Research into the hourglass figure has thrown some curveballs: women with large breasts and narrow waists have higher hormone levels, the BBC reported in 2004, and are more likely to get pregnant. Then some research in 2007 seemed to find that curvier women are smarter and live longer than other women.
Scientists also looked at when and where the preference for the hourglass figure emerges, and found that it's not shared outside Western cultures (developing cultures prefer fatter women, a sign of nutritional health) or amongst pre-pubescents. Whereas 10 and 11 year-olds of both sexes express a preference for hourglass-shaped women, 5 or 6 year-olds prefer thin figures "which probably closely mirror their own shape", according to one Queensland University study.
If you have an hour or so to waste (I almost wrote "waist"), Long Dong's collection of Akira Gomi's taxonomic photos of naked women, Chinese and American, makes for fascinating viewing. We instantly know how we feel about each image, and the cues are geometric and mathematical ones, a matter of shapes, dimensions and ratios.
Those pictures are still and inexpressive, though -- a whole different set of "semantic angles" emerge when a body goes into motion. The pictures above are from a yoga video by eccentric Japanese vlogger Naganonoteiou. What interests me here is how some of the poses she strikes -- specifically the angles her legs are held in -- are "normal", others become "lightly erotic", others again way too blatant and over-the-top (reading a book with her feet, bent over backwards) and blow the appeal. This suggests that my brain assigns specific sexual semantics to small differences of posture; that there's a "geometry of sex".
I reject the cultural determinism of the Queensland study, though; I don't think the age you are or the culture you come from determines how you respond to this sexual geometry. Despite being a Western male, for instance, I find little appeal in the classic Sophia Loren hourglass figure -- this may be because of some innate horror of reproduction, or it may be because of strong positive associations with less curvy Asian women. Osyama from the Tokyo Bopper store (whose staff members are celebrated daily on the Merry Daily blog) represents my current ideal figure; the particular geometric relationship that concerns me, when I see pictures of her, isn't her waist-to-hip ratio (WHR), but speculation on whether her super-thin legs really do stay parallel all the way up to the top.
Then again, tastes change; I used to prefer Yama-Sama.