Secrets Between the Sexes

Men and women are in a constant struggle to better understand the complex inner workings of one another's minds. Science has done its part to help us separate the fact from fiction, and some of the results may surprise you. Do men actually like skinny women with long legs? What makes a woman like a man who appears masculine over a feminine-looking man, or vice versa? Read on to find out.

Does (Body) Size Matter?

While some women think men are obsessed with skinny, waifish women, men seem to be more attracted to curvy girls like Christina Hendricks and Marilyn Monroe. This has been backed up by a number of studies, including one performed by Scotland's St. Andrews University that showed men don't like skinny women nearly as much as more average-sized women, and many seemed to think size zero women look unhealthy.

As for curvy women, it seems that men's brains respond to hourglass figures like they are a drug. While it has long been said that shapely hips have been attractive to men because they are better for carrying children, a study by Georgia Gwinnett College showed that curvy women's bodies activate parts of the male mind that are associated with rewards and parts of the brain that are activated by drugs and alcohol.

[Image courtesy of ·S's Flickr Stream.]

The Skinny on Showing Skin

Women often think that the more skin they reveal, the more attention they will get from men, but this may not be true. A study by the University of Leeds watched social interactions between men and women at one of the most popular clubs in London.

The researchers considered the arms to be 20% of the body, legs to be 30% of the body, and the torso to be 50% of the body, and they concluded that men found women who covered up too much of their bodies to only be half as attractive as those who displayed around 40% of their skin. The most interesting part of the study, though, was that men felt women who showed more than that were "too available," and were often overlooked for those who seemed a little more modest.

[Image courtesy of rockabillyboy72's Flickr stream.]

Hard to Get Men by Playing Hard to Get?

Along those same lines, the stories about men wanting a girl who's hard to get are somewhat true"¦but not completely. Men want someone who's hard for anyone to get, but they don't want a woman who is hard for them to get. University of Wisconsin researchers showed men photos of women and told them that the girl already saw and reviewed images of the participant and three other men. Each girl was presented as not being interested in any of the men, being interested in all of the men, only being interested in the test subject, or no information was provided about her woman.

Men were overwhelmingly uninterested in both the women who were interested in all participants and none of the participants. The great majority of men were interested in the woman who was only into them. They seemed to think she would have the good qualities of the easy-to-get women and the good qualities of the hard-to-get women, believing she was warm, easygoing and not demanding or difficult.

[Image courtesy of  Denis Malka's Flickr stream.]

Long Legs, Less Love?

For years we've been told that men love long, long legs. But according to a study performed by the University of California and the University of Westminister, men like women who have legs proportional to their body. Men and women were shown images of computer generated body images of women and asked to rate them on their attractiveness. The further the length of the legs got from an ideal 1:1 ratio of body to leg length, the less attractive men judged them to be.

Stereotypes held fast when it came to what women believed men would like, and they seemed to consistently agree that the men would find longer legged women attractive.

[Image courtesy of Lovro67's Flickr stream.]

Little More Than a Pretty Face

When people start looking for long-term mates, research says the body becomes less and less important -- for both sexes. University of Japan researcher Tomas E. Currie noted that while there have been hundreds of studies evaluating how men and women evaluate the importance of specific body parts, there were relatively few examining the importance of one feature over another. He decided to also examine if these factors changed based on what type of relationship the person was looking for.

The results showed that men cared a lot about bodies when looking for a short term relationship, but they cared more about faces when looking for something long term. Women seemed to consistently look for attractive faces whether looking for a short or long term thing. The body was just an extra bonus in either case.

[Image courtesy of Sugaro Pictures' Flickr stream.]

What Women Want, Based On Healthcare

Speaking of what women want, this is a very gray area and is said to change from woman to woman and even be inconsistent among a single individual. Unsurprisingly, there have been tons of studies trying to figure out exactly what the softer sex is interested in.

One study, completed by Wake Forest University psychologist Dustin Wood and Claudia Brumbaugh of Queens College, even confirmed the fact that while men are largely in agreement about who they find to be attractive, women have no consensus with one another. While men would largely agree about how attractive a given image of a woman was, the scores from women would be all over the board.

Perhaps the real reason for these major differences is the reason women seem to prefer masculine or feminine men. A study by the University of Aberdeen recently showed women located throughout the world images of men and asked them to evaluate based on attractiveness. Each set of images contained two pictures per male subject. In one of them, he was digitally altered to look more masculine and in the other, he was altered to look more feminine. The researchers noticed that women who had access to better healthcare preferred feminine men, while those who had less-quality health services were attracted to more masculine men.

