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Who is choosing your partner? You or you hormones?

It’s March, and spring is in the air… or at least it was, but that was fool’s spring, then snow, and now first spring, but more winter appears to be on the way. So who knows what the weather will be when you read this next installment of Unpopular Science. But, what I do know is this month’s article is going to give you a lot to think about.

There are a lot of factors that create attraction to a potential mate; whether it is how good of a nest they build, if they can catch dinner, how they splay their feathers when they dance, or body build. Just change the wording to how clean they keep their house, if they earn a good income, sweet dance moves, and chiseled abs and the silly animal mating rituals just became very similar to our human requirements. We often forget that we are not so far removed from our furry and feathered friends. I assure you, after watching farm animals for years, there are many things to be learned about human dynamics from these critters, especially when it comes to mating habits. There is not much difference between a teenager with raging hormones and a pig in heat ;-) What I have noticed from watching my critters is that it is often the female who is the deciding factor on what mates are selected, the males are a bit, how shall I say it, less choosy. When it comes to human selectiveness there are exponentially more emotional, cultural, and social factors that go into partner selection compared to our animal friends but basic hormone factors are still at play. This next article by Roberts et al. looks into how oral contraceptive use may affect a female’s choice in partner and their satisfaction with that relationship.

In a group of 1,761 women who were in long term relationships they found that women taking oral birth control at the time of meeting their partner (as compared to women not on birth control) were statistically significantly less sexually satisfied by their partner and less attracted to their partner. But here is the kicker, they had higher levels of general (non-sexual) satisfaction with their partner. Ain’t that the breaks of it. Apparently, we can’t have our cake and eat it too. Sorry ladies.

Multiple factors can change when taking oral contraceptives but the primary function is that they alter the normal hormonal balance. Female hormones naturally fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, the course of a lifetime, and with pregnancy. Changes in these hormone levels can actually change females’ level of attraction based on pheromones, child rearing abilities, and sexual adventurousness of the potential partner. Birth control seems to alter the hormones in a way that creates attraction toward a mate that is similar to attraction levels during pregnancy. Therefore, increasing the likelihood that the chosen partner will have better paternal qualities versus virility, aka a caveman is preferred when making the baby making but a gentleman is preferred to raise the child. No wonder men have a hard time understand what women want.

The article goes into a lot of detail about why this occurs (or at least theories based on previous research as to why) and is definitely worth the read. Click the link below for the full article and enjoy.

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