Teenage approval is Skins deep

17th April 2009 at 01:00
Good looks and fashionable clothes are shown to be the keys to social success for both sexes

Popular teenagers should be good-looking and outgoing, with nice clothes and lots of friends. But they should never look as though they are trying too hard.

And those are just the boys.

Ann-Sofie Holm of Sweden's Gothenburg University surveyed more than 3,500 15 and 16-year-olds on their views about what makes someone popular and found that popularity tends to lie in the eye of the beholder: 43 per cent of boys and 32 per cent of girls said they belonged to the most popular friendship group in their year.

Contrary to expectations, there was little difference between what made them popular. Three-quarters of those surveyed said that popular pupils, of either sex, were always humorous, and two-thirds said they were self-confident. Similar numbers believed popular pupils should be outgoing and enjoy parties.

Three-quarters of pupils said that girls needed to be good-looking in order to be popular, while two-thirds felt that boys should also be physically attractive. And 66 per cent of pupils expected popular girls to wear nice clothes, compared with 59 per cent who expected the same of popular boys.

"Popular girls and boys were characterised as good-looking, socially extrovert, self-confident, sporty and mature persons with extensive social networks," she said.

While many popularity-inducing qualities were shared by boys and girls, emphasis on those traits often differed. So, while sporting prowess and physical appearance were important for both, the former tended to be stressed more for boys, and the latter for girls. "Working on appearance was more accepted among girls, but was also acceptable for boys if they balanced it with macho activities such as football," Dr Holm said.

The teenagers expected popular girls to be more mature than popular boys, but boys were required to be competitive and decisive. And while boys were concerned about their appearance, they also believed it was important to appear free-spirited and independent. "Boys often show a laid-back attitude and argue that they don't bother that much," said Dr Holm. "They want their achievements to look effort-free."

When the teenagers were asked what their criteria were for popularity, girls tended to emphasise personal qualities such as "funny and kind", "loyal" and "open-minded and social". But appearance featured prominently for both sexes. Popular boys were expected to be "masculine and strong", "muscular" and to "have a big dick". Boys emphasised the popularity of girls who are "pretty", "curvy", have "big tits" and "want to fuck".

Dr Holm concluded that some answers were probably aimed to shock the researchers. "The students' definitions of ideal femininity and masculinity indicate that there are expectations on both boys and girls to be everything."

Students' definitions of ideal femininity and masculinity at school, by Ann-Sofie Holm, ann-sofieholm@hb.se.

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