An editor no doubt slapped that head on there to draw some traffic (as I did!). The word "fat" doesn't appear in the article -- it used more clinical terms like "obese" and "overweight." And the study of 10,000 people in France asked a pretty clinical question: have you had a sex partner in the past year? And overweight women were 30 percent less likely than "average" women to have had a sexual partner in the past 12 months.
The big take-away is that chubby French dudes do just fine -- they report a sexual partner in the past 12 months at a rate equal to skinny guys.
One of the authors of the study said, "Maybe women are more tolerant of tubby husbands than men are of tubby wives."
Mathias sees it differently:
There's another explanation for the disparity between big boys and big girls and how likely they are to get any tail, of course. In order to even remove a sock in the bedroom, most of us have to feel like we're attractive, desired and wanted by our partner. This can be nigh-on-impossible if you believe even a tiny fraction of the media hype surrounding the thin and beautiful. So maybe it's not that men don't want to sleep with overweight women, but that overweight women have so internalized mainstream beauty standards they can't bring themselves to fool around.
I'd also note another social pressure that's unaddressed in the article. I've lived in France briefly, and I can tell you that while French men can be pretty smooth, there are a lot of very macho lunkheads (and you can scratch the veneer off of some of the smooth ones and find a macho lunkhead beneath). It's a Latin country, with this big romantic tradition. And it's also a predominantly Catholic country, with an attendant tradition of slut-shaming. You put all that together and what you're likely to get is a reporting bias: French men (like all men, but maybe more so) may over-play the amount of action they're getting to avoid appearing like losers in a way women wouldn't.
(Interestingly, this study
of American men and women, using data from the 2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, concluded, "Obese and overweight individuals, especially men
, self report fewer sex partners than individuals of normal weight...")
Looking just at the women, Mathias seems to me to have the right answer. France also leads the world in impossible-to-achieve body images (arguably). I'd like to see what a similar study would reveal of African-American women, who aren't held to the same body standard, and I imagine are doing just fine in the bedroom.
I'm not basing that on stereotype. Here's Vanessa Chetty of Loyala University, with a lit-review
It was initially believed that African American women simply adopted the standards of Caucasian beauty, but research has proved otherwise. One study (Parker, 2002) found that when asked to describe the “perfect” girl, African American women described someone who interacted will with others, basing little on physical assets, while Caucasian women described primarily physical traits, with the image a 5’ 7’’ thin woman with long blonde hair and blue eyes emerging most frequently. Of these same women, 90 % of Caucasians were dissatisfied with their current body, while 30% of African Americans were dissatisfied. Much research has been done on the relationship between self-esteem and body image and how it differs between Caucasian and African American women. Studies have found that African American women tend to be more satisfied with their bodies than Caucasians (Herzberger & Molloy, 1998). The Body Self-Esteem Survey and the Personal and Academic Self-Concept Inventory, PASCI, (Fleming and Whalen, 1990, adapted from Fleming and Courtney, 1984) were used to assess the self-esteem of each participant. African American women scored higher than Caucasians on the PASCI, and also higher on the Body Self-Esteem Survey, indicating less of a tendency to diet and also a higher desired body weight. When asked to select bodies that men would find most attractive, overall, women had distorted views of the ideal body, but African American women had more accurate views, and Caucasian women had more distorted views (Demerest & Allen, 2000). Caucasian women reported significantly lower body satisfaction and more cases of disordered eating than African American women (Henriquies, Calhoun & Cann, 1996).
Shorter Vanessa Chetty of Loyala University: Baby got back. In a culture that views women like Mo'Nique
and Queen Latifa
as hotter-than-smoke, it's easy for a person carrying a few extra to think of herself as beautiful. And whatever you look like, if you think you're hot, someone out there will no doubt agree.