Researchers speculated that historically women have liked masculine men with a square jaw and low brow because they were more likely to help produce healthy offspring. On the other hand, more effeminate-looking men seem more likely to help raise the children. It seems that once health concerns are out of the way, women tend to shift their interest to those men who appear to be more nurturing.

[Image courtesy of SpreePiX - Berlin's Flickr stream.]

Problems With The Pill

Of course, healthcare isn't the only thing that affects how a woman sees men. As it turns out, women may also notice a striking difference in their attraction to men after going on the birth control pill.

Men and women are largely attracted to one another due to pheromones and scent, but a study by the University of Liverpool shows the pill can drastically alter the scent a woman is attracted to. Additionally, once she quits taking the pill, she may revert to her old sensory guides and start finding her existing partner to be less attractive.

[Image courtesy of Blmurch's Flickr stream.]
* * * * * *
Of course, it's important to remember that these studies just take into account the overall feelings of a group of men or women and there are always going to be people who disagrees with the general populace.

Now, there are plenty more studies about men and women -- way too many for me to read, let alone include in this article -- but I'm sure many of you have seen some interesting ones. So let's hear them. What's the most surprising study you've heard about?

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HBO
15 Fabulous Facts About Sex and the City
HBO
HBO

Still wondering if you’re a Carrie, a Miranda, a Charlotte, or a Samantha? It has been exactly 20 years since Sex and the City first premiered on HBO and instantly pushed cosmos, Post-it note break-ups, and Mr. Big into the cultural lexicon, and affection for the groundbreaking series has yet to diminish. The Sarah Jessica Parker-starring show offered a fresh, funny, and very frisky look inside the lives of four very different New York City gals. But even a show as beloved and written about as Sex and the City still has some secrets to spill, and we’ve found a handful of trivia bits that might surprise even its most hardcore fans.

1. CARRIE BRADSHAW ISN’T EXACTLY CANDACE BUSHNELL.

Even casual fans of the series know that Carrie Bradshaw, Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, is based on author Candace Bushnell, who penned her own sex column in the New York Observer back in the 1990s, which she then adapted into the essay collection also known as Sex and the City. Although Bradshaw and Bushnell have a lot in common, they’re not the same woman. Bushnell started writing for the Observer in 1994, using her own name and adventures to seed her wickedly funny column with salacious, true-life tidbits. But writing such stuff under your own name can be tricky—Carrie found that out the hard way plenty of times—and Bushnell eventually started writing stories about “Carrie” and her friends. Although she still pulled these stories from her own life, her semi-autobiographical heroine afforded Bushnell a special kind of freedom. You can still read some of her original columns over at the Observer’s website.

2. CARRIE’S ADDRESS ISN’T REAL.

Sarah Jessica Parker in Sex and the City (1998)
HBO

Carrie supposedly lived in a very chic apartment for the entire run of the series—a rent-controlled Upper East Side brownstone located on East 73rd Street, between Park and Madison Avenues. Swanky location, right? Too bad it was doubly fictional. Carrie’s building number was 245 (a nonexistent number that, if it did exist, would be located further east, between Second and Third Avenues) and the exterior shots were actually filmed in the West Village, at 66 Perry Street.

3. SAMANTHA AND MIRANDA’S ADDRESSES AREN'T REAL EITHER.

Although the other ladies moved around during the course of the series, each of them had their own signature abode, none of which actually exist. Samantha’s Meatpacking District loft at 300 Gansevoort Street isn’t real (that address doesn’t exist), while Miranda’s Upper West Side apartment is also fictional. Charlotte’s chi-chi address at 700 Park Avenue is, however, a real one, and it’s home to a 21-floor co-op that specializes in large apartments. (The cheapest pad on sale there right now—with its two bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms—is on the market for $2,295,000.)

4. SARAH JESSICA PARKER WANTED TO QUIT THE SHOW EARLY.

Even though Parker had a no-nudity clause in her Sex and the City contract (which explains all those sexy scenes that feature Carrie in cute bras and nothing less), she was still nervous about the sexual content of the series. Back in 2010, she told The Sun, “I was not comfortable with nude scenes, scenes with sex toys, or vulgar language—so I did not do any ... My character, Carrie, kissed a lot of men—but that's as far as it went. I had the maturity to control my panic about the whole series and what it meant. At one point, after the pilot show of Sex and the City was made and they wanted me to sign up for the series, I wanted to get out of it.”

