women on the pill
January 22, 2003 10:22 AM   Subscribe

The Pill changes women's taste in men. Women on the pill prefer masculine men for marriage and sensitive guys for flings. Women not on the pill prefer the opposite, according to a recent British study. Researchers don't know why but "Where a woman chooses her partner while she is on the pill, and then comes off it to have a child, she may find she is married to the wrong man."
posted by stbalbach (47 comments total)
stbalbach - mirror image || egami rorrim : another study finds: "Ovulating woman more attracted to 'manly' men during period of fertility, prefer sensitive guys during 'down' time."

Makes me think: another thing to blame your marital problems on...."Honey, it was that damn pill....."
posted by troutfishing at 10:32 AM on January 22, 2003

This sounds like a crock, because women taking the pill are self-selecting. The reasons for their preferences may have the same cause as their reasons for taking the pill -- i.e., not wanting to get pregnant. Granted, there are other reasons, such as menstrual regularity, for going on the pill, but the very fact that it's contraception indicates a certain choice on the part of the person taking it. That has to skew the data.

Secondly, they're comparing women on the pill and women off it -- which, for the reasons I mentioned above, is skewed because causality is unproven -- rather than examining the preferences of the same women when on or off the pill (i.e., take a pill user off the pill and see whether her preferences change a year later).

The article gives the impression that the methodology is shoddy and the conclusions barely conjectural and unproven. Of course, this is a psychology study.
posted by mcwetboy at 10:42 AM on January 22, 2003

That's because women who take the pill are whores.
posted by bondcliff at 10:45 AM on January 22, 2003

According to my mom, I mean.
posted by bondcliff at 10:47 AM on January 22, 2003

I'm sure the pill has little to do with it. Most women want a man who is both macho and sensitive. While that type of man is difficult to find it's certainly not impossible. But most women tend to get in too big of a hurry and settle for what they can get.
posted by oh posey at 10:55 AM on January 22, 2003

mcwetboy is right- they don't ever ask if perhaps a woman that wants to have flings with macho men tends to be a woman that takes the pill. In contrast, a woman that prefers sensative types for a long term relationship might be less inclined to take the pill. In the US, where I live, the only girls that I know that do not take the pill are hard core Christians. Flawed study.
posted by crazy finger at 10:57 AM on January 22, 2003

Also sounds like a crock to me.

Quite apart from anything else, the study involved showing these women images, which isn't exactly a partiulalry great way to judge character. Just because someone looks like Russel Crowe does not make them any less likely to be "sensitive" and vice versa. So how exactly will that prove that they won't choose men who are most likely to make a sensible long-term mate.
posted by arha at 10:58 AM on January 22, 2003

i read about a similar study years ago. i read about it in this book. from memory (and i may be recalling it incorrectly), it went like this:

apparently, in a "natural state" (i.e., not on the pill), men and women are attracted to each other based on pheromones and scents. when scientists checked the immune systems of the couples they found that they were opposite--ie, ideal.

if these two people mate, the offspring will benefit by having a combination of the two diverse immune systems.

however, what researchers found in this study is that women on the pill were being attracted to the "wrong" man. meaning that, when on the pill, these women were attracted to men with like immune systems thereby providing their offspring with the weakest of immune systems. this, of course, was a bad thing.

apparently, the pill was affecting women's ability to subconsciously "smell" or sense the proper mate.

further, the scientists speculated that the use of the pill was also one reason for the increase in the divorce rate. they looked at it this way:

1. woman on pill is attracted to "wrong" man.
2. couple hooks up.
3. couple gets married.
4. couple decides to have kids.
5. woman goes off pill.
6. all of a sudden... no more attraction.
7. divorce, and, possibly
8. single mother.

on preview: i don't believe this particular study was done with images, but i may be wrong.
posted by dobbs at 11:04 AM on January 22, 2003

When they say "the pill" they're talking about Rohypnol, right?
posted by crazy finger at 11:07 AM on January 22, 2003

CONDOMS, people!

