Whaaa? A New Study about The Pill in “Trends in Ecology and Evolution”

Published in the current issue of Trends in Ecology and Evolution, I recently came across this study when @feliciaday (geek/actress) tweeted about it. Basically, it says that women on the pill are more likely to be attracted to provider-types (good dads) than aggressive men (good genes). It also states that men are less attracted to women on the pill, with research based on a study which measured sexual attractiveness by the amount of tips a woman received after giving a lap dance. I know I’m being somewhat biased in the retelling of the study, so PLEASE read the full article here, I’m curious what other sociologists think. Here are a few questions I have

1. Birth control is most frequently used in developed nations, why does the author think non-agressive genes are weaker? What do you think?

2. Does studying the amount of tips earned from a lap dance really display how birth control use affects your attractiveness? I feel like there could be a lot of variables there, what do you think?

3. What do you think of the pill in general?

One Response to Whaaa? A New Study about The Pill in “Trends in Ecology and Evolution”

  1. Gabriel Irons says:

    First of all, my expectations would have been the opposite – that women typically attracted to provider-types (I’m using the article’s definitions, for simplicity) would become more attracted to aggressive men when on the Pill. This is a psychological change, knowing that there is no risk of pregnancy would theoretically allow women to ‘play the field’ in a sense.

    Apparently, I’m quite wrong. And the reason why appears to be biological, not psychological.

    While I don’t necessarily subscribe to the article’s description of a woman’s “dual sexuality” I do understand that, in evolutionary terms, when a woman is pregnant she should feel strong desires to settle down with a provider-type, therefore giving her children a better chance. Since women have a much higher physical commitment to pregnancy and childbearing than men, it is important for them to choose a mate who will stick around and aid in the process.

    Putting aside psychological processes, I see the Pill (which works by tricking the body into ‘pregnancy mode’ all the time, therefore never fertilizing more eggs) as a factor which may make provider-types much more appealing to women.

    — — —

    I don’t necessarily defend the author’s assumption that non-aggressive genes are ‘weaker’ but looking from a psychological point of view, all our models are aggressive. Vin Diesel, Arnold Schwarzenegger and other strong male models are extremely aggressive and not provider-types in the slightest. Sociologically, these models are our male figures, and I believe that these characteristics are what the author was using to describe ‘strong genes’ – aggressive, physically robust, strong, athletic, agile, and capable of handling dangerous situations.

    — — —

    This study is extremely misleading, for multiple reasons. First, the ‘lap dance’ given by each test subject cannot be uniform, neither can the personal preferences or economic status of the dancees. These factors make the lap dance test extremely ineffective, almost to the point of being irrelevant.

    Unless an artificial economy and every possible combination of dancer/dancee was used, I don’t believe this study holds any real data. Perhaps the best dancers got stuck with the cheapest guys? Perhaps the eccentric rich guy has different tastes (eg tip amounts) than the standards of other men? So many factors, all the way down to the personal dancing ability of each woman, may play a role.

    I believe there is relevant information in the biological changes of the Pill, and there has been ‘common wisdom’ for quite some time that the Pill may alter a woman’s taste in men – however this study does not seem definitive nor qualitative in any way.

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