Near Ovulation, Your Cheatin' Heart Will Tell on You
January 18, 2006 2:56 AM   Subscribe

Near Ovulation, Your Cheatin' Heart Will Tell on You "New research from UCLA and the University of New Mexico suggests that members of "the gentler sex" may have evolved to cheat on their mates during the most fertile part of their cycle — but only when those mates are less sexually attractive than other men."
posted by anyokerin (57 comments total)

 
So during their horniest moments, women fancy attractive blokes?

How can I get funding for this sort of stuff?
posted by pompomtom at 3:11 AM on January 18, 2006


Egads. Fertile females seek out the genetic material of (what they perceive to be) the fittest providers they can find? Shocking!
posted by Ryvar at 3:17 AM on January 18, 2006


...but only if they're involved with an uggo.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:45 AM on January 18, 2006


Humans have more in common with other species of mammals than previously thought. What a breakthrough!
posted by psmealey at 3:47 AM on January 18, 2006


Does this mean GOD INTELLIGENTLY DESIGNED WOMEN TO BE UNFAITHFUL?
posted by three blind mice at 4:18 AM on January 18, 2006


...but only if they're involved with an uggo.

I prefer the term 'differently attractive'.
posted by pompomtom at 4:25 AM on January 18, 2006


What about lesbians?
posted by srboisvert at 4:30 AM on January 18, 2006


3bm: Ameeenn Brooo+thher Alleluia ! In the nammmme of Jebus, thou shalt fuck cause it's ntellignt design sistah you don't go against the will of Jeeeeeeebus !

On another note: what women want ? Amoing other, fuck. News at 11, film at 12, reality show tomorrow.
posted by elpapacito at 4:35 AM on January 18, 2006


Higgamous hoggamous, woman's monogamous; hoggamous higgamous, men are polygamous.

There's gotta be some poetic biologist here that can tear this couplet to shreds.
posted by maryh at 4:37 AM on January 18, 2006


What Ryvar said.

Also, it would seem that men are compelled biologically to at least desire to spread their DNA through as many suitable mates as possible to ensure survival of their genetic code.

Now try explaining that to your girlfriend.
posted by tweak at 6:12 AM on January 18, 2006


So... how do I find these ... ovulating women? (Pulls out playa handbook and turns to the 'Notes' section with pen in hand).

Imagine what this is going to do to the bar scene.
posted by ginbiafra at 6:25 AM on January 18, 2006


As the sexiest man alive, I don't think I have anything to be concerned about. The rest of you suckers had better keep your ladies away from me.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:30 AM on January 18, 2006


And I was just starting to trust her.
posted by The White Hat at 7:00 AM on January 18, 2006


This isn't eactly new. The only diffrence is that the research is being released by american universities, rather then people in the UK.
posted by delmoi at 7:01 AM on January 18, 2006


Does this mean GOD INTELLIGENTLY DESIGNED WOMEN TO BE UNFAITHFUL?

Are you really surprised? He's been kind of a bastard since day one.
posted by voltairemodern at 7:24 AM on January 18, 2006 [1 favorite]


"Women know they have attractions that come and go, but they probably don't realize that these urges are tied to their cycle — as well as our evolutionary past," said Martie G. Haselton, a UCLA researcher and author of two new studies on the subject. "They just know that suddenly one day they're attracted to their hunky neighbor or handsome co-worker."

Oh, well - so women still "lack the ability to succeed at the highest levels of math and science", in the legendary words of Harvard's President Lawrence H. Summers. See, attraction to other men occurs every month, at the same time of the month, since the poor girl is 12 or 13 and she is still unable to "realize that these urges are tied to their cycle". Absolutely no ability for science there.
posted by nkyad at 7:24 AM on January 18, 2006


agreed, delmoi. This is old hat. It's also been found women are attracted to more masculinized features when ovulating (facial features that correspond with high testosterone), and prefer softer, more womanly facial contours at other times of the month-- presumably because less testosterone means more cuddly niceness, less violence, and more fidelity, which are better parental traits.

