Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

A symmetrical body

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

I love researchers. If it weren’t for researchers and their preposterous pointless surveys and “studies”, the world of potential column subjects would be decimated at a stroke.

  There’s a new one, in the Daily Mail yesterday, about the reasons why women have sex. All sorts of reasons, apparently. My favourite example was the woman who admitted to researchers “to having sex just so her husband would put the rubbish out.” Jesus, what does she HAVE in those bin bags? Anvils? Put your own rubbish out! Or, if you’re going to all the trouble of having sex, get him to bung some shelves up at least.

  Then there was a bit about what women would like, physically, in a partner. According to the Mail, “the research concluded that women are attracted to men with deep voices, who smell good. A symmetrical body also helps, since it is a genetic indicator of health and suggests he will give his lover strong children.”

  Well, yes. Did we really need researchers to unearth that information? What were they expecting - that women would say their ideal man was squeaky and reeking, with one enormous disproportionate shoulder? I’m not saying one couldn’t love a man like that; it is a strangely accurate description of one of my early boyfriends. But, given the chance to dream, offered a vast pure canvas on which to sketch perfection, invited to throw open their minds to ultimate fantasy, women said: “We’d take a symmetrical body and basic hygiene.”

  I never want to hear a man complain again that it is hard to get laid.

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Phil at 8:40 pm on September 8th, 2009

Wow. Who knew that the basis of attraction could be so obvious and pedestrian. I’m stocking up on the Lynx as I type. My exes are going to be so jealous!

I think the survey probably reveals more about the psychological profile of the average Daily Mail reader than it does about love.

Whilst the subject is raised; what would your canvas look like, Victoria?

Oliver at 8:53 pm on September 8th, 2009

Well to be puerile: they could complain it’s hard to get laid by you! ;)

Rain at 10:22 pm on September 8th, 2009

Typical woman, dismissing basic symmetry and elementary hygiene as if the combination isn’t hopelessly beyond the scope of vast numbers of perspiring, slightly off-kilter men. But it cuts both ways. My two basic requirements of a woman are a) that she not witter on eternally about the (supposed and actual) breadth of her posterior and b) some basic understanding of the LBW rule in cricket. Simple enough, one might suppose, yet ‘researchers’ tell me that the nearest one (according to probabiliity) lives in northern Bangladesh.  Hopeless.

David R at 10:30 pm on September 8th, 2009

So, using the above link, men may think they have to look like the picture on the left, but really women will put up with the picture on the right.

daniel maris at 1:50 am on September 9th, 2009

Hmmm, an endlessly fascinating subject.

On the subject of symmetry,  no doubt that’s why clothes and jewellery can make all the difference - they can give the illusion of symmetry.  And why a woman loves a man in a uniform… or so it’s said.

Personally speaking I’ve got one ear higher than the other. Not that you’d notice as such but put on some glasses and there is a tendency to lopsidedness, Eric Morecambe style.  I’m not selling myself here am I?  Actually I noticed that the Sky News reader with the Spanish sounding name (male) had Extremely Large Ear (Singular) Syndrome.  I think Sky must have paid for him to have it done - either that or it’s shrunk.

David Bailey at 4:01 am on September 9th, 2009

Cheered me up no end that has. 8 toes left foot, 8 toes right foot, check. 2 left moobs, 2 right moobs, check. Dettol shower gel, check. Domestos roll-on deodorant, check. Things are looking up.

Okeephe at 9:39 am on September 9th, 2009

One might propose that it’s far too easy to get laid these days.

There doesn’t seem to be any sort of ‘selection’ going on at all.  More of a ‘sleep with everyone and maybe one of them will stick’ mentality.

As for ‘smells nice’ I assume that is individual, not every man smells the same, and not every woman likes the same man smell. 

I have also seen shows that state that all the cheap perfumes being sold actually cloud the issue by covering our natural scents and pheromones making it more difficult to select a mate, rather than easier. 

But on top of all that, looks aren’t everything, and they are also very individual to each person’s tastes.

Ian L at 1:19 pm on September 9th, 2009

I would take anything in these surveys with a pinch of salt and anything related to the Daily Mail with a kilogram of the stuff (though Im guessing it was probably American).

Anyway, I thought a sense of humour was top of every girl’s wish list!

Godd luck with the book!

