That handsome young studmuffin at the other end of the bar may not look as good as a reliable, if boring, man once you’re taking a daily dose of hormones. That’s one of the conclusions drawn by a team of scientists, who’ve previously shown that where women are in their monthly cycle affects what kinds of men they select as potential mates from a series of photographs, after they took their work out of the lab and interviewed more than 2500 women to see what effect the pill has on their real-life decisions.
In lab studies, women who are in fertile stages of their cycle are more likely to go for men who look healthy, self-confident, and masculine, which tend to be markers for good genes, but also for infidelity. The pill mimics pregnancy, though, when the die has already been cast and being a good provider is more attractive than sexy. In the lab, women on the pill do indeed select men who look like they will be more reliable and steady.
But outside the lab, would those patterns hold? After collecting data on their subjects’ sexual satisfaction and general satisfaction with their partners (each of them had had children with a partner, and in many cases was still with him), the team found that women who had met their partners while on the pill reported less sexual satisfaction but greater general satisfaction than women who had been off the pill. In other words, their partners were good fathers and good providers, but not necessarily on fire between the sheets. The trends seen in the lab seem to hold true (although we hasten to point out that the pill can sometimes kill women’s sex drive—an alternate explanation for why sexual satisfaction might be lower).
What happens when these women go off the pill, though? Do their marriages hold up, buoyed by the presence of children and their husband’s attributes as a father, or does a renewed attraction to the studmuffin make things shakier? That’s a topic for another study, looking more explicitly at the ends of relationships and tracking pill use throughout.
Reference: S. Craig Roberts, et al. Relationship satisfaction and outcome in women who meet their partner while using oral contraception. Published online before print October 12, 2011, doi: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1647 Proc. R. Soc. B
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