5. IT WAS THE FIRST CABLE SHOW TO WIN THE EMMY FOR OUTSTANDING COMEDY SERIES.

Winner for Outstanding Comedy Series, 'Sex in the City' at the 53rd Annual Prime-Time Emmy Awards held at the Shubert Theatre, Los Angeles, CA., Nov. 4, 2001
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Although HBO has had great success with their dramatic series, Sex and the City was the network's first comedy series to win Emmy gold in 2001. It maintained that record until 2015, when Veep won the coveted award (which it won again in 2016 and 2017). 

6. THE FOURTH WALL-BREAKING LASTED FOR MORE THAN ONE SEASON.

Early episodes of Sex and the City feature one majorly jarring element that was later jettisoned from the rest of its run: characters breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the camera. Although Miranda, Charlotte, and random supporting characters did it in the pilot episode (even Skipper did it!), eventually only Carrie turned to the camera to chat it up. Most fans remember this as a strange quirk of the series’ first season, but it actually lasted until the second season, as its last appearance reared its ugly (and talkative) head in “The Freak Show,” the third episode of season two.

7. IT’S STILL THE INSPIRATION FOR A BUS TOUR.

It makes sense that Sex and the City, one of those “oh, it’s like New York City is its own character!” series, spawned a bus tour of the show’s various New York City-set locations back in 2001. But it’s a little surprising that the tour is still going. Run by On Location Tours, the three-and-a-half-hour tour has now been operating for 17 years—nearly three times as long as the series was on the air—and it shows no sign of slowing down. It operates seven days a week, complete with stops at Magnolia Bakery (for cupcakes) and Bleecker Street (for shopping). And, yes, it does drive by Carrie’s stoop (the one on Perry Street, naturally).

8. NATASHA ONLY APPEARED IN SEVEN EPISODES.

Sex and the City featured a ton of very memorable recurring characters, from Candice Bergen as Enid Frick, Carrie’s Vogue editor, to Frances Sternhagen as Bunny MacDougal, Charlotte's one-time mother-in-law. But few guest stars had quite the same impact as Bridget Moynahan as Natasha Naginsky, Mr. Big’s second wife. Considering how deeply the introduction of Natasha changed Carrie’s life (and her relationship with Mr. Big), it’s surprising that Moynahan only popped up in seven episodes, spread out over the second and third seasons. Her last appearance? The 17th episode of season three, “What Goes Around Comes Around,” in which Carrie desperately tries to make amends.

9. THE SHOW ADDRESSED 9/11 IN ITS OWN WAY.

The September 11th attacks occurred in between half-seasons, as the fourth season was split in two and the first run ended on August 12, 2001. When the show returned on January 6, 2002, the opening credits had been altered so as to not show the Twin Towers, which originally appeared twice, once with the show’s title, once with “Starring Sarah Jessica Parker."

Of the change, led by producer Michael Patrick King, Parker—who watched the towers collapse—told New York Magazine: “Like the rest of us, I had had all sorts of mixed feelings about the Twin Towers ... But once they were gone, they were beloved." They were replaced in the credits by the Empire State Building.

10. THE SHOW DIDN’T INVENT THE COSMO, BUT IT CERTAINLY POPULARIZED IT.

The ladies’ cocktail of choice, the pink-hued vodka sipper, may have risen to frothy fame thanks to the series, but the drink is believed to have been invented way back in the 1930s. Although its exact provenance is up for debate (no one can agree on whether it was first made in Provincetown or Miami or somewhere else), no one questions that its '90s popularity is due to its many, many appearances on the show. Pair it with a Magnolia Bakery cupcake and you’ve got yourself one heck of a Sex and the City snack.

11. THERE WAS A REAL MR. BIG.

Sarah Jessica Parker and Chris Noth in 'Sex and the City'
Paramount Home Entertainment

Given the true-life (and true-love) events that inspired Bushnell’s original columns, it should come as little surprise that there was a real Mr. Big and he has actually been identified. Although the series’ Big was a big-time financier and entrepreneur, his inspiration—Ron Galotti—was a publisher whom Bushnell met at a party in 1995. The pair dated for about a year, but his presence was felt in her columns—and in Carrie’s own story—for years to come.

12. KRISTIN DAVIS USED TO HIDE THE SHOW FROM HER FAMILY.

Kristin Davis was concerned that the show’s risqué subject matter—and even its title—would shock her family, so she didn’t tell her grandmother about it and asked her parents not to watch it. But her attitude changed over time, and she later confessed that her parents had started watching the show after her grandmother passed away. Davis's dad, a psychology professor, really got into it, even using the show as part of his college lectures on "Marriage and Sexuality."

