Women’s preference for male body hair changes across the menstrual cycle.

By Seriously Science | November 19, 2013 7:00 am
Photo: flickr/mattymatt

Photo: flickr/mattymatt

 It’s widely accepted that most women don’t like men with lots of body hair. But does this preference have a biological basis, or is it a result of cultural conditioning? In this study, Finnish scientists showed women “pictures of male torsos before and after the removal of body hair” and asked them to rate the attractiveness of each photo. They also polled the women about their menstrual cycles and their partners’ and fathers’ body hair levels. Turns out that women generally preferred body hair levels that resembled those of their current partners and their fathers, and they tended to prefer less body hair when they were ovulating. This suggests that the preference has some biological basis, and that women might select mates with body hair levels resembling those of their father (at least in Finland).

Preference for human male body hair changes across the menstrual cycle and menopause

“It has commonly been considered that women’s preference with regard to male body hair changes over the years according to fashion and is influenced by the media. Experimental evidence, however, is currently lacking. We examined the effect of male torso hairiness on Finnish women’s attractiveness ratings by presenting pictures of male torsos before and after the removal of body hair. We found that the women’s preferences correlated strongly with the hairiness of their current partners, suggesting that body hair may play a role in actual mate choice. We also found that when the women’s fertility was at its highest, they preferred males with less body hair and that postmenopausal wosmen demonstrated stronger preferences relating to male body hair than did premenopausal women. Our study suggest that in the fertile period of their cycle, Finnish women prefer more the trait that is the current Western ideal of male beauty (hairlessness) than the trait that is traditionally (albeit in- correctly) seen as a symbol of high testosterone levels and masculinity. Thus, it seems that the phase of the menstrual cycle may affect the strength and direction of female preference even for traits that are not ‘‘good genes’’ indicators and whose preference may be culturally based. Interestingly, the hairiness of the women’s fathers correlated positively with that of their current mates. This suggests that women’s preferences as to paternal body hair and/or that this preference is heritable.”

Bonus figure and excerpts from the main text:

fig_1

Figure 1
Paired photographs of a male body before (a) and after (b) the removal of body hair. The photographs were presented to women in the forced-choice trial.

“We recruited 20 Finnish males with visible trunk hair from the University of Turku and Åbo Academy (aged 20–32 years, mean age = 25.7, standard deviation [SD] = 3.7). The men received a bottle of Koskenkorva vodka (Alko, Rajamäki, Finland) (0.33 l) to compensate for the loss of their trunk hair and time. ”

Related content:
NCBI ROFL: Effects of menstrual cycle phase on ratings of implicitly erotic art.
NCBI ROFL: The best men are (not always) already taken: female preference for single versus attached males depends on conception risk.
NCBI ROFL: Ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by lap dancers: economic evidence for human estrus?

  • Cerebral Aperture

    Not “good genes”? Testosterone is linked to many things including sperm production. I have a “good feeling” that lower testosterone has a significant connection to amount of male and female sperm a man produces.

  • 013090

    This seems rather ‘medieval European-centric’. How many other non-European cultures have the same traditional views of body hair being considered attractive? I don’t know what the overall norm is, but I know in many cultures that is not at all considered the traditional view (not just in non-Western cultures either; the ancient Romans considered body hair rather unattractive). So perhaps the ‘traditional’ European view was just as culturally influenced as modern Western preferences for less body hair?

    If that is the case, it leads to a completely different reading of the data, since the conclusion is based on the view that the ‘traditional’ view is the more natural inclination. Instead, one could take it as women on their menstrual cycles are more likely to follow their natural inclinations since it is when conception becomes possible. As in women naturally prefer less hair (which has been the overall trend in human evolution).
    Is that the case? I don’t know. But this study doesn’t convince me otherwise.

    I don’t know what modern cultures on Earth prefer more hair, but a more thorough study could look at those women and see what occurs.

    • Hiski Mamaegääp

      Hello, friend!

      Good points. I agree with cultural differences being a problem considering. Couple of notes, for the sake of good natured conversation:

      ‘The trend in human evolution’ is a tricky combination of words, and one worth problematizing. I’m assuming you’re meaning cultural evolution, as we can safely assume neither of us can’t see the whole diacronal development of sexes, or the entirety of reasons our genders work as they do. We can make strong assumptions, though, for example women wanting less “Tarzan bundolo”-type masculine men on the account of the fact that those features aren’t as likely to guarantee thriving on our society. Money can be seen also as an evolutionary currency and it’s factor on the opposite sex can be debated and easily opposed, although one could make a strong point for it short-cutting to the fruits of having burly large muscles.

      Right. Anyway, Hair. lol.

      Think of 50′s, Jon Hamm-type clean dapper shave. Think of 70′s bushes. Then think of 90′s Tom Hanks in BIG, and return to clean shave and goatees. Compare to the current beard trend, and you’ll see were getting nowhere with “human body hair appeal”, as it fluctuates. The point of SCIENCE, though, is to gather information upon something, so that one day we, as species, would have lots of information, and make at least SOME conclusions. No matter what the country, we have to start somewhere so, ok, let’s start from Finland, so when we do the say in, say, Japan, we’ll have something to compare those results to.

      TL:DR. Nobody can know anything definite about human evolution vs. sex, but these studies are strides towards it. The study doesn’t claim it’s universal. But it’s something to begin from.

      sincerely,
      -Finnish man, with a sad wispy chest (do we get our own study?)

      • 013090

        Thank you for the well thought out response, Hiski.

        First off, I agree with your qualms over my ‘the trend of human evolution’ comment. Even when I wrote it I thought, ‘that isn’t the best way to put it’, but nonetheless left it in. You have quality insight on the matter though.

        As for your next point, I also still agree. I ended my prior comment saying it would be interesting to see the result of this study in different cultures. I of course don’t expect the researchers to be obliged to repeat this across the globe, but if others replicated it in their native countries it could certainly be very telling and ameliorate the separation of certain cultural perspectives from the data.

        All good research is a step forward, so I hope I didn’t come across as being overly critical of this study, since that was not at all my intent.

        -A similarly wispy chested male

  • kevinhr

    The men got vodka for it… Only in Europe lol

  • wobblybloke

    “Interestingly, the hairiness of the women’s fathers correlated
    positively with that of their current mates. This suggests that women’s
    preferences as to paternal body hair and/or that this preference is
    heritable.”

    Bollocks. How is preference for a trait associated with a parent “heritable” as opposed to simply “cultural”? It doesn’t suggest anything of the sort.

    • Melinda Lloyd

      I agree. I would be much more convinced by a select study of women whose natural/birth father was not the same hairiness as their father figure growing up.

  • LCT

    I find really hairy men attractive at all times.

    I also wonder if maybe there isn’t a relation between body hair preference and region. Think about it: in hotter, more humid climates, natural selection would favour men with less body hair who were less likely to overheat, therefore making it more likely they’d be preferred by females, and the opposite in colder climates. My ancestry is 100% Celtic and I find hairy men hot as hell.
    I just wonder if the two are related. It’d be interesting if studies were done, making the highest effort to exclude cultural influence at the current time (waxing fads, etc).

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