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Forget breasts. That is what research by the late Devendra Singh, professor of psychology at the University of Texas says. Dr. Singh was known for his research on sex appeal and human attraction, with a specific focus on the optimal waist-to-hip ratio. His paper, “Optimal Waist-to-Hip (WHR) Ratios in Women Activate Neural Reward Centers in Men”, states that optimal WHR is a “phenotypic cue to fertility, fecundity, neurodevelopmental resources in offspring, and overall health, and is indicative of ‘good genes’ in women”. Basically, it makes men happy to see such women even if they don’t recognize it themselves.

The ideal ratio between waist and hips is between 0.67 and 0.8. So if you have 40″ hips, your waist should be between 27″ and 31″. If you have 36″ hips, your waist should be between 24″ and 28″. We call this the hourglass figure, displayed by Playboy bunnies, Marilyn Monroe, Scarlett Johansson and, of course, Kim Kardashian.

What these studies show is that you can be plump and yet set off those neurological happy signals if you have a well proportioned figure. In other words, it is not the size of each body part that is important but the ratio. Before you dismiss this as patriarchal crap guaranteed once again to make women feel bad about themselves, here is the kicker: an hourglass figure is also linked to fertility. Wider hips allow for easier births, in other words.

The mysterious thing called sex appeal is largely biological, it seems. Men tend to be attracted to women with healthy body weight, larger breasts, longer hair, high voices and an optimal waist-to-hip ratio. The question is whether this sex appeal can be achieved artificially, something that women, cosmetic companies and shapewear manufacturers have been trying ever since. Enter corsets and waist trainers.

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