The findings of a new study from the University of Padova should spell concern for any man considering going vegetarian or vegan.
The study, “Eating Meat Makes You Sexy: Conformity to Dietary Gender Norms and Practices,” was published in the recent issue of Psychology of Men and Masculinity and was led by University of Padova researchers Susanna Timeo and Caterina Suitner.
Though some academics have previously linked meat-eating to masculinity, Timeo and Suitner sought to test this connection in the lab. To do this, they designed three experiments and recruited a total of 228 men and women under the age of 50 to take part.
During one of the experiments, 50 Italian women were presented with fictional accounts of vegetarian men and meat-eaters, and were asked to rate each man with descriptors such as “attractive,” “ideal partner,” “sexy,” and “I would date him.”
For example, one fictional omnivorous man was described as follows:
Alessandro is a 29-year-old guy … He works as a personal trainer and lives in an apartment with a friend. His hobbies are playing tennis and playing bass guitar … His favorite dishes are polenta, salami and mushrooms, and strudel.
Vegetarian men, on the other hand, were described as eating foods such as tiramisu, yogurt, fruit, and soup. According to researchers, women rated vegetarian men as less attractive in all circumstances — even when the woman was vegetarian herself.
“We have found that, in the Italian context, females seem to prefer omnivorous over vegetarian males as possible mates, and that this discrimination is stronger among women holding negative attitudes toward vegetarians,” write Timeo and Sutiner.
In the conclusion, the researchers express confusion with the implications of their findings, and seem to focus on only cultural explanations such as stereotypes and gender roles.
They conclude by suggesting that traditional masculinity needs a cultural update. “Because women tend to reward mates who adhere to the gender stereotypic role, the detachment from [eating meat] may become more difficult for men,” the researchers state. They add: “It is however true that new models of masculinity are emerging and that the hegemonic model might be overcome.”