The Science of Love and Lust
Here's what we know so far from evolutionary and biological psychologists:
- The hormonal changes that occur during a woman's monthly cycle can affect the way she behaves and the way men react to her. This happens roughly six days mid-cycle, before and after ovulation. (That's about two weeks before her period.)
- During this most fertile time, she may dress a little more sexily, flirt a bit more, adopt a higher pitched voice, and be more attracted to strong, confident, extra-masculine, "bad boy" types. The theory is that manly men have the best genes to pass on and make the best impregnators and protectors. This is largely subconscious on her part. She may not even realize this is happening.
- At other times in her cycle, those crazy hormonal fluctuations may take a dip, making her more attracted to men that she senses are more nurturing, care-giving, cuddly types.
- Men sense this too, and multiple studies have shown that ovulating women appear more attractive and can even cause males to get a little boost in testosterone. This may actually involve scent (based on studies where men sniffed the worn shirts of ovulating and non-ovulating women.) Men don't consciously realize this of course.
- Birth control drugs cause all of this to get out-of-whack. "The pill" flatlines these natural hormonal swings. Sex researcher Justin Lehmiller, PhD, says that this affects the kind of man she's attracted to. If she's on the pill, she may get into a relationship with more of a beta-male type of guy.
He even notes that later, if she goes off the pill, that she'll often find her caring, dad-bod having boyfriend or hubby less attractive, and be much more attracted to the extra-masculine type. Dr. Lehmiller even says that this could increase her likelihood of cheating.
Attraction is fascinating and mysterious, but science is starting to get some insights. Practically, the wise man may be able to use this information to build better long-term relationships. How? Some ideas:
- If the woman in your life starts to dress more provocatively, that doesn't necessarily mean she's after someone else. Kristina Durante, PhD, notes that committed women may do this during ovulation to retain her partner's interest. The lesson for dudes? You damn well better notice and tell her she's looking good. Her biology is asking for it.
- By knowing where his better half is at during her cycle, the committed man may be able to fulfill his woman's needs. (Google up an "ovulation calculator" and know when the first day of her last period was.) When she's NOT in the 6-day ovulation period, remember that she's attracted more to your nurturing, sensitive side. Let's call that your "cuddly-bear side." Listen more, be extra thoughtful and kind... snuggle. This may be tough if you're the manly-man type, but it will pay off.
- When she's ovulating, remember that the studies show she's more attracted to your masculine, warrior side. If you act too sensitive and, well, whipped and wimpy, she's not going to want to have sex with you. Now's the time to let your scruffy, bad boy out. If you're a skinny-jeans wearing, self-proclaimed male feminist, you'll get no play and your girlfriend or wife may start eyeballing the high-T masculine guys at the gym.
- For women on birth control, it might be smart to take this into consideration. Sure, you're happy with the submissive, limp-handshake fellow now, but will you lose sexual interest in him when you get off the pill? Studies show it can happen. If you're not on the pill, note that the type of guy that trips your trigger may vary at different times during your non-drug-blunted cycle. It might be wise to select a more well-rounded guy: a tough guy who knows when to be sensitive.
Well, this is conjecture, but most women today are using some form of birth control. If the science holds true, this means that in her sexually blunted, hormonally-retarded state, she may favor the beta male to the alpha. Men will do anything to see a woman naked, and many will adopt the less masculine qualities, or at least attempt to tamp them down, in order to find a mate.
And maybe, just maybe, this has lead to the societal pussification of men. Or least a lot more unsatisfying relationships.
- Roberts SC et al. Partner Choice, Relationship Satisfaction, and Oral Contraception: The Congruency Hypothesis. Psychological Science. 2014 Jul;25(7):1497-1503.
- Gildersleeve K et al. Do women's mate preferences change across the ovulatory cycle? A meta-analytic review. Psychol Bull. 2014 Sep;140(5):1205-59.
- Larsone CM et al. Ovulatory Shifts in Women's Attractions to Primary Partners and Other Men: Further Evidence of the Importance of Primary Partner Sexual Attractiveness. PLOS One. 2012;7(9):e44456.
- Law BM. Hormones and Desire. American Psychological Association. 2011 Mar;42(3):44.