The “dad bod” thing: not fair!

Vince Vaughan, they say, has a dad bod.
Vince Vaughan, they say, has a dad bod.

The “dad bod” has been in the news again as Yale anthropologist Richard Bribiescas said that, contrary to what the heteronormative media will have you believe, women (code for “straight women”) are more attracted to the “dad bod” than the muscle-bound ripped men’s physique we thought they were attracted to.

What’s a dad bod? In the Maxim article I read on this, they identified it as a men’s body type associated with lower levels of testosterone, less muscle mass, and more fat.

Sam has already posted about dad bods and mom bods. And she already said “what about the mom bod?”

Now, I don’t know how solid the research is that says straight women are more attracted to this kind of men’s body type than they are the six-pack type. But let’s say there’s something to it.

My first reaction is, it’s not fair! I mean, like Sam said, there’s just no equivalent permission for women to relax into aging in quite the same way, permission to carry more body fat and less muscle. I mean, we do. But it’s a perilous and much lamented road to travel.  Whatever else you might describe it as, “more attractive to men” is not among the descriptors that spring to mind.

My second reaction is, this says a lot about straight women. I’m going to assume that not all of them/us think the same way or are drawn to the same things. But I like to think that it means women are more realistic and accepting. Maybe it even suggests that we’re less superficial. And for sure it’s evidence that we take more qualities into account besides the physical.

Now of course you can’t draw many conclusions about someone from their bod alone. Not at all. But the fact that there are a range of attractive body types that men get to have while still remaining attractive to the women who would love them is less about the objective desirability of the dad bod itself and more about men’s desirability and attractiveness having a much more diverse set of metrics than women’s. It’s not just about where they rank, looks-wise, on a scale of 0-10. Apparently (and I’m paraphrasing a Maxim article here, not providing primary source material!), women think of the dad bad as indicative of faithful husbands and better fathers who are going to stick around. And those qualities are valued.

And that brings me right back to my first reaction: it’s not fair. Fair would be if body diversity and desirability without vigilant attention to the physical was as available to straight women as to straight men. Fair would be if women’s desirability to men covered a larger range of qualities that went beyond the physical.

A final point about this kind of report. Does it have to be that one type is better than another? Why can’t it be, as I have interpreted it here, that we’re open to more diversity…that we are open to being attracted to dad bods as well as six packs? I mean I get it, we want to reassure all the non-six pack dudes out there. But we don’t need to diss other types to do that, right? I think of the counterpart for women. It would be amazing if we started reading that more fat and less muscle was also found attractive in women. It doesn’t have to be more attractive than the thin, lean look to be cause for celebration.





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