Tattoos, piercings, unique haircuts, and dyed hair are just a few ways an individual can modify his or her appearance and immediately become a "different person." However, a person with a sleeve tattoo or nose ring may be treated differently than someone who presents a plainer look.
To see how people's perceptions of attractiveness varied based on bodily alterations, we asked over 2,600 people how they viewed men and women with various body modifications. Are respondents more attracted to men with gauge piercings than a tattoo sleeve? Were lip rings or breast implants considered more alluring in women? Continue reading to see what we found.
Perceptions of Male Body Mods
Body modifications can incite many responses from onlookers, but does gender affect the overall reaction? And how do these personal choices impact one’s attractiveness? The answer is a bit complicated when you consider men and women may choose vastly different modifications.
We asked respondents who were attracted to men to rate a man’s Photoshopped body modifications as positive (highly attractive), negative (not at all attractive), or neutral (does not impact attractiveness either way). Most preferred the man without any body modifications at all. More than three-quarters met this look with positivity.
A sleeve tattoo had more than a 50 percent attractiveness rating. Compare this look with the more extreme face tattoo – you can’t exactly hide it on a first date. It had nearly the opposite effect (49 percent negative).
Perhaps our respondents have at least some positive associations with sleeve tattoos – several current male celebrities sport sleeve tattoos, including singer-songwriter John Mayer, former soccer player David Beckham, and actor and wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.
The same can't be said for man buns, unfortunately. Although some of Hollywood's most elite male celebrities, such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Chris Hemsworth, and Jared Leto, have sported man buns at some point, according to our research. Still, more than half of respondents rated this hairstyle as a negative.
Perceptions of Female Body Mods
When we looked at gender-specific body mods on a woman, we also found most respondents (more than 64 percent) preferred the natural woman. But none found our model to be less attractive once she had larger breasts. In fact, this was the only body modification that had almost zero impact (just shy of 64 percent positive) on the woman's beauty.
Breast augmentation is the second most frequently performed cosmetic surgery on women, right behind liposuction. However, enhanced doesn’t always mean bigger.
Women choose breast augmentations for many reasons, and there is a general change to the look women prefer after going under the knife. Women are opting for smaller size increases and breast lifts. Pamela Anderson, Victoria Beckham, and Crystal Hefner are just a few celebrities who chose to undo their breast augmentations later in life, noting either physical distress or personal regret due to their size. Maybe they kicked off a trend.
Social Group Sound Off: Male Body Mods
Who finds each of these body modifications most attractive? Goths who were attracted to men found that men with lip rings, nose rings, and combined modifications were the most desirable. Respondents could self-identify with one of 12 social groups – basic, gamer, goth, hipster, indie, nerd, prep, punk, scene, sporty, urban, and other.
Goth people were in the top five of attracted groups for each of these modifications – except for man buns.
Hipster, scene, indie, nerd, and sporty respondents found those rocking a man bun to be the most attractive. However, there's bad news for the men who sport this hairstyle, and those who love them for it: Man buns may be behind the increase in traction alopecia (or acute baldness) in men.
SOCIAL GROUP SOUND OFF: Female BODY MODS
Those identifying as punk rated the model with a short haircut and vibrant color, nose ring, and lip ring the highest. They also rated the model with a tattoo sleeve and combined modifications highly.
Survey respondents who were attracted to women and classified themselves as indie found the model with the tattoo sleeve to be the most attractive – that ink is turning their heads. Indie respondents were also fans of the model with a lip ring, extreme haircut and color, and combined modifications.
Descriptions of Male Body Modifications
If you're a man rocking face tattoos, gauges, lip rings, nose rings, or combined modifications, our research indicates that respondents may find you to be an attention-seeker, first and foremost. In fact, tattoos are becoming much more acceptable and ordinary, with roughly 3 in 10 U.S. adults having at least one.
Our respondents believed that most sporting these modifications, from man buns to gauges, were also trendy.
DESCRIPTIONS OF Female BODY MODIFICATIONS
Women who had breast implants, lip injections, nose rings, and combined modifications were described as insecure in the top five perceptions of our respondents. Meanwhile, those with sleeve tattoos, lip rings, and extreme haircuts and color were also seen, within the top five perceptions, as down-to-earth.
Power of Perception
Whether this information empowers you to try out that new hair color you've been mulling over or makes you second guess those gauges is up to you. Respondents who preferred men generally felt that any type of modification to the male body made it less attractive. Respondents who preferred women also found body-modified women to be less attractive, but body modifications had less of an impact on women's allure than they did men. However, certain body modifications had fans within social groups. Beauty is definitely in the eye of the beholder.
For this study, we Photoshopped a male and female model to show various body modifications. We displayed these images to over 2,600 Americans, who rated each model depending on the sex to which they were most attracted. We averaged the rating of each image to establish a “base rating” with the original, unaltered model's image. We then calculated the percent difference from the base rating for each modification.
In addition, survey respondents answered questions related to the group with which they most identified, and selected keywords related to each image they were shown.