When Fertile, Women Want Manly Men

LiveScience

By Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

posted: 12 October 2010 08:11 pm ET

Awkward news from the world of science: Women with less-masculine husbands or boyfriends are more likely to lust after other men during the fertile part of their cycle than women partnered with butch guys.

A new study reveals that heterosexual women whose partners have less-masculine faces report more attraction to other men during ovulation. Women with masculine-looking partners said their eyes wander less, perhaps because the traits women tend to find sexy when they’re fertile are already present in their partners. However, while those women weren’t looking elsewhere, they also weren’t more attracted to their own manly partners while fertile, suggesting that women’s reasons for wanting sex, not overall desire, might be what varies throughout the cycle.

Baby-faced men can breathe easy: The findings, reported in the November issue of the journal Evolution and Human Behavior, apply only to women’s ratings of men as short-term partners, not as lifelong mates.

“When they rate men’s sexiness, in a sense, that’s when they show the shift,” study co-author Steven Gangestad, a University of New Mexico evolutionary psychologist, told LiveScience. “If they rate men’s attractiveness as a long-term partner, then they don’t show it.”

Ovulation and attractiveness

For many years, researchers believed that female Homo sapiens had evolved to hide their fertile periods, unlike other primates whose swollen genitals signal fertility to males. But the past decade of research suggests women aren’t such stealthy ovulaters after all. Studies have shown that men rate women’s smells and looks as more attractive during fertile periods of a women’s menstrual cycle. Other studies have shown that women walk differently when ovulating and may pay more attention to grooming and dress.

A number of studies have found a peak in women’s preferences for masculine, muscular men during fertile times, but many of those studies are lab-based, Gangestad said. He and his colleagues wanted to see how preferences shift in real couples.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.