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EDITIONS
 Monday, 20 January, 2003, 15:55 GMT
Pill changes women's taste in men
Russell Crowe
Actor Russell Crowe: a man with macho features
Taking the contraceptive pill appears to change women's taste in men.

Psychologists have found that women who are taking the pill tend to fancy macho types with strong jaw lines and prominent cheekbones.

However, women who are not taking that form of contraception seem to be more likely to go for more sensitive types without traditionally masculine features.

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

Tony Little
The researchers, from St Andrews and Stirling Universities, believe it may even be possible that taking the pill encourages women to have relationships with inappropriate men.

They presented women with images of different types of men, and asked them to pick out potential long-term partners.

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.

They proved more popular among women not taking the pill who took part in the study.

Blocked ovulation

The researchers believe that the key may be the fact the taking the pill blocks the natural process of ovulation.

As women who take the pill cannot become pregnant, they are sub-consciously attracted to sexy, macho men, rather than to men who are most likely to make a sensible long-term mate.

Lead researcher Tony Little said: "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."

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

They were more likely to choose a "caring" man with feminine features.

Conversely, those not on the pill were more likely to choose a macho male for a fling.

Testosterone link

Dr Nick Neave, an evolutionary psychologist at Northumbria University, has also conducted research which shows that taking the pill has an effect on women's sexuality.

In this case, women who took the pill were less likely to be influenced by male scents called pheromones.

Dr Neave said nobody knew exactly how taking the pill influenced sexuality.

However, he said: "The pill dampens down all the hormonal changes that take place during a normal menstrual cycle, and this may have an effect."

Strong features such as a prominent jaw line and brow are thought to be linked macho personality traits because they indicate high levels of the male sex hormone testosterone.

Testosterone helps to build up these particular bones during puberty.

In animal studies higher testosterone levels have been shown to be linked to aggression and dominance.

See also:

30 Oct 02 | Health
24 Jun 99 | Science/Nature
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