I'm not really sure I understand nkyad's criticism. Many of our thoughts and intuitions are, in practice, disconnected from the reasons they exist (e.g. food cravings-- someone with a b12 deficiency might be craving carbs all the time without ever thinking "Dang, I needs me some b12"). It's not something that's unique to one sex, so the Larry Summers reference seems ad hominem...
posted by mowglisambo at 7:58 AM on January 18, 2006


I'm not really sure I understand nkyad's criticism. Many of our thoughts and intuitions are, in practice, disconnected from the reasons they exist (e.g. food cravings-- someone with a b12 deficiency might be craving carbs all the time without ever thinking "Dang, I needs me some b12"). It's not something that's unique to one sex, so the Larry Summers reference seems ad hominem...

I was just commenting the researcher (IMHO unhappy) way to express herself. The women's period is not some casual event - it is a fundamental cycle that determines much of a woman's life. If you wanted to eat french fries every fifth day after your menstruation for 15 years, wouldn't you start suspecting some correlation? If lunar cycle after lunar cycle, come the middle week and the otherwise annoying neighbor suddenly looks yummy, I believe eventually the most distracted woman would smell the evolutionary trap. I am not saying this is or should be a conscious, rational process - I am saying that if you dig further, you will probably discover most women know they are more susceptible to notice some men more during that time of the month.
posted by nkyad at 8:38 AM on January 18, 2006


It's not every month--it's every 28 days. So, it moves slowly through the month. That makes it a little harder than if it's always on the 14th. There's a lot of time in there, so noting the correlation can be difficult.

I'm still amazed that we were able to figure out that having a child was related to a good lay nine months previous. When cause and effect are far apart, it becomes very difficult to notice patterns like that.
posted by jefgodesky at 8:50 AM on January 18, 2006


There's gotta be some poetic biologist here that can tear this couplet to shreds.

It doesn't need tearing to shreds, just some moderate amendments:

Higamous hutty, women are slutty.
Hogamous huggo, if they're married to an uggo.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:25 AM on January 18, 2006


Does this mean GOD INTELLIGENTLY DESIGNED WOMEN TO BE UNFAITHFUL?

No, to be especially tempted. It's a trial, don't you know, like dangling big, firm, tasty-looking fruit in the forbidden part of the arboretum. Good Christian women remain faithful to their homely helpmeets and their leathery testaments.
posted by pracowity at 10:00 AM on January 18, 2006


We don't need no ovulation in this dancerie.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:27 AM on January 18, 2006


Somehow I doubt that "biology made me do it" will become a very compelling defense in divorce proceedings where infidelity is at issue.
posted by JekPorkins at 10:31 AM on January 18, 2006


jefgodesky: On the other hand, symptoms of pregnancy start within a month, and become pretty unambiguous after a few months for most people. It's not exactly as if life goes on as usual for 9 months and then, whoops, there is a baby.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:38 AM on January 18, 2006


The underlying assumption in this article is that women fucking whomever they want is bad.
But in an era when birth control plays a prominent role in determining the amount of genetic material that any one couple passes on to the next generation, these adaptive traits may no longer serve their evolved function.

"The temptation to cheat on one's mate may be no different from hankering for a Krispy Kreme donut and other fatty foods," Haselton said. "It is an appetite that apparently helped ancestral humans to transmit their genes to subsequent generations, but today it may only get us into trouble."
Birth control renders the drive to "cheat" maladaptive? Hell no. Birth control renders the male tendency to be "possessive and jealous" maladaptive.

Last night I was talking with another woman and a couple guys about minor breaches of infidelity. The woman had been caught kissing another guy during a drunken birthday revel. She didn't think it was a big deal, but her boyfriend was hurt. I made the case that, from an objective perspective, her kissing somebody did not cause any actual harm to her boyfriend. She agreed, but the two men with us said that it's an ownership or property issue. They actually used those words.

It's a completely different mindset. I don't know if there's any way to reconcile the differences.

I wonder how much of this is "biological" and how much of it is cultural conditioning. As always, it's probably a little of both.
posted by spacewaitress at 10:53 AM on January 18, 2006


Emotional distress isn't "actual harm?" I'll have to remember that.
posted by JekPorkins at 10:55 AM on January 18, 2006


Yes, but where does the emotional distress come from?
posted by spacewaitress at 10:56 AM on January 18, 2006


spacewaitress: Last night I was talking with another woman and a couple guys about minor breaches of infidelity. The woman had been caught kissing another guy during a drunken birthday revel. She didn't think it was a big deal, but her boyfriend was hurt. I made the case that, from an objective perspective, her kissing somebody did not cause any actual harm to her boyfriend. She agreed, but the two men with us said that it's an ownership or property issue. They actually used those words.