13. KIM CATTRALL WAS WORRIED SHE HAD BEEN CAST AS SOMEONE’S MOTHER.

Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon in 'Sex and the City'
Paramount Home Entertainment

As the oldest member of the cast, Kim Cattrall was a little blown away by the fact that the series wanted her to play the role of Samantha Jones, a sexy singleton, and not someone’s mom. Back in 2002, she commented, “I never thought I'd be playing this character at this age in my life ... I thought I'd be playing somebody's mom ... The other girls on the show are 10 years younger than I am, so I have to get enough sleep and work out and watch what I eat. Just running around New York City is a good way to keep in shape.”

14. THE SHOW’S FINALE REALLY WAS INTENDED AS AN ENDING.

Although Sex and the City has spawned two feature films—and rumors of a third movie continue to pop up from time to time—producer Michael Patrick King (who directed both of the feature films) originally believed that the show ended just as it was meant to. In 2004, mere months after the show aired its final episode, King said at a panel, “Nothing we did in the series was altered to save something for the movie ... This is exactly the way we wanted to end the series. We’re proud of what we did.”

15. SARAH JESSICA PARKER PUSHED FOR DIVERSITY.

When Blair Underwood joined the cast as a love interest for Miranda back in 2003, it marked the injection of a long-needed bit of diversity in the show’s cast. Of the casting, Cynthia Nixon (Miranda herself) said, “We all of us, and no one more than Sarah Jessica, had lobbied for this for a long, long time ... I'm a huge fan of the show, but if we had area in which we really could use improvement, it's certainly this one ... I think it's about time.”

An earlier version of this article ran in 2016.

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Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
5 Fast Facts About Tamara de Lempicka
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes artists become more known among the general public for their colorful personal lives than for their artwork, no matter how great their contributions to the art world. Such is the case with Polish/American artist Tamara de Lempicka, who was born on this day in 1898. While Google is honoring what would have been her 120th birthday with a Google Doodle,  here are some highlights from her storied life.

1. SHE BEGAN HER "CAREER" AT THE AGE OF 12.

Tamara de Lempicka, who was born Maria Górska, discovered her artistic passion and skill at the age of 12. Lempicka had sat for a famous painter, but hated the resulting portrait, and believed she could do a better job. Thus she created her first painting ever, a portrait of her younger sister Adrienne, with which she was extremely pleased.

2. SHE MET HER HUSBAND WHEN SHE WAS 14 YEARS OLD.

Though she was only 14 years old when she met Taduesz Lempicki, the teenaged Lempicka became determined to marry him. Just a few years later, when she was 17 years old, she married the "modestly well-off lawyer" with a dowry provided by her "millionaire banker uncle." (She hadn't lived with her parents since they divorced when she was a child.)

3. SHE'S MORE FAMOUS FOR HER SEX LIFE THAN HER ART.

 Gallery technicians at Sotheby's auction house lift a painting by Tamara de Lempicka entitled 'Portrait de la Duchesse de la Salle' from 1925, next to another painting by the artist, 'Portrait de Marjorie Ferry' from 1932
Oli Scarff, Getty Images

Although she is considered the most famous Art Deco painter, Lempicka was more famous for her libido than for her art. She was bisexual, and carried on scandalous affairs with both men and women (often her patrons and models). Yet the exact details are somewhat unclear since, according to one source, she "shuffled the facts of her biography as much as she meddled with her birth date"—and she meddled with her birth date quite a bit, even going so far as to reportedly try to pass her daughter off as her sister on occasion.

4. SHE LIVED A LIFE OF LUXURY.

Lempicka lived a life of luxury from childhood. Not only was she born into a wealthy family, her second husband was Baron Kuffner, a wealthy Hungarian baron who had been her patron and lover. Although she initially lost money in 1929 when her bank collapsed, she survived the Great Depression relatively unaffected, painting the portraits of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Queen Elizabeth of Greece during that time. She had been charging as much as 50,000 French francs per portrait by 1927, which was equivalent to about $2000 then, but would be about 10 times as much today.

5. HER ASHES WERE SCATTERED OVER A VOLCANO.

In 1980, Lempicka passed away in Mexico. Per her request, Lempicka's ashes were scattered over the crater of the volcanic Mount Popocatepetl by her daughter, Kizette.

An earlier version of this post appeared in 2008.

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