March 5 2012
Carrie L. Lukas
The finding that nearly half of women age 18-25 surveyed in the UK would prefer larger breast over a higher IQ made headlines, and set off the usual lamentations about how our society devalues women's intelligence and places too great an emphasis on looks.
This is a problem to be sure, and one that is worth serious, thoughtful discussion. How do we teach young women to recognize that their true value has nothing to do with their outside appearance? How do we teach both men and women that the key to a lasting relationship isn't just physical attraction, but shared values and friendship?
The study also noted that almost 60 percent of respondents believe having bigger breasts would mean men would be ‘more interested’ in them romantically. One would hope that these young women would consider the kind of romantic interest that larger breasts attracts. More head turning may be nice, but it hardly seems to improve the odds of a lasting, meaningful relationship.
Yet I also think that the public should take care before making too much of such studies. This survey was conduct by the discount website “www.MyVoucherCodes.co.uk” and included 1,142 women. I couldn't find details beyond the top line results reported in numerous articles. Here's what I'd like to know: Was this truly a representatives sample among women across demographic and economic groups? I'm betting that it wasn't. I just bet that more thorough research would find that a much smaller percentage of women are truly willing to trade their brains for a larger bra size.
I also wish that the media would look at such data from a different perspective. Even in this study, more than half of 18-25 year old women weren't willing to trade IQ for bigger breasts. More than half of these young women recognize that looks aren't the key to greater happiness, and likely also recognize that being intelligent is an attractive quality to potential romantic partners.
This is a problem I've noted with news stories about the spread of early sexual activity. When kids read about such sexual experimentation, they may feel as though there is something wrong with them if they aren't experimenting themselves, even when they are actually a majority. This is unhelpful.
Headlines like these seem designed to depress the public about our society's value system. Yet it deserves more serious consideration and an honest look at the messages that we send young women (and men).