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Body Image. 2006 Sep;3(3):229-35. Epub 2006 Aug 7.

Cultural representations of thinness in women, redux: Playboy magazine's depiction of beauty from 1979 to 1999.

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  • 1The American University, Washington, DC, United States.


Playboy's portrayal of the male ideal of feminine beauty, in terms of overall body size, percent normative weight, and waist-to-hip ratios (WHRs), was analyzed for the years 1979-1999. Trends were examined through body measurements obtained from Playboy centerfolds. Results reveal a continuation of the low body mass index (BMI) found in the Playmates by earlier studies; however, for the 21 years examined, the trend towards increasing thinness seems to have stabilized and may have begun to actually reverse. There was also an increase in the centerfolds' WHRs over the 21-year time period. Overall, the results support the continued valuing in American society of a thin ideal for women; while the images of beauty have become somewhat heavier over the 21-year period reviewed, the Playmates remain markedly below weights normative for their age group.

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