Jo at 2:18 pm on September 9th, 2009

Not really relevant, but the Paul Daniels link reminded me - Only Connect is Paul Daniels’ favourite quiz zhow

C Scott at 3:29 pm on September 9th, 2009

As a researcher I do sometimes worry that my work is preposterously pointless. However, I am now reassured that I may, at some point, contribute in some small way to the most purposeful Daily Mail and assorted columnists.

Victoria Coren at 6:18 pm on September 9th, 2009

No disrespect, C Scott! Obviously not ALL researchers do pointless studies, that would be ridiculous. Plenty of them are very worthwhile. It’s just this sort, the headline-grabbing sort that seem to have spent months proving the obvious… “Women like men who don’t smell unpleasant” is hot on the heels of the Australian professor who “discovered through intensive research” that people like the smell of cut grass so is now selling a grass-scented candle, it made me giggle a bit.

LC at 11:48 pm on September 9th, 2009

Hmm, why are all the blokes I fancy a bit odd and asymmetrical then?

And the bloke I took a fancy to at the weekend, probably smelled of fags. Considering the cigarette sitting behind his ear… oh well. I’m sure he buys deodorant every so often.

nonimus at 2:10 am on September 10th, 2009

These do make me giggle, or is it chuckle? Is there a difference
Anyway i can recall some research from a few years ago saying that apparently men are attracted to woman who resemble their mum.

sam at 1:13 am on September 11th, 2009

Most of the studies like this that make it to the press tend to be pr bumf, though, with an academic’s name tied to it for a few hundred quid.  I’ll bet anything that Lynx or some gym firm or something comissioned the “research”.

Just ask ben goldacre.

haydn at 7:07 pm on September 11th, 2009

Right. I’m never dressing to the left again. From now on, I’ll tuck the little fellow straight down to achieve a perfect state of symmetry.

freethy at 2:09 am on September 12th, 2009

Why on earth are you reading the Daily Mail anyway? Haha!!

sudhakar at 9:57 pm on September 12th, 2009

Damn this asymmetric head. Like daniel I too have slightly sloping specs.
I’m sure everyone has gone “How on Earth did he/she get him/her!” If I had a girlfriend I’m sure people would say the same, he/her not she/him.So looks aren’t everything.
I think I heard something on R4 that they have found a component of sweat that makes a woman find a man more attractive. There were statistically significant results and everything.

freethy at 5:23 am on September 14th, 2009

I hope to god looks aren’t everything, otherwise I am doomed forever. lol

eightiesdisco at 4:49 pm on September 14th, 2009

It’s hard to get laid in Reading

2uf8qm76 at 7:38 pm on September 23rd, 2009

I inherited my father’s barrel chest on my left side but not on my right. I think you would still like me Vicky.

leon71 at 4:32 pm on September 25th, 2009

I think that news articles such as the one you mention can have an insidious effect. They increase the disconnect between what scientists and science ‘does’ and how that is seen to have any bearing on public life.  If I didn’t work in a research field, and took my queues from articles such as this one, I’d be wondering what all these white coated fiends are up to in their laboratories, and be of the opinion that a little common sense would ‘surely sort them out’!

When public opinion is shaped into thinking that science and research is pointless, or just as dangerously, needs to always have products and ‘things’ as the end result then we’re limiting ourselves and further being hypnotised into the belief that ‘gadgets’, ‘products’ and ‘progress’ are of the same order.

leon71 at 4:34 pm on September 25th, 2009

(Sorry to be cheeky and split my comment).

Is this how science ends up?:

Finally, does the story come from the Daily Mail Scientician* Institute? (* Word used by David Mitchell on Mock The Week.)

Hardhhhat at 3:34 pm on September 29th, 2009

Ha now that’s funny a woman take out the rubbish - you got me with that one. That’s like expecting the man to put the loo seat down - then again shouldn’t women put it back up afterwards????

leon71 at 10:00 am on October 5th, 2009

It all kicked off again:

I’ll stop ranting on your blog thread now!  :)

Dom R at 1:46 am on November 27th, 2009

You’d like me. My body has perfect symmetry.

Rotational symmetry, that is. Can’t have everything.

Simonkey at 11:51 pm on February 3rd, 2010

..well that’s me done for - one of my penises is much longer than the other.

Victoria Coren

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