The XX Factor

Do You Have Thigh Gap? Neither Does the Vitruvian Man.

Two cold, lonely thighs and the distance between them, on a London runway

Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images

Two words: thigh gap. This excrescence is the latest in women wishing their bodies conformed to an impossible beauty standard—and my new thing-I-wish-weren’t-a-thing. A thigh gap is a gap that emerges between a woman’s inner thighs when she stands with her knees together. If you haven’t heard of it, that’s probably because it doesn’t exist on most of the population. But it does exist on fashion catwalks! And on Twitter, where you can follow the supermodel Cara Delevingne’s thigh gap at @CarasThighGap. To a whole horde of young girls on Tumblr—not to mention adult women who are turning to surgical procedures like Cool Sculpting to achieve the effect (an ice-cold wand applied to your inner thighs basically freezes away the fat cells)—thigh gap is desirable. It equals thinness. In the case of Cool Sculpting, it costs $700 per thigh. And it now means that we women are responsible not only for the shape of our bodies, but for the M.C. Escher-ian negative space our bodies create. Artsy!

So, how to attain peak TG? You could starve yourself. You could get thigh liposuction. You could Cool Sculpt. You could ride horses until you become bow-legged. But before you bid goodbye forever to the gentle sound of your thighs dolefully nuzzling each other on the way down the hall, consider all the beautiful people—male and female!—who do not have thigh gap. For instance:  

Botticelli’s Venus:

The Venus de Milo (covered up so to keep her touching thighs a mystery):

The Vitruvian Man:

If you crave more contemporary evidence, my colleague Hanna Rosin lined up a trio of lanky 12-year-old girls, including her daughter, over the weekend and inspected them for TG. Not one of them had it. If coltish teenagers don’t exhibit the femoral hollow, chances are it doesn’t occur in nature. And yet, perversely, as the weather warms, Rosin reports she can’t stop checking out shorts-clad women—“It’s like looking for a four-leaf clover,” she writes. 

I couldn’t help it: I ran to the long mirror in the office bathroom this morning to see if I had TG. (I’m not telling.) (I don’t.) It seems that if you stand in a highly peculiar way, with your butt out, you can kind of simulate it. But why? I’d rather embrace a much friendlier beauty standard, hereby known as TC—thigh chafe. Do you have it?