Men With Muscles and Money Are More Attractive to Straight Women and Gay Men—Showing Gender Roles Aren't Progressing

Commuters brave the rush hour on the northern line on the London Underground on August 5, 2015. Reuters

Muscles and money are qualities that straight women and gay men typically find attractive in men, according to an analysis of Tube Crush—a website where people post unsolicited pictures of men seen on the London Underground.

The study at Coventry and Aberystwyth universities in the United Kingdom, published in Feminist Media Studies in August, analyzed images over a period of three years since 2014. The "guy candy" posted on the website were mostly white men—despite London being a multicultural city—indicating that white male privilege is still an attractive quality.

The photos and comments focused on the men's biceps, pecs and chest as well as perceived sexual ability. Items that indicated wealth such as smart suits, watches and phones were emphasized. Pictures showing other representations of masculinity, such as fatherhood, and more emotional and awkward-appearing men were far less frequent.

"This celebration of masculine capital is achieved through humor and the knowing wink, but the outcome is a reaffirmation of men's position in society," lead author Adrienne Evans from the Coventry University's Centre for Postdigital Cultures said in a statement. The problem, according to Evans, is that "although it appears as though we have moved forward, our desires are still mostly about money and strength."

Through social media, once-private desires are being made public. Taking photos of men on the London Underground can also be seen as reversal of gender roles, since men have historically been able to have more power over women's bodies.

"From smart-suited city workers to toned gym-goers flashing their flesh," Evans said in a statement, "the men featured in the photographs on Tube Crush show that as a culture we still celebrate masculinity in the form of money and muscle."

Musician Gao Bao Tie plays a traditional Chinese instrument called the yangqin for passersby in the New York subway system on April 13, 2007. Reuters

Public transport has become a place where gender politics is decided, according to the authors.

New York City has its own version of Tube Crush on Instagram called Hot Dudes Reading, which features, as its namesake implies, attractive men who are reading on the subway. The Instagram has almost 1 million followers, and a book featuring some of the photos was published last year.

Research has hinted at other qualities that attract women to men. Facial hair is, in general, appealing to women, according to research published in the May issue of the Journal of Evolutionary Biology. But attraction to men during different stages of beard growth—clean face, stubble and a heavy beard—depended on what the woman was looking for. Another study—which has not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal—found that people are more likely to be attracted to someone who shares features of their parents.