I have to concur that this is pretty stupid. Do women really go around going 'wow he looks like a caveman, I'll date him'? I know that many blokes do not choose women in this 'have they got the right characteristics' way, but rather by personality combined with pleasant looks.
posted by wackybrit at 11:09 AM on January 22, 2003

there are other reasons, such as menstrual regularity, for going on the pill

god, what an awful phrase, "menstrual regularity"! anyway, YES there are many other reasons to be on the pill: for example, I have PCOS, a metabolic disorder that affects menstruation, and one basic treatment is the Pill. i've been on it for almost 8 years, and for nearly half that time i wasn't using it for contraception (kinda hard for one's girlfriend to impregnate you whether you're on the Pill or not). now that i *am* using them for that too, i wonder about the effect of playing with my hormones for so long...my boyfriend actually looks a bit like Russell Crowe (featured macho man from the article), but is not particularly aggressive and/or rugged! i agree this study is pretty flawed (note that the women were asked to pick mates out of a photo lineup, not to describe their *actual* mates!) because the interplay of biochemistry, behavior, and Pill politics is just too complicated and individual.
posted by serafinapekkala at 11:10 AM on January 22, 2003

...sounds like a crock...

good to hear some well-informed debate on the matter.

it's actually one of my oldest friends doing the research into facial attractiveness preferences linked to menstrual cycles and I feel I should stand up for him since he ain't here to defend himself. You can find his papers here if you want to educate yourself. I've read them and they don't seem like crock to me.
posted by gravelshoes at 11:12 AM on January 22, 2003

...and if you actually read up about the research you would learn that it is based purely on facial preferences, so character and personality preferences in choosing a sexual partner are irrelevant in this study
posted by gravelshoes at 11:16 AM on January 22, 2003

Women on the pill prefer masculine men for marriage and sensitive guys for flings.

What about guys who are masculine and sensitive? We do exist, you know.

**strips to loincloth, beats chest, flings crap around**

**pauses thoughtfully to write lyrical verse about a butterflies wings**
posted by jonmc at 11:19 AM on January 22, 2003

Hmmn, johmc, a few butterfly wings could be a rather welcome change from a world of fellas given to greasy hands, loud cursing, and the throwing of tools ...

"The study found women on the pill appeared to make equally inappropriate choices when picking a man for a fling."

This would jive with our earlier thread on "hooking up," in which any choice a woman makes for a fling appeared inappropriate. (What an unromantic word! Reminiscent of conducting aerial refueling operations, transferring liquid cargo at sea, tearing out the botched sections of a knitting or crochet project ... ) Clearly I have a few of those high-testosterone types on my mind. But I'm not on the pill, so that friendly macho guy I just met is ok? He has great cheekbones. What a relief to finally have scientific selection criteria for a life partner.
posted by sheauga at 11:30 AM on January 22, 2003

good to hear some well-informed debate on the matter.

Note that I said sounds like; science coverage in the media is notoriously spotty, but it's all I had to go on at the time. My comments were based on what was in the article. Are you saying that RTFA isn't good enough any more; that we need to be specialists or know someone to make a comment around here?

I'd like to know what criteria were used in defining an "inappropriate choices", by the way.
posted by mcwetboy at 11:34 AM on January 22, 2003

Weird. 10 pints of ale changes my taste in women, too.
posted by nthdegx at 11:40 AM on January 22, 2003

Ok, my question from this study what as a single male can I use here for my benifit from the data?(you may answer but is their ever a right answer for a woman when hormones are involved and your not the same sex)

...sounds like a crock...
good to hear some well-informed debate on the matter.

it's actually one of my oldest friends doing the research into facial attractiveness preferences

The eyes are your answer.
posted by thomcatspike at 11:41 AM on January 22, 2003

i take after my mum handsome wise and every single lassie i've gone out with has not been on the pill at the start.
posted by sgt.serenity at 11:44 AM on January 22, 2003

so character and personality preferences in choosing a sexual partner are irrelevant in this study

but they do matter in life, so does this mean that women disregard character and personality when actually selecting a mate (from whatever aisle in the supermarket where women select mates)?
posted by tolkhan at 11:46 AM on January 22, 2003

But what about us women out there who went on the Pill for health reasons when they were already involved in a long-term relationship?

My boyfriend is one of the "macho types with strong jaw lines and prominent cheekbones." I found him physcially attractive before I went on the Pill, and I haven't noticed any marked difference in how I percieve him, or any other male for that matter since then. I always thought who I found attractive has more to do with how alike in temperament they are to my father then whether or not they look like Russel Crowe or Leonardo DiCaprio.

