You may have heard that women prefer certain traits in men, depending on their menstrual cycles. For the longest time, I believed this was the case.
This hypothesis, the good genes ovulatory shift hypothesis (GGOSH) states that when fertile, women prefer men who display traits that increase chances of survival. Traits like
aggression and confidence should appear more attractive compared to when a woman was not fertile.
However, when a study from the University of Göttingen tested this hypothesis, they found that this was not the case.
157 straight females between the ages of 18 and 35 watched videos showing a man getting to know a woman, without the women being in the shot. They then rated the man’s level of attractiveness for a short-term sexual relationship and for a long-term relationship in four separate sessions.
Hormones and levels of fertility were measured through saliva samples and highly sensitive urine ovulation tests.
The data revealed some interesting pieces of information. When fertile, women find all men more attractive, regardless of their behaviour. This is different from what was expected, since previous research suggested that men displaying certain traits would be found more
attractive than others.
The study also found that men displaying behaviours such as competitiveness and flirtiness were preferred for short-term sexual relationships, but not so much for long-term
relationships, but this was not dependent on whether the woman was fertile or not. These results were published in Psychological Science.
“There is a lot of research on women’s mate preferences, so at first we were surprised that we didn’t see the same effects. However, our new results are in line with other recent studies using more rigorous methods than previous studies,” said Dr. Julia Stern from the University of Göttingen’s Institute of Psychology.
“The finding that ratings of attractiveness increase
in the fertile phase, independent of men’s behaviour, is new and indicates that
women’s mating motivation is likely to be higher in the fertile phase.”
There has been some other research which found that there was not a correlation between hormone levels and the type of men that women found attractive.
Benedict C. Jones from the University of Glasgow said, “We found no evidence that changes in hormone levels influence the type of men women find attractive.”
They also found that oral contraceptives did not interfere with this.
“There has been increasing concern that the birth control pill might disrupt romantic
relationships by altering women‘s mate preferences, but our findings do not provide evidence of this,” said Jones.
So, what exactly makes a man attractive to a woman?
Dr. Lora Adair from Brunel University London answered this question from another
study. “What are women attracted to? Good health and interest. In short, women are interested in men that seem interested in them. Looking ‘easy’ isn’t sexy, reciprocating her interest is.”