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Do fertile women prefer strong-jawed men?

sex-and-relationships Updated: Nov 03, 2012 13:09 IST
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Past research has shown that women may want to cheat with hunky, square-jawed men, but prefer to settle down with more feminine-faced men who look like they make good dads. But a new study suggests that this theory may not be true, since findings show that ovulating women don't prefer manly men.

Back in 1999, a study published in the journal Nature found that women in the first half of their menstrual cycles preferred men with square jaws and heavy brows to men with more effeminate faces. Later in their cycle, when fertility drops, women preferred the more feminine-faced men, which led researchers to theorize that evolutionary forces drive a women's sexual preferences throughout her menstrual cycle.

"Masculine men, the logic went, had better genes, but were more likely to sleep around or ditch their partners after sex," writes LiveScience. "So it made sense for fertile women to cheat with the studs to have babies but commit to men who were daddy material."

In 2011, researcher Christine Harris of the University of California, San Diego, attempted to replicate the original study's findings, by enlisting a group of 258 premenopausal women who were not pregnant or taking oral contraceptives, and who reported regular menstrual cycles.

Divided into groups based on their monthly fertile phases, women were shown photos of Caucasian and Asian male faces, with the photos altered slightly to vary the degree of masculinity. The results showed no shifts in preference for men with masculine faces during peak fertile times. However, the findings were criticized by other researchers for her use of women over 40 and the fact that her study ignored several follow-up studies with similar findings as the 1999 study.

In the newest study, Harris updated her research, opting for subjects 30 years old or younger. Re-analyzing her findings, she still found the same outcome, with results published in the journal Sex Roles.

"It doesn't seem like there is a real effect of cycle shift on masculinity preference," she told LiveScience. "It's really a story about infidelity, and you have to make sure that their account of what infidelity in women is like is correct. I think it's probably not."