Obviously the Pill has an effect on hormones, that's the whole point, but when I'm interested in is the curious quote alluding that women might find they've "picked the wrong man" to have a child with if that selection is made when on the Pill. Are we now saying child-rearing capabilities are directly related to physical features?
posted by nelleish at 11:48 AM on January 22, 2003

mcwetboy: absolutely. media coverage of scientific research is one of my favourite rants. don't get me started. In answer to your question from the original BBC article though:

They found those taking the pill were more likely to choose macho men, and to rate men with more feminine, softer physical features as a turn off...However, the researchers say it is these men who tend to be more sensitive, and more likely to making trustworthy and faithful husbands

perhaps I should have asked this question: why is it that educated and informed human beings at the beginning of the 21st century still have trouble being told that many of the decisions they make in life are made in part by hormones and genetic wiring?

in preview: tolkhan - no of course not. but facial attractiveness informs a part of their choices and that is what the study investigates. If women made choices purely based on what their hormones decisions on facial attractiveness told them to do they would have driven the male race completely insane centuries ago
posted by gravelshoes at 11:54 AM on January 22, 2003

nice to see you've been let back in the zoo sarge. mind how you go now
posted by gravelshoes at 11:57 AM on January 22, 2003

Oh. I get it. I thought the titlemeant that a woman on the pill tasted a a difference in the man she was giving head to than a woman'ws tasting a many and she was not on the pill...the story sounded fishy to me but now I understand. Sort of. But what about a guy like me who is not macho or sensitive? Can a woman taste me?
posted by Postroad at 12:19 PM on January 22, 2003

OK, so after you get off the pill, get hitched, get childed (eh?), and then start finding your partner unnattractive you just go back on the pill, right? (And if that doesn't work, well hell, you are back on the pill right?)
posted by Wood at 12:22 PM on January 22, 2003

No, Postroad, I don't think you have any taste whatsoever.

posted by cardboard at 12:35 PM on January 22, 2003

I like the notion that being on the pill, is the female equivalent of "thinking with one's dick" and that when they grow up (have children, thereby maturing them mentally and emotionally and changing their priorities) they realize that they married a loser. Going back on the pill at this point won't reverse the damage since the loser cat is out of the bag. This is the interpretation that makes sense to me.
posted by Mushkelley at 12:39 PM on January 22, 2003

To use a previous mefi quote:
"I don't have a problem. You're the one with the problem."
- Ty Webb

What *I* draw from this study is that men just need to be both macho AND sensitive. Whenever we need them to be. And we shouldn't need to ask, you should be able to tell. I see lots of movies with sensitive, manly men, read about them in books. You guys are just being emotionally lazy. Yeah, that's it.
posted by Salmonberry at 1:00 PM on January 22, 2003

Today's winner: cardboard.

Thanks to the rest of our contestants; you'll be able to try again tomorrow!
posted by ook at 1:07 PM on January 22, 2003

I thought the same, Mushkelley! By the time they stop being on the pill and decide to have kids, their relationship has probably changed a lot, and that is the main reason for the results of this study. They're now looking for something they don't have. Has nothing to do with the pill, I'm betting.

As for Oh Posey's thoughtful statement "But most women tend to get in too big of a hurry and settle for what they can get", I say bullshit. Take your man show thoughts about women back with you to your cave.
posted by aacheson at 1:21 PM on January 22, 2003

I haven't noticed any difference since I started the pill (well, the patch, but close enough). I was already in a long-term relationship before, and nothing's changed on that front.

As pointed out before, correlation is not causation, and it could be a trait of the type of women who choose to use contraceptive pills.
posted by katieinshoes at 2:06 PM on January 22, 2003

is "ugly" macho or sensitive? a friend of mine wants to know
posted by andrew cooke at 2:31 PM on January 22, 2003

Feminism rule #99: A "raging feminist" should never suggest to another feminist that she not have the right to express an opinion on how she observes the world around her. :)
posted by oh posey at 3:03 PM on January 22, 2003

Andrew Cooke:

Ugly by way of scars, big noses, raw bone structure: macho.

Ugly by way of fat, skinny, or poor complexion: sensitive, unless also accompanied by tatoos, work-stained blue jeans, and ruddy, outdoor complexion, in which case, macho.
posted by MattD at 3:44 PM on January 22, 2003

My personal experience is that woman are generally attracted to men who are, ultimately, bad for them. The thing is, I hear this from the mouths of women THEMSELVES all the times. They're attracted to the guy who will screw around, the heavy handed wife-beaters, and such forth.

Being compassionate or altruistic are not high on the want-list of today's typical female, and I think that's a great thing, since compassionate and altruistic (or 'sensitive') men are not interested in the 'typical' woman thank God.
posted by wackybrit at 4:03 PM on January 22, 2003

I do not know any "typical" females, although I think all of my girlfriends are very average. And none of them want men who are ultimately bad for them.
posted by agregoli at 4:10 PM on January 22, 2003

wackybrit -- my neighborhood, which I think quite typical of the upper middle class suburbs of the US -- is filled to overflowing with women married with men who seem almost parodically good for them.