I don't think it breaks down to a nice gender dichotomy here. I've known plenty of women who would object to minor infidelities, although they would generally use terms like "loyalty" rather than "ownership." Personally, I find the emotional distress from discovering that a partner is less committed to the relationship than I assumed to be reasonable.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:06 AM on January 18, 2006


It's not every month--it's every 28 days.

Sorry to correct you, jefgodesky, but that's not true. Ovulatory cycles can range anywhere from 20-100+ days or so. And let's not forget about those pesky anovulatory cycles. Trust me, I know this all too well as my SO and I have been trying to conceive for the better part of a year now.
posted by debralee at 11:10 AM on January 18, 2006


The origin of the distress has no effect on the reality of the harm.
posted by JekPorkins at 11:12 AM on January 18, 2006


Yes, but where does the emotional distress come from?

Oh, it's all in the head/heart of the boyfriend, and so, to anyone to whom the thoughts and feelings of the boyfriend aren't real, they're not real at all.
posted by namespan at 11:26 AM on January 18, 2006


So the distress results from a violation of someone's expectations. Where do those expectations come from?

Cheating happens, and it isn't ever going to stop. Some couples are fortunate enough to be very well-matched in attractiveness, temperament, and interests. They have no motivation to cheat. A lot of people aren't that lucky, and end up looking elsewhere for emotional support, or physical gratification, or intellectual stimulation.

I'm not trying to defend cheating. If you've made a promise to someone, it is wrong to violate it. But there are so many underlying assumptions about the way we do relationships, and nobody ever talks about them because it's difficult and upsetting.

I'm just saying that this woman kissing some other guy at a party is a different kind of action than, say, her stabbing her boyfriend in the hand with a fork. The harm from the second action is indisputable. The harm from the first is the result of a complex web of conditioning, biology and expectations.
posted by spacewaitress at 11:29 AM on January 18, 2006


Would the harm caused by cheating not be forseeable to a reasonable person?
posted by JekPorkins at 11:31 AM on January 18, 2006


Gah. It's wrong to hurt your partner, obviously. But the hurt doesn't inherently come from whatever you did with anyone else. The hurt comes from the violation of trust, the diminishment in status that comes from being cuckolded, and the fear of losing one's partner.
posted by spacewaitress at 11:34 AM on January 18, 2006


Would the harm caused by cheating not be forseeable to a reasonable person?

Sure, it would. I'm not really trying to defend cheating. I'm just saying that the article was based on assumptions I don't necessarily agree with.
posted by spacewaitress at 11:37 AM on January 18, 2006


Women know they have attractions that come and go, but they probably don't realize that these urges are tied to their cycle

What the hell else would we attribute it to? I've yet to meet a female who is that pathologically disconnected from her biological self.
posted by zarah at 11:38 AM on January 18, 2006


"the two men with us said that it's an ownership or property issue. They actually used those words."

I suppose it's possible they meant it literally, but I think it's equally possible they simply weren't being highly articulate about the matter and instead they were thinking about the fact that generally, in a commited relationship, certain expressions/tokens of affection are something many women and men are likely to consider "for me" or "mine" or "ours." It may just be another way of stating an expectation that those things are exclusive to the relationship. If the boyfriend has that expectation, how exactly is this crazy? It may be this was a hiccup and he needs to get over it and move on, but he certainly wouldn't be the first man or woman to hold that opinion.

So the distress results from a violation of someone's expectations. Where do those expectations come from?

Are you really suggesting that erasing the expectation of certain exclusivities is a solution to be employed casually and after the fact?

We've already acknowledge that they're internal, but you seem to be avoiding the almost inarguable point that they're pretty much the norm in most committed and some semi-committed relationships, which might well be implied by the term "boyfriend." Sure, other arrangements exist, but usually, people tend to bring this up with potential partners beforehand.
posted by namespan at 11:38 AM on January 18, 2006


but you seem to be avoiding the almost inarguable point that they're pretty much the norm in most committed and some semi-committed relationships

On preview: all right, that's not true. As you said, you're not defending minor infidelities.
posted by namespan at 11:40 AM on January 18, 2006


My solution has been simply to be more handsome every time a woman starts ovulating. Any woman.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:41 AM on January 18, 2006 [1 favorite]


I made the case that, from an objective perspective, her kissing somebody did not cause any actual harm to her boyfriend. She agreed...

