I imagine you read about the study from a few weeks back that determined that men tend to prefer women wearing high heels.
My suspicion is that the results are extremely culturally dependent.
The study was High Heels Increase Women’s Attractiveness, by Nicolas Guéguen of the University of South Brittany. That’s right: the study was conducted in Brittany in France. In fact, the way it is put in the study is that the various scenarios took places in towns of about 60,000 inhabitants on the south coast of Brittany.
Three different heeled conditions were looked at. These were on shoes that were described as smart, black, dress pumps. The three choices had no heels (though I bet you they had at least some heel), 2-inch heels, or 3½-inch heels.
In various scenarios (women approaching men for surveys, women dropping a glove and seeing if a man would help, or women in a bar), there was a marked difference in how men responded to the 3½-inch shoes. For the other conditions (no heels, or what the study called “medium” heels) there was no difference.
By the way, this is what a “medium” heel looks like.
Yoicks. I’d sure call that high.
In this article from Medical Daily, Shoes With Sex Appeal: Why Women In High Heels Make Men Weak In The Knees, they speculate all sorts of things about the study. And they sensationalize (as did most of the news stories about the study).
According to a recent study published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, women who wear high heels are found to be significantly sexier to men.
No. Those women were just more approached by men. Did the men find the women sexier? Probably. But the study didn’t address that.
Here’s another quote from the article:
Although science may have given some credibility to the sex appeal of high heels, Gueguen himself isn’t sure why heels make a woman more attractive. He suspects changes in walk and posture make her appear more feminine. He told Time, “As a man I can see that I prefer to see my wife when she wears high heels, and many men in France have the same evaluation.”
The reasons for the result are all speculation. As it says in the study, it might be that heels make a foot look smaller, and smaller feet are a sign of youth (really?). It could be because it makes the women taller (though other studies are mixed on whether that makes any difference). It might be the supposedly sexier gait.
Well, let’s look at a shoe with a really high heel.
You know, those are so high (and remember, the 2-inch heel did not elicit any difference) I think they can safely be called F**k-me Shoes, despite being dressy.
In the study, Guéguen also provides an explanation that suggests that.
Thus, it could be argued that high-heeled shoes exert the same effect on men’s judgment because highly sexy female models frequently appear in the media wearing high-heeled shoes. Adult magazines and pornography also display models with high-heeled shoes. Research has found that men generally overestimate female sexual interest, especially when examining their clothing appearance Thus, the over-association of high heels with women’s sexiness and sexual content could lead men to misinterpret the sexual intent of women with high heels. Given that men were more eager for sexual intercourse than women they were probably more eager to approach a woman wearing high-heeled shoes. This misinterpretation of sexual intent associated with shoe appearance could explain why men were more ready to accept their survey request, to help them spontaneously or to approach them in a bar.
[Internal citations removed.]
Guéguen had found something similar in a previous study regarding tattoos. While in general (according to other studies) men are less attracted to tattoos on women, a woman on a beach was more likely to be approached by a man if she had a tattoo. The perception is that women with tattoos are more sexually promiscuous.
So it’s not that super high-heels are intrinsically sexier than going barefoot; it’s all about cultural expectations.
It is all about the current culture of today.
And that brings in WEIRD.
There are all these studies that supposedly examine human behavior. But as has been pointed out (in particular see Psychology Is WEIRD, which appeared in Slate), the subjects of all these studies are WEIRD: Western, Educated, from Industrialized, Rich, and Democratic countries.
They look at people who have been culturally conditioned to like certain things. It’s ridiculous to make broad generalizations about what men prefer from that. (And in this case, how much does it even apply outside of France?)
[Photo from here.]
But that just shows a cultural preference that got out of hand.
As is, I think, the whole Western (Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) preference for high-heels. Heck, the Western cultural norm has become that shoes are required and that feet are helpless blogs of protoplasm without them. Exaggerate that and it’s no wonder high-heels become worshipped. And the higher the heel, the greater the exaggeration, the more it screams f**k-me.
Meanwhile, those shoes are damaging the very feet they are supposedly highlighting. It rather reminds me of the huge racks on deer (I bet when you saw me starting to write about huge racks in this context I was heading somewhere else) that are used to advertise the animal’s fitness. “See, even with this horrible, useless weight I carry around everyday, I still do fine.” So f**k-me.
Isn’t that what super-high-heels are saying? And is it any wonder that men respond to that?