Taking the pill for past 40 years 'has put women off masculine men'
By David Derbyshire
Last updated at 4:33 PM on 08th October 2009
It ushered in the 1960s sexual revolution and gave women control over their own fertility. But the Pill may also have changed women's taste in men, according to a study. Scientists say the hormones in the oral contraceptive suppress a woman's interest in masculine men and make boyish men more attractive. Although the change occurs for just a few days each month, it may have been highly influential since use of the Pill began more than 40 years ago.
If the theory is right, it could partly explain the shifting in tastes from macho 1950s and 1960s stars such as Kirk Douglas and Sean Connery to the more wimpy, androgynous stars of today, such as Johnny Depp and Russell Brand.
Dr Alexandra Alvergne, of the University of Sheffield, says the Pill could also be altering the way women pick their mates and could have long-term implications for society. 'There are many obvious benefits of the Pill for women, but there is also the possibility that the Pill has psychological side-effects that we are only just discovering,' she said. 'We need further studies to find out what these are.'
The links between the Pill and sexual preferences are highlighted in a paper in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution. Scientists have long known that a woman's taste in men changes over her menstrual cycle.
During the few days each month when women are fertile - around the time of ovulation - they tend to prefer masculine features and men who are more assertive. On these fertile days, women are also more attracted to men who are 'genetically dissimilar', Dr Alvergne said. Picking a partner whose genetic make-up is unlike their own increases the chances of having a healthy child.
On days when women are not fertile, their tastes swing towards more feminine, boyish faces and more caring personalities, researchers have shown. However, if women are taking the Pill they no longer have fertile days. That means they no longer experience the hormonal changes that make them more attracted to masculine men and those with dissimilar genetic make-up.
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