One can't help but wonder what would have happened if she had caught him kissing some other woman...
posted by davejay at 11:44 AM on January 18, 2006


How about this as a replacement poem for the higgamous hoggamous stuff:


Some are monogamous, some polyamorous,
Some vary monthly, and some are asexual;
Whatever arrangement you find the most glamorous
Know that your likings are highly contextual -

Some trends and tendencies stem from biology
But their expression can be highly mutable;
Claiming them destiny is a tautology
At least in terms of the mates your find suitable:

Constructions and customs and castes, class, and factions and
Finding those partners who share your vocation,
Can all play a part in attractions and actions and
Do not discount the effect of location.

So before wooing with claims of genetics
Recall your position is not unassailable;
Differing factors affect our aesthetics,
The greatest of which may be who is available.
posted by kyrademon at 11:48 AM on January 18, 2006


spacewaitress: So the distress results from a violation of someone's expectations. Where do those expectations come from?

Well, it's been over a decade but usually at some point in the relationship we have a little chat during which my prospective SO and I come to a consensus about the ideal trajectory for the relationship. If that trajectory involves little more than friendly boinking, then those expectations tend to be at the low end of the scale. If that trajectory likely includes increasing emotional intimacy, then we talk about monogamy.

Cheating happens, and it isn't ever going to stop.

I would say that people stabbing other people with forks probably isn't going to stop either. And yet, we have a rather nice set of social expectations that people can dine together without stabbing each other with forks.

I'm not trying to defend cheating. If you've made a promise to someone, it is wrong to violate it. But there are so many underlying assumptions about the way we do relationships, and nobody ever talks about them because it's difficult and upsetting.

I don't know. I hear men and women talk about these things all the time. Certainly almost all of my relationships have included some revelation or tip-off as to what degree of emotional and/or sexual fidelity is expected. People may not actually say "I'd be horribly hurt if you kissed someone else." But they might tell a story about how they were betrayed in the past.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:54 AM on January 18, 2006


Oops, didn't mean to give a dissertation on contemporary human relationships. I just felt that the anecdote sets up a rather pat Mars/Venus thing regarding jealousy that I don't think would hold up.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:01 PM on January 18, 2006


The woman had been caught kissing another guy during a drunken birthday revel. She didn't think it was a big deal, but her boyfriend was hurt.

I wasn't there, but, from the description, her boyfriend seems to have normal, healthy emotions. He might, for example, be in love with her. And if she didn't think he should be worried about finding her kissing another man, maybe it was because she was the one who got caught, not the one who had to be left wondering.

The "ownership" line sounds a bit dumb, but I bet they meant it more along the lines of "the girl is mine (and I'm hers) 4 ever blah blah blah" than "I own her like I own a bowling ball." Likewise, I bet their girlfriends don't mean to imply that they actually strike or turn wood screws into their boyfriends when they use the standard bag of terms for having sex.

I'd honestly rather my girlfriend would stab me in the hand with a fork (or turn a wood screw into me) than be unfaithful to me. A few punctures in the hand are nothing compared to infidelity or even the suspicion of infidelity.
posted by pracowity at 1:07 PM on January 18, 2006


Women. Nuke them from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

The problem I have with cheating is that it's disrespectful to the partner. If you're calling each other bf and gf (or any combination of those) then snogging someone else is just insulting, and I would no more put up with it than I would a single act of violence, which, emotionally, I think it is equivalent to.

Putting that down in writing makes me feel all reactionary, but there you go.
posted by Sparx at 1:11 PM on January 18, 2006


"A few punctures in the hand are nothing compared to infidelity or even the suspicion of infidelity."

... wow. It always amazes me that we are all on the same planet, but some of us are on very different worlds. No insult or judgement is intended there, just amazement about how attitudes can be so ... different from the ones I am used to.
posted by kyrademon at 1:12 PM on January 18, 2006


I don't know. The pain of heartbreak can last for months. The physical pain from being stabbed with a fork is probably pretty temporary...and is less likely to make you feel sub-standard and worthless. And jealousy just feels awful. A hot, sick feeling in the stomach. Fear. Humiliation. Rage. Just...horrible.
posted by apis mellifera at 2:21 PM on January 18, 2006


I agree with that, actually. I just count infidelity fairly low on the list of betrayals. In terms of the actual sex act per se, at least.
posted by kyrademon at 2:25 PM on January 18, 2006


kyrademon: I agree with that, actually. I just count infidelity fairly low on the list of betrayals. In terms of the actual sex act per se, at least.

