Western Women Turned Off By Macho Men

If you're a bit of a neanderthal, you might need to book a flight to Ethopia or Cambodia to find a prospective mate. New research into women’s preferences for male faces has unveiled that guys with lots of testosterone are only prized in developing countries; particularly where disease is rife.

Chest picture from Shutterstock

Human behavioral ecologists at the University of Dundee, Scotland measured the hormone levels of Caucasian males with a focus on testosterone and cortisol; a steroid hormone linked to stress levels. They then asked 2842 heterosexual women from 13 countries to rate composite images of the male faces in the areas of attractiveness, masculinity and health.

The composite images were split into males with high and low levels of testosterone and males with high and low levels of cortisol. The testosterone group possessed more masculine facial traits, such as larger jaws and heavier brows.

The research found that the faces of men with high testosterone levels were mainly preferred by women from developing countries where infectious disease levels were high.

Women in societies with low development scores and high levels of parasites preferred faces of men with high testosterone. Women in all societies preferred faces of men with low cortisol. There was also an interaction, such that preferences for combinations of the two hormones varied across societies with level of societal development. We suggest that our results provide support for facultative adjustment of women’s face preferences in the context of local ecological demands.

The researchers argue that facial attraction unconsciously shifts towards men with high testosterone in response to the demands of the current environment. Guys with high levels of cortisol, meanwhile, aren't preferred in any society -- so if you're unlucky in love, it might be because you're a stress-pot.

"Perhaps, combinations of the hormones signal different traits or qualities (e.g. health or dominance), which are weighted differently in mate preferences by women in different societies," the report concludes. Well, the Bible did say that the meek would inherit the Earth.

Cross-cultural variation in women’s preferences for cues to sex- and stress-hormones in the male face [Biology Letters]


Comments

    I'd say the study doesn't suggest it's a "Western" thing, but rather a "security" thing. If women feel secure, safe and can provide for themselves, they're probably going to look for something other than "protector-provider" in a man. This makes sense logically, but it's interesting that a study like this provide evidence that supports that idea.

      I think you're right about the security thing. It's been redefined in the modern world, for sure.

      The ideal male provider these days isn't a burly hunter, and he's not even necessarily a factory worker. More often than not, he's an educated office drone who can earn an executive salary in a comfortable urban environment.

      Yeah, I don't think "Western Women" is the right term to use here - in fact it's not even mentioned in the article itself.

    I'd be interested in a study that examined if the intensity of media infiltration has trained people to prize feminine beauty so much that women now apply those standards to men.

      I doubt it... One interesting thing about attraction seems to be its largely innate nature. When it comes to women, the types of features people find attractive are almost universal irrespective of culture. With men attraction seems somewhat more varied, with women seeming to prefer faces which represent a higher testosterone level the closer they are to ovulating, and those with less in between.

      Nonetheless, an interest in male beauty is hardly a new thing - it had simply been suppressed for a time by a male dominated culture that became increasingly shrill and irrational in its terror of homosexuality in the 20th Century. There are plenty of novels and tonnes of artwork from bygone eras that demonstrate we were once more comfortable with objectifying men, and today's gym obsessed culture where men are all desperate to carve a set of abs and a powerful looking body overall is simply a return to those notions.

      You're absolutely right. For example, the current trend of male bodybuilding feeds into a new obsession about how men look. It was described in the book "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined" (by Steven Pinker) as being almost homoerotic and a result of the increasing feminisation of Western culture.

    Prefer quiet and reserved you say?

    Everything's coming up Milhouse!

    Haha, classic. They might not be westerners, but all the asian girls at my work swoon over pictures of young asian men that look like women.

    What is the visual cue for high levels of cortisol? The article is paywalled.

    Were the Western women using contraception? Studies show that chemically-contracepting women choose a different type of man than non-chemically-contracepting women. Presumably because the pill "tricks" the body into thinking it's pregnant all the time. And I haven't even mentioned what's in the water supply!

    I have just returned from Cambodia where I was surprised to discover that middle aged alcoholic obese, and flatulent Western men are all the rage in Southeast Asia. Fitting those categories on several levels I was of course delighted. I also discovered that If I bought the young lady a meal, or even a cheap bowl of noodles, the cost of her company went up appreciably. That serendipitous discovery put me in mind of one of my heroes, Henry Kissinger, who said "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac". Amazing the power to be found in a cheap bowl of rice.

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