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    HomePsychologyControversial Impact: Oral Contraceptives Alter Women's Attraction to Men's Masculinity

    Controversial Impact: Oral Contraceptives Alter Women’s Attraction to Men’s Masculinity

    If you are a woman and you didn't ever think about the contraceptive pills' effect on your preferences about men, well, in this article, we explore how oral contraceptive use can affect women's preferences for male facial masculinity and their partner choice.

    Have you ever thought that contraceptives can influence your choices regarding men? Well, a recent study analyzes the effects of contraceptive administration on women’s preferences regarding the appearance of their life partners. The results are more than interesting and will amaze you! Here’s what the researchers discovered!

    Can oral contraceptives influence your preference in a relationship?

    If you are a woman and you didn’t ever think about the contraceptive pills’ effect on your preferences about men, well, in this article, we explore how oral contraceptive use can affect women’s preferences for male facial masculinity and their partner choice. A recent study, conducted by Anthony C Little, Robert P Burriss, Marion Petrie, Benedict C Jones, and S Craig Roberts, tested for within-subject changes in preferences for masculine faces in women initiating pill use.

    Their study entitled “Oral contraceptive use in women changes preferences for male facial masculinity and is associated with partner facial masculinity” was published in The Official Journal of the International Society of Psycho­neuro­endocrinology, Elsevier. The results showed that initiation of pill use significantly decreased women’s preferences for male facial masculinity but did not influence preferences for same-sex faces. Moreover, partners of women who used the pill during mate choice have less masculine faces than partners of women who did not use hormonal contraception at this time.

    Why do contraceptives have this effect?

    In other words, women who do not take contraceptives and are ovulating prefer their partner to have much more pronounced masculine features. On the other hand, women who take contraceptives regularly do not ovulate, so the effect of the contraceptives on them is preferable to the man in their life. Thus, women who take contraceptives are looking for a male partner who does not have pronounced masculine traits but who, rather, fits better in the role of a father, and with whom they can start a family.

    This can happen because contraceptives hormonally mimic a pregnancy or a period after the pregnancy, in which the woman does not want to reproduce, but rather seeks to build a family with her partner and to raise a child. Thus, women who take contraceptives look for a parental figure in their partner rather than a pronounced masculine appearance, while women who do not take contraceptives and ovulate look for a partner with a pronounced masculine appearance.

    contraceptives, couple, relationship
    Photo: Pexels

    As they said, according to biological approaches to human attractiveness, visible facial and body traits, such as symmetry and sexually dimorphic cues, vocal cues, and odor cues are linked to mate preferences. Masculinity in male faces is proposed to relate to both inter-sexual selection, influencing attraction to the opposite sex, and intra-sexual selection, relating to competition between members of the same sex. Masculine-faced men are perceived as dominant, report better health, and are physically stronger. However, they also receive negative attributions, such as being seen as poor parents and having more short-term partners, which suggests low investment in relationships.

    Multiple studies have demonstrated that women’s preferences for various traits in various domains shift across the menstrual cycle. One of the most well-documented phenomena in studies examining cyclical preference shifts is a greater attraction to masculine faces at peak fertility in the menstrual cycle, a within-individual shift driven by variation in hormone levels across the cycle. However, studies have shown a lack of (or weaker) shifts in preference among women using hormonal contraceptives.

    Given that hormonal contraceptive use is widespread, the effects of pill use on the processes of partner formation have important implications for relationship stability and may have other biologically relevant consequences. You can read their study here. This study provides the first experimental evidence that initiation of pill use in women causes changes in facial preferences and documents the downstream effects of these changes on real-life partner selection.

    Gabriela Luigia
    Gabriela Luigia
    Gabriela Luigia Sterie is Editor in Chief at Gherf. She's a researcher and her focus areas encompass digital marketing, social media, fake news, branding, consumer behavior and user behavior. Her research has been published in emerging journals. Moreover, she obtained a scientific research grant in the fake news sharing studying area. Her passion for research developed from her passion for writing. She is a copywriter and content writer with over 5 years of experience.


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