The type of man a woman prefers depends on time of month
When it comes to so-called “macho men”, defined as men who are particularly masculine, dominant and powerful, a new study suggests that women only prefer such males for a few days during the month – and they actually steer clear from these types of men when it comes to seeking long-term partners.
In the few days each month that women do seek out masculine men, which occurs during ovulation when women are most fertile, lead researcher Kelly Gildersleeve from the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) suggested this may be due to genetic evolution.
Gildersleeve and other researchers from UCLA noted that the subject regarding a woman’s attraction to masculine traits during ovulation has been an ongoing one for over two decades, so the team set out to analyze some 50 different studies on the topic.
Their findings will be published this month in the journal Psychological Bulletin – and what they found is that the type of man a woman prefers changes during ovulation, causing them to “sniff out” more masculine types during the most fertile point of their cycle by the scent of the man’s body.
While earlier studies involved female participants who were instructed to smell a variety of T-shirts worn by different men who had different body and facial types, this latest study found that when women are ovulating, they prefer the smell of men who have more masculine body and facial characteristics.
The research team explained that previous studies have found a connection between masculine body and facial characteristics and greater health, stronger sexuality and larger bodies. Those same studies suggest that when a man’s body and face have similar characteristics, or are symmetrical, that it may be a sign of better genetics.
However, the researchers for this newest study have their own theory as to why women change their mate preferences during ovulation.
They hypothesize that this change may be the result of an evolutionary adaptation from ancient times before the existence of modern medicine, nutrition and sanitation. This was also a time when infant and child death rates were high, which the researchers believe may have prompted our female ancestors to seek out stronger, more masculine mates to ensure the survival of their offspring.
The study’s senior author, Prof. Martie Haselton of UCLA, pointed out that our female ancestors would have benefited from choosing more masculine mates because stronger men were seen as making better co-parents and possessing “high genetic quality, such as having masculine faces and bodies."
She added that women could “have had the best of both worlds” by selecting a long-term mate who was more paternal and having “affair partners” with men possessing “high-genetic quality”, but she points out that would work only if the “affairs were timed at a point of high fertility” during ovulation – and only if such affairs were never discovered.
This shift from female ancestors who typically preferred masculine mates for genetic quality, to women of this generation who prefer such types only during ovulation, may have originated from the adaptation of a species pre-dating humans that is now extinct, according to the researchers.
Using the human tailbone as an example because it still exists in our bodies, but doesn’t appear to serve any purpose, the researchers explained that this shift in mate preferences could now be "vestigial", or useless, in humans.
While additional research is needed for explaining the mate preference shift of women, Prof. Haselton commented that it may help women to understand “the logic behind these shifts” in order to help them choose better sexual mates “so that if they notice suddenly that they're attracted to the guy in the next cubicle at work, it doesn't necessarily mean that they don't have a great long-term partner.”
Rather, she explained, it could be that they’re merely “experiencing a fleeting echo from the past."
SOURCE: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), News Release: What do women want? It depends on the time of the month, February 14, 2014