These fellows working long hours during the week to support an expensive and comfortable lifestyle for their wives and children, and then spend morning to night on the weekends at Home Depot, soccer games, and all other variety of activities for the comfort and benefit of their families. At the same time, if the high scandal which attends the rare breakup is any indication, the men are highly faithful and non-abusive, and the women are content (and, if unfaithful, sufficiently discreet as not to be caught!) (I take it as a given that no career man can avoid being caught out cheating for long; we just haven't the opportunity or the guile.)
posted by MattD at 4:28 PM on January 22, 2003

Are we now saying child-rearing capabilities are directly related to physical features?

As I've grown older I wondered this too from a mans view.

· Men are attracted to woman who show cues of greater fertility
· Cues of health

· Skin tone and complexion

· Cultural differences in skin color

· Clear eyes

· Healthy hair

· Symmetry

· Cues of youth

· “Hey nine-teen” (Steely Dan)

· Neotonous features

· Smaller lower face

· High check bones

· Smaller jaw

· Bigger eyes

· Smaller mouth with fuller lips
posted by thomcatspike at 4:32 PM on January 22, 2003

thomcatspike --

Nothing is better indicative of impaired fertility in a woman in her 30s than low body fat -- low body fat itself is an impairment to fertility, and it is usually is produced by high quantities of exercise, which are also believed to impair fertility in women in the older side of the fertile range (although the mechanism for that is not well understand).

Yet, which 32-year-old does better in the dating game, particularly with men who have the competitive advantages of education, income and assets: the size 2 or the size 12?
posted by MattD at 4:37 PM on January 22, 2003

the 12?
posted by matteo at 5:12 PM on January 22, 2003

thomcatspike- Those are signs of greater fertility sure. I was talking about the ability to help raise a child, not help produce one! :)
posted by nelleish at 5:56 PM on January 22, 2003

FPP: The Pill changes women's taste in men.

Is it just me, or could that FPP be read in a...er...slightly different and lewd way...?
posted by davidmsc at 6:44 PM on January 22, 2003

I haven't read this thread too carefully, but this study is not new. What the phenomena is attributed to seems to be sense of smell. One study found that women who are ovulating tend to sit at a chair with a sweaty men's t-shirt taped to the underside instead of identical, non t-shirted chairs all around it.

Another study found that the reason that women who live together tend to have identical menstrual cycles is sense of smell - wiping the sweat of one woman under the nose of another will cause the second woman to sync up with the sweat-donating woman. Women can pick out their own child's shirt from a bin filled with identical shirts worn by other children.

It seems that the pill somehow interferes with a woman's ability to pick out a man with a different, complementary immune system.

Alot of what we do is influenced by hard-wired behaviors we are completely unaware of. Influenced, however, does not mean we are ruled by them.
posted by echolalia67 at 12:06 AM on January 23, 2003

[Warning: Mildly incindiery and cynical evolutionary biology follows.]

Well, of course they married the wrong man. They're just supposed to *sleep* with the macho types, not actually try to raise a child with them :-)

As Steven Pinker pointed out, the mate with the best genes isn't always (hell, often isn't) the mate who will be the best caretaker. From the woman's perspective, the ideal situation is sleep with the biggest, strongest man she can find, and trick a kind, loving guy into thinking the child is his. That way, the best genes (nature) will receive the benefit of the best care (nurture). The genetic provider loses nothing; the caretaker provider loses -- from the evobio perspective -- everything.

I'm reminded of the study where supposedly life-monogomous pigeons were obsessively tracked...it was found that a good third of the female's trysts weren't with the chosen mate, and no shortage of male pigeons would try to follow their mates everywhere to prevent that figure from getting any larger.
posted by effugas at 3:00 AM on January 23, 2003

the problem with this study is it says nothing about women's preference in men, it says something about women's preference in pictures of mens' faces, a somewhat less interesting subject.
posted by dagnyscott at 1:01 PM on January 23, 2003

the ability to help raise a child, not help produce one! :)

nelleish, I couldn't really offer more than a males perspective. As I'm unable to bear a child, so I used your words to spring off.

But I find myself realizing why some of the woman I have dated had more of a lust for marriage if based on the sole idea of child raising.

Now dating in my age range I've seem to have left them behind too, the 2s & 12s. ; )
posted by thomcatspike at 2:14 PM on January 23, 2003

Is it just me, or could that FPP be read in a...er...slightly different and lewd way...?

posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:15 PM on January 23, 2003

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