My editor emailed me: “Biko, this (last) week’s Mantalk is very flat. Is everything OK?” Of course everything was okay. In fact, things were so great I was actually warming chapatis and coconut beans when she emailed. That’s just how fine things were.
I was in a happy place. I didn’t think the story was flat. I rather enjoyed writing it. (It was last week’s piece on what if this was 1903 or something. The man with his stool?) Anyway, I emailed her back: “Well, I was sort of low on ideas this weekend [True]. Please email me the ideas you would like me to write about or my next article might just be about irrigation.” [Always throw the ball back] She sent a laughing emoji and said, “How about you write about big butts?” My first thought was, “Big butts? This space here won’t be enough for a story like that. A story about big butts needs big space.” Instead I wrote back piously, “What?! Big butts? My goodness, how can I? My father is a church elder! I have a 10-year-old daughter!” She said, “Biko, please! Stop acting, you have written worse things. Listen, I have always wondered why men are fascinated by big butts. What’s the promise? What’s the attraction? I think that should make a good story.
You should try write about that.”
I sat at my kitchen counter and dug in but I was already distracted by that email and couldn’t give my meal the attention it deserved.
See, that’s why one should never open an email before they start eating their favourite meal. It ruins everything. Because now all I could think about were big butts. And why men are fascinated about it.
DID NOT MAKE SENSE
The more I thought about it, the more it didn’t make sense. Why do we still hold the phone between our heads and shoulders long after the phone conversation is over? Why is it called a mourning dove when it produces such a lovely cry? Why do we die?
For the next few days I thought about her question. I also started noticing a lot of big butts, more than I usually would.
It’s like when you want to buy a car, then all of a sudden you notice that type of car more. And I might have stared more than I usually would do. But purely for research purposes this time. For you. (My job can be very stressful as you can see).
The short answer to my editor’s question is: I don’t know why men like big butts. It’s just how the cookie crumbles. And why wouldn’t one be fascinated by it? Because on a very aesthetic level, a big butt just looks good.
It fills the trousers well. If it’s a dress, it curves it, gives the dress shape. It’s a visual fascination. I watched a series where Ralph Gilles, the global head of design at Chrysler, talks to his designers about the shape and contours of a car they were designing. How the lines rise and fall and how they capture shadows in small little pools.
The more he talked about shape, especially the posterior of the vehicle, the more he started sounding like he was talking about a human posterior.
On the other hand I also suspect that most men are fascinated by big butts because it feels safe. It feels nurturing. There is an artist who paints those Java paintings of women with big butts in marketplaces.
For the longest time I wondered why, then I realised that sitting next to one of his paintings in the cafe feels like you were in mother’s kitchen. It feels like you are taken care of, because, don’t women say we are all babies at the end of it all?
But you know what some research done from the University of Texas revealed when they asked 200 men to look at images of women with different butt sizes and spinal curves?
That men preferred women whose spinal curvature was closest to 45 degrees, regardless of the size of the rear. So it’s not just the buttock mass that men like, according to this study; it’s the specific angle of spinal curvature. “An illusion of a shapely butt,” it said.
There is another prehistoric theory, that since pregnancy pitches the centre of gravity forward, the “spinal structure would have enabled pregnant women to balance their weight of the hips making these women more effective at foraging during pregnancy and less likely to suffer spinal injuries.”
This made these women a better choice of partners because they were better at providing for foetuses and offspring “and would be able to carry out multiple pregnancies without injury.”
That’s what science says. And science can say a lot about simple things.
The bottom (ha!) line is that nobody will really tell you why men are fascinated by women with big derriere. What I know for sure is that the reason is not worth missing a good meal of chapati and beans over.