Standard of beauty: Serena vs. Anna
LONDON, England -- A study of almost 50 years of Playboy centrefolds has revealed that the characteristic differences between men and women are becoming less pronounced.
Researchers at universities in Canada and Austria compared height, weight, bust, waist and hip measurements of 577 models from issues of the adult magazine dating from 1953 to 2001 and found they had become less shapely and more androgynous.
The findings, published in the latest edition of the British Medical Journal (BMJ), conclude that the trends were at odds with claims that centrefolds' body shapes were still more "hourglass" than "stick insects."
In the 1950s, for example, Marilyn Monroe epitomised the ideal woman with a voluptuous hourglass figure of 37-23-36.
Yet by the 1960s, models like Twiggy had already slimmed down to 32-22-32.
In the 1970s, the ideal body was typified by Jerry Hall, and in the 1980s by Cindy Crawford.
Yet by the 1990s the controversial emaciated look of "heroin chic" made Kate Moss (33-23-35) famous.
A BMJ spokesman said: "All measures except weight showed significant temporal change.
"Over time, bust size and hip size decreased, while waist size increased. Measures of body shape followed the same trends: body mass index and bust:hip ratio decreased, while waist:hip ratio, waist:bust ratio, and androgyny index increased."
Martin Voracek, a research resident at the University of Vienna Medical School, in Austria, was part of the team that measured every curve and contour of hundreds of Playboy models.
He told The Associated Press: "It's difficult to disentangle cause from effect. All I can say is that attractiveness is not that simple and is not constant over time.
"If Playboy didn't reflect ideals of attractiveness, they wouldn't still be around, so it must be that many men find this shape attractive."
In 2000, a British Medical Association report found that in 1950 the average woman weighed about eight-and-a-half stone and had a 24-inch waist. Now, she is more than 10 stone, with a 32-inch waist.
Adrian Furnham, a professor of psychology at London University who has conducted research on judgments of female attractiveness, told AP: "Some years ago Playboy was the touchstone, but there are now dozens of these things around.
"You'd need a whole range of magazines from different countries which showed a consistent pattern.
"Then, I think, you could start worrying about an explanation, but until then it's just a bit of fun."
Playboy spokesman Bill Farley said: "As time has gone on and women have become more athletic, more in the business world and more inclined to put themselves through fitness regimes, their bodies have changed, and we reflect that as well.
"But I would think that no one with eyes to see would consider playmates to be androgynous."