a wiggle – you have a wider pelvis, and hips further apart, so the more front and back you have to move your bottom as you walk.And with the development of the hips and pelvis, babies started to get bigger brains. Gaining extra inches on the thighs and buttocks is a way of storing gluteofemoral fat in advance of pregnancy. So bigger bums make bigger brains!”

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    Christian Dior evening underdress c 1955: made to accentuate waist, hips, thighs & bottom


6. On big bottoms

“I think the current obsession with bigger bottoms is partly that, although it feels like we’ve been told forever that being skinny is attractive, we’re beginning to realise this isn’t necessarily true.  It’s partly the realization of what heterosexual men really like too.  And it’s partly coincidental in terms of who has happened to become famous.

I do wonder that as more Hispanic, black women and non-white Caucasians become role models – women like Beyonce, the Kardashians, Jennifer Lopez – and women see how uniformly confident and lusted after these women apparently are, that they can see that having a more rounded figure is OK. After all, it’s only in the last 100 years that thinness was valued at all”.

7. On the mythical love for long legs

“Are long legs more attractive?  Actually, men see women with medium length legs as more attractive.  The desirability of long legs has been accentuated in the West probably because of media.  But length is not exceptionally important.

What I suspect is important is straightness – it’s an indicator of genetic health and good nutrition when you were a child.  Until 100 years or so ago wonky legs were a sign of inbreeding and rickets, and women still subconsciously seek out straight legs in men because of those connotations.  So the width and length is largely unimportant”.