Why Fertile Women Are More Aloof

Women at their most fertile are less likely to find stable mates attractive

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According to a new study from University of California Los Angeles researchers, ladies who settled down with Mr. Stable over Mr. Steamy are  less likely to be sexually attracted to their partner during their most fertile period than women who paired up with sexually-desirable men.
Not all that surprising, except that in some studies of reproductive survival, women are more attracted to and more likely to mate with stable rather than purely attractive men in an attempt to secure a more lasting environment in which to raise a family.

But in this latest study of heterosexual couples, sexual attraction seems to trump social stability. “A woman evaluates her relationship differently at different times in her cycle, and her evaluation seems to be colored by how sexually attractive she perceives her partner to be,” said senior study author Martie Haselton, a professor of psychology and communication studies at UCLA in a statement.

(MORE: Why Stressed Out Men Prefer Heavier Women)

To assess the changing behavior of women during ovulation, the researchers identified the ovulation cycles of 41 undergraduate women who were in long-term relationships with men. The researchers asked the women to rate the sexual attractiveness of their partners based on questions like, “How desirable do you think women find your partner as a short-term mate or casual sex partner, compared to most men?” The women also answered questions about the sustainability of their mate as a long-term partner.

The women were then asked about the state of their relationship at two different periods during their ovulation cycle: at high fertility just before ovulation and at low fertility. When they were asked about the quality of their relationship, their feelings remained the same, but when they were asked how close they felt to their partner, women with less sexy partners progressively reported diminishing feelings of intimacy and greater aloofness toward their partner as they became more fertile. The opposite was true for women with sexually-desirable partners.

In the second part of the study, the researchers repeated the experiment with 67 new participants. This time, the women were assessed on their “pickiness” by listing how irritating characteristics like moodiness, childishness and thoughtlessness occurred in their partner. Once again, the women paired with less sexy men were most likely to identify the faulty characteristics in their partners as they became more fertile.

(MORE: The Secret to Guys’ Sex Appeal: Low Stress, High Testosterone, Strong Immunity)

Fortunately for the sake of long term relationships, the women’s physical dissatisfaction didn’t last long. According to the researchers, although women may be more critical of their partners during high fertility periods, it doesn’t influence how they feel about their men over the long term.

The authors speculate that women’s changing preferences may stem from an evolutionary benefit attractive men enjoyed long ago. “Since our female ancestors couldn’t directly examine a potential partner’s genetic makeup, they had to base their decisions on physical manifestations of the presence of good genes and the absence of genetic mutations, which might include masculine features such as a deep voice, masculine face, dominant behavior and sexy looks,” said Haselton in the statement.”It is possible that we evolved to feel drawn to these visible markers because, at least in the past, they proved to be indicators of good genes. Ancestral women who were attracted to these features could have produced offspring who were more successful in attracting mates and producing progeny.”

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Whether this legacy of assessing mates by physical characteristics continues to provide an evolutionary advantage isn’t as clear; the authors are planning to evaluate that next by studying whether such shifts in women’s opinions of their partners damage their relationships or threaten the stability of their families as time goes on.

The study is published in the  journal Hormones and Behavior.

14 comments
DavidMcCloskey
DavidMcCloskey

The study may show that being aloof to her pair bond partner when she ismost fertile would enable her to successfully mate with a more "healthier" male.Thus having the more "Stable" yet unsuspecting male to raise heroffspring??? Oh that diabolical and devious woman!

eetom
eetom

Fertile women may be more aloof.  The converse is not necessarily ture.  Many women who are aloof are definitely not fertile.

KMC528
KMC528

The #1 reason he was a less sexy mate was "characteristics like moodiness, childishness and thoughtlessness", at all times of the month.  When we were dating, he was working at being fun to be around. As soon as we got married, he stopped trying.

chokingkojak
chokingkojak

Sifferlin, congratulations on popping my women-are-paragons-of-consistent-judgement balloon.   

How about I get the board I'm on to give you a job like CEO? I'll make sure they let you waffle on whatever you like, depending on the time of the month.  

Thanks for doing your part to make leadership roles for women menopause-only...

ibtlius
ibtlius

Will there EVER be an article about how men of this feminised world are bred these days and condemned to put up with with Ms.Stable instead of Ms.Steamy?

JackJack
JackJack

So your mood and outloook changes when your hormones rage. Good god, aren't there more important things to study? All that matters is this: How many children are raised by a man that believes he is their father when in fact he is not? That can in fact be tested. Asking questions doesn't provide answers..

Rick
Rick

Things would be so much simpler if we just sniff each other.  Smell good, go for it, otherwise move on.....

StephenSwain
StephenSwain

@Rick   They do sniff us.  We just don't know it, and neither do they.  That doesn't mean it's not happening.  When their hormones are up (more fertile) we don't actually smell that much different in any objective sense, but their smeller perceives us differently.  Just a theory, but based on 30 years of marital observation before being given the golden-handshake, er, sort of.  DO not expect logic here.  It's mostly electro-chemisty.

SamanthaRomero
SamanthaRomero like.author.displayName 1 Like

I like how these articles and quotations from the study make "stable" and "sexy" mutually exclusive, and have pretty much made "responsible" synonymous with "sexually unattractive." How about a stable, nice guy hit the gym and we see what the results are then. Find a woman who has a sexy man who does the dishes and makes good money and see how it works out, then. In fact, I'll sign up for this study.

aldridge.rob
aldridge.rob like.author.displayName 1 Like

Good god, it's amazing the human race has gotten as far as it has; half fuss-budget, half rutting weasels. So tied of these stories. 

chokingkojak
chokingkojak like.author.displayName 1 Like

Fertile women are usually aloof because I pissed them off somehow

Think_again
Think_again like.author.displayName 1 Like

Do we believe in evolution because there is an evolutionary advantage to believing in explanations based on evolutionary advantage?

There are, of course, other explanations of data available, and not every explanation has to conform to the thesis that we do everything ultimately to ensure that our offspring will survive.

A woman who chooses a life partner based on stability may well disregard sexual attractiveness in favor of other factors (shaped by many things, including childhood experiences, peers, etc.); and it's during times when sexual interest is heightened -- during greater fertility) that she is more aware of -- and perhaps disappointed by -- that choice. In other words, she's looking for the hotness that at other times she is less concerned with, and gets critical as a result.

eetom
eetom like.author.displayName like.author.displayName 2 Like

OK, fertile women can be more aloof.  But are women who are aloof necessarily more fertile?  I don't think so.

eetom
eetom

Fertile women may be more aloof.  But are women who are aloof necessarily more fertile?  I doubt it.