It’s a little known fact, but birth control pills have an effect on what women find to be attractive. This study found that women who discontinued birth control after getting married had a statistically significant decline in marriage satisfaction if their husband had a less attractive face, while the women who continued taking birth control had no such decline, and the women with classically handsome husbands also had no such decline.
This Scientific American article notes that birth control can also effect attraction in other ways, stating:
Women who start or stop taking the pill, then, may be in for some relationship problems. A study published last year in Psychological Science found that women paired with MHC-similar [major histocompatibility complex] men are less sexually satisfied and more likely to cheat on their partners than women paired with MHC-dissimilar men. So a woman on the pill, for example, might be more likely to start dating a MHC-similar man, but he could ultimately leave her less sexually satisfied. Then if she goes off the pill during the relationship, the accompanying hormonal changes will draw her even more strongly toward more MHC-dissimilar men. These immune genes may have a “powerful effect in terms of how well relationships are cemented,” says University of Liverpool psychologist Craig Roberts, co-author of the August paper.
This Yale article covers the same topic in slightly more detail. The conclusion being that masculine features are moved down the priority list in terms of female attraction for women who are on the pill. The Yale article states that:
Shockingly, these studies also found that hormonal birth control seems to throw off the biochemical basis of attraction. In the facial preference study, experimental subjects no longer showed the cyclic variation in preference for faces with more masculine or feminine features when they were using hormonal contraception. More dramatically, in the MHC T-shirt study, women on hormonal contraception no longer preferred the more MHC dissimilar males; conversely, they preferred men with MHC more similar to their own. Scientists speculate that this shift is due to the preference of pregnant women to be around kin, who are more likely to assist them, and similarity of MHC could indicate kinship. However, in terms of mating, the offspring of two individuals with highly similar MHC are expected to have weaker immune systems. Finally, in the study of estrus in lap dancers, the women using hormonal contraception showed no estrus earnings peak, suggesting that hormonal contraception shuts down the body’s natural estrus signaling. It would seem from these findings that hormonal contraception is stopping and sometimes even reversing our natural tendencies in sexual attraction.
Might this explain why women seem to value looks about half as much as men do? As a classically good looking guy myself, I feel like I’m getting shafted in this deal!
All jokes aside, this dramatic change in sexual attraction preferences among females on the pill can’t be good for the evolution of humanity. From the stripper estrus study (what a great study!) I also get the impression that the pill makes women far less flirtatious than they otherwise would be. The researchers found that, “professional lap dancers earned significantly more in tips when they were most fertile, with an average of $185 per night during menstruation, $260 during the luteal phase, and $335 during estrus.” – that’s a huge difference! Double the money! Yet there was no such difference for the strippers on the pill.
What would a female stripper have to do in order to make double the money without changing her looks at all? That must take a HUGE change in personality! It sounds like men are getting double shafted here. The good looking guys miss out on the advantage of having good looks, and all the guys miss out on having highly flirtatious females come on to them.
I also have to wonder if the pill might be a secondary contributing cause of the obesity epidemic. If men can get away with being fat, yet still pull down the hotties, it disincentivizes men to trim their waistlines. Take a look at the gay community to see a dramatic example of this. There’s a reason why obesity is far less prevalent among the gay male population, as opposed to the gay female population. Trim fit gay guys generally don’t party with fat gay men, while on the other-hand, gay females seem to care far less about how their partners look.
I also wonder if the pill also causes women to value their waistlines less than they otherwise would. Since we know the pill causes women to devalue men’s looks, it might also cause women to devalue their own looks as well. I’m not saying the pill directly causes obesity, just that if women barely value masculine features in men, it stands to reason they might fail to recognize just how important feminine looks are to the guys, thereby making less of an effort to keep their appearance up. If a person doesn’t value looks in others, why should they value how they look themselves?
FYI ladies, according to this research, men around the world prefer females with a BMI just slightly above anorexic status. If you get so skinny that you look sick, you’ve gone too far. Aim for a BMI of 19 and you’re doing good. Obviously this doesn’t apply to all men, just the majority. As for the guys, you should be fine at a BMI of around 24.