If these issues were ever just about a pleasant hour or so engaging in sexual acts, I don't think they would be a big deal.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:08 PM on January 18, 2006


Fair enough.
posted by kyrademon at 4:18 PM on January 18, 2006


I just count infidelity fairly low on the list of betrayals.

You must never have been cheated on.

Don't you ever wonder why love and infidelity have been the primary subject of human literature and art for millennia? Because it IS a TOP priority for 99% of the planet.

kryademon infidelity has all sorts of intense repercussions once your talking about married couples and children and pregnancy and yadda yadda. That's where those "feelings" of possession, jealousy and hurt come from and why they matter.
posted by tkchrist at 5:03 PM on January 18, 2006


And to spin another evolutionary psychology just so story too often it seems these armchair discussions of the evolution of human sexual behavior focus on r-stategies that spread the seed as widely as possible, and less on k-strategies that try to maximize the life span of offspring. Many of the ambiguities of human sexual behavior might be explained in terms of tension between these two radically different strategies. It might both be true that we have evolved to sow wild oats, and have evolved to make sex an important part of social and economic alliances that are important for raising high-status offspring.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:16 PM on January 18, 2006


I most certainly have been cheated on. Please don't make assumptions.
posted by kyrademon at 5:18 PM on January 18, 2006


kyrademon, that's an astounding little poem. I am tempted to do something with it. Must be that time of the month.
posted by luftmensch at 7:25 PM on January 18, 2006


Thanks, luftmensch! I figured the other side of the debate needed a poem as well. :)

Anyhow, tkchrist ... I already agreed with KirkJobSluder that the problems that often come associated with infidelity - emotional abandonment, questioning the relationship, all of that - can in fact cause intense pain. I've had to go through that, and I agree.

But remember this part of the conversation started with a girl *kissing* someone else - something a lot of people don't consider an infidelity at all. The bitterly negative response to that in this thread surprised me. And many consider the sex act itself to be a deal-breaking, relationship-ending crime, even if, as KirkJobSluder puts it, it was just "a pleasant hour or so engaging in sexual acts". That kind of baffles me.

I understand that cheating can bring with it a host of issues that can bring a relationship crashing down around a couple. But I genuinely don't understand the feelings of shock and horror at the mere idea of someone you're with screwing someone else. It is bad because of the lying, and all that, but I just don't see how it trumps a fork in the hand without additional surrounding circumstances.

Some, apparently, think there are always additional surrounding circumstances ... in my experience, sometimes there are, and sometimes there aren't.
posted by kyrademon at 8:08 PM on January 18, 2006


kyrademon: I understand that cheating can bring with it a host of issues that can bring a relationship crashing down around a couple. But I genuinely don't understand the feelings of shock and horror at the mere idea of someone you're with screwing someone else. It is bad because of the lying, and all that, but I just don't see how it trumps a fork in the hand without additional surrounding circumstances.

Well, I don't know. I think a fork in the hand on its own isn't cause for much alarm. Accidents do happen after all. A fork in the hand as an act of aggression however is quite a bit different.

But your bafflement is actually baffling to me. On multiple levels, there is strong evidence that sex in human beings is about more than just pleasurable licking, petting and humping. You have the release of large quantities of psychoactive hormones linked to increased trust, intimacy and loyalty. You have increased brain activity in areas linked to trust, intimacy and loyalty, and decreased brain activity in areas linked to social inhibitions and defensiveness. Just on a social-behavioral level, it's hard to deny sex for many people carries more meaning than just pleasure and orgasm.

Observing that most people have emotional strings attached to sex, is rather like observing that a $20 bill is more than just a drab bit of paper with a picture of a dead guy. It's one of those observations that in my mind is central to understanding what makes our culture work. You can certainly argue that people shouldn't have such high levels of emotional attachment in regards to sex. But I think you would be crazy to deny that most people do.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:51 AM on January 19, 2006


I didn't deny that a lot of people do. I said that I don't, and most of the people I know don't. This makes me think some of the issues at hand are cultural rather than biological, but be that as it may. All I was pointing out was that there was an astonishing difference in point of view on this subject, not that my way of looking at things was "right" or that the other point of view didn't exist.
posted by kyrademon at 8:59 AM on January 19, 2006


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