Women who take the contraceptive pill choose less masculine men, study reveals
Women on the pill pick partners with round faces and narrow jawbonesStudy compared romantic preferences of straight women ages 18-24Less 'masculine' looks associated with faithfulness and stabilityMale less likely to look 'manly' in couples who met when woman was on pill
15:37 GMT, 28 March 2013
18:21 GMT, 28 March 2013
Contrary to popular belief, a strong jaw and masculine looks may not be what all women want, a new study has revealed.
Women taking the contraceptive pill actually prefer men with more effeminate looks – a trait associated with faithfulness and stability.
Women using the birth control pill were found to rate men with less masculine faces higher in terms of attractiveness compared to non-users.
In couples who first met when the woman was on the pill, the male partners were less likely to have 'manly' faces than those who met when the woman was off the pill.
A strong jaw may not be what women want, as a study finds those on the pill prefer less 'manly' men
Millions of women use hormonal forms of
contraception and some studies, including this one, indicate the Pill
could affect partner preferences.
If supported, these findings could have important implications for how relationships are formed, reported Live Science.
The study, detailed on Saturday in
the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, compared the romantic preferences
of straight women ages 18 to 24 who were taking oral contraception
against those who were not.
Claus Wedekind, ecologist and evolutionary biologist of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, said it is correlational and therefore cannot say that the Pill, rather than some other variable, causes these mate preferences.
Women who choose to take the pill may be
biased toward more 'stable' and less masculine-looking men,
Wedekind said, or 'may have an idea already what the pill does to them,
and that influences the experiment'.
Some research suggests that a preference for masculine or feminine traits may be linked to genetic benefits for a couple's offspring, such as strong immune systems.
A few studies have even found that women prefer more masculine traits during the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle.
Michael Cera, left, and Seth Rogen (right, pictured with his wife) have a narrower jaw and more rounded face respectively
Researchers showed the women composite images of young male and female faces, which could be manipulated to appear more or less masculine (based on features like cheekbone prominence, jaw height and face width).
Scientists then told the participants to alter the male faces so they were most attractive for either a short or long-term relationship.
The women were tested twice – once when none of them were taking the pill and again three months after some began using the pill.
When women were taking the pill, they preferred less masculine male faces (those with more narrow jawbones and more rounded faces, for instance) than before they started taking birth control, the results showed.
Next, the researchers looked at whether taking the pill influenced women's choices of partners. The scientists compared 85 couples who reported using the pill when they met to 85 couples who reported not using it.
Researchers took photos of the faces of the men in each couple and had volunteers judge the manliness of each. The volunteers also rated computer-tweaked versions of the images that accentuated differences in masculinity, for instance making a wide lower jawline (a manly trait) even wider.
Researchers found that the volunteers rated the partners of women who weren't on the pill at the start of their relationships as more masculine than those of women who were on the pill.
They rated the computer-manipulated images along the same lines. The link between the pill and facial traits was also confirmed with a mathematical formula.