The ovulatory cycle is an intricate part of reproductive biology. Menstrual cycles in women are associated with ovulation (Gangestad et al., 2007). A woman’s perception of men’s traits can change at different phases in her menstrual cycle. It has been suggested that women’s mate preferences change across their menstrual cycle (Haselton & Gangestad, 2006). This study examined whether the scent preferences of women across the ovulatory cycle changed at different phases in their menstrual cycles. The results revealed that women were more attracted to men’s scents at earlier phases in their menstrual cycles when estrogen levels were higher. Still, they shifted to preferring lower amounts of testosterone during later phases when progesterone levels were higher. These findings could provide clues into human mate choices and how they might change over time due to environmental changes or other reasons outside humans’ control. The results of this study are consistent with women’s mate preferences that change throughout the menstrual cycle. Human female mate preferences are the most strongly affected by their reproductive cycles. Menstrual cycles in women are associated with ovulation (Gangestad et al. 2007). A woman’s perception of men’s traits can change at different phases in her menstrual cycle. This study investigated whether women showed heightened perceptual sensitivity to men while they were ovulating compared to while they were not ovulating. Women choose a mate willing to provide such investment for themselves and their children. Research has noted that for women, this greatly influences what they look for in a male partner (Gangestad et al., 2007). Thus, women tend to look for males who can provide them with some form of paternal investment. The attraction is likely adaptive because it promotes the most common traits in successful mates in high-quality males in high-quality environments.
Furthermore, changes across the ovulatory cycle promote preferences in mate selection (Gildersleeve et al., 2014). The ovulatory cycle is the time of an individual’s menstrual cycle which must be synchronized with ovulation. The follicular phase occurs from days 14 through 28 of your menstrual cycle. Also known as the “fertile” or “follicular phase,” estrogen levels are at their highest during this phase, making you fertile. The follicular phase is the time that you are most likely to conceive. On average, fertility peaks after ovulation have occurred. One study found that the highest potential fecundity, the chance of conceiving each month, was reached after ovulation occurred in the case scenario, 27.3%. However, some women might still be able to become pregnant even during the luteal phase of the cycle because about one-fifth of fertile women have higher than normal estrogen concentrations during this period. The luteal phase occurs from days 29 through 36 of your menstrual cycle and is commonly referred to as “the secretory” stage (Gildersleeve et al., 2014). During this phase, luteinizing hormone (LH) secretion is at its highest, causing the production of progesterone by the ovarian follicle. The endometrium becomes thicker during this period, and ovulation can occur (Haselton & Gangestad, 2006). Two distinct hormonal changes happen during the female reproductive cycle, which also serve as a cue for us to change our mate preferences. Women have been found to prefer different levels of facial masculinity across their menstrual cycle – more masculine faces in the fertile phase and less masculine faces in the non-fertile phase of their menstrual cycle. Therefore, because the ovulatory cycle varies on a woman’s fertility status, it explains why women have increased sexual attraction to men when they are highly fertile.
Due to the changes in ovulation when looking for a mate, women also go for mates with good genes. The good genes sexual selection theory is an evolutionary explanation for why females would choose mates with better genes. The theory states that females have no control over their offspring’s genetics, whereas males do (Haselton & Gangestad, 2006). As a result, males use elaborate courtship rituals to show off desirable traits, coupled with females’ preference for these traits, which they cannot control their offspring acquiring. Ultimately, it could create “a progressive process leading towards perfect adaptation and elimination of less suitable types” (Dehlendorf et al., 2013). The theory suggests that because women cannot pass on greater genetic information to their offspring than what they were born with, they must look outside themselves for these goods. Typically, women would examine the appearance of a suitor and compare it to that of her mate (Gangestad et al., 2007). If the suitor’s physical traits are superior to those of her partner, she may choose him as a mate. Women’s attractiveness to masculine features and body scents are associated with masculinity. In this way, the male’s ability to woo a woman with his physical traits allows him to prove his genetic worthiness to females by displaying “good looks.”
While past research has often thought that women are attracted to masculinity because it signals good health and reproductive potential, Haselton’s findings prove this wrong. Women in her study were shown pictures of men with different degrees of masculinity and were asked to indicate their level of attraction to the image (Haselton & Gangestad, 2006). The results showed that when signaled by more masculine features such as body size, fitness, facial hair, posture, etc., men are considerably less attractive than the same men when they bear signifiers of femininity (Haselton & Gangestad, 2006). Surprisingly, however, these more feminine features were not always preferred over naturally feminine features (i.e., softer jawline). These softer features are more desirable in a long-term partner, while masculine facial characteristics may be more desirable for short-term relationships. Women responded best to the scent of men with some level of masculine physical traits but with higher levels of feminine scents (Gangestad et al., 2007). Some women even responded with arousal when presented with the scent of a heavily feminine man, which means that there is some level of overlap between attraction to masculinity and attraction to femininity.
In addition to good genes being demonstrated by an individual’s physical features, males can prove their suitability for reproduction by providing a mate with a high-quality resource or showing sufficient access to one (Dehlendorf et al., 2013). It can be done through what is termed a resource display. In this theory, through his physical features and abilities, a male can demonstrate his good genes to a female in the form of a valuable resource. In the past, men would provide valuable resources to their mates to ensure that they would birth offspring. This resource may include things such as food, shelter, and protection. This theory suggests that if a woman finds a suitor willing to prove himself by displaying some sort of valuable resource, she will be more inclined to find him more attractive than her current mate. In the absence of being able to pass on certain genetic traits from one generation to another- having offspring with good genetics is essential for an individual’s survival and reproduction capabilities. It is because offspring with good genetics are more likely to survive to reproductive age, have a higher chance of mating, and produce healthy and viable offspring. The good genes sexual selection theory has been criticized as an inadequate evolutionary mechanism. The theory cannot account for cases where females mate with multiple partners. The only measured outcome of good gene sexual selection is male-female co-evolution, which can be classified as assortative mating. And this process does not prove that good genes result in better female reproductive success than those less physically attractive.
Moreover, females prefer some males over others based on their physical traits and survival skills. The male with traits that ensured his success in securing a mate would be more likely to propagate his genes and pass them on to the next generation than those without these characteristics. Mate preference follows evolutionary principles: winning over the competition through greater resources, for example, superior strength or speed, which guarantees access to mates; survival skills, such as navigating successfully; or even more complex qualities, such as intelligence (Gangestad et al. 2007). The theory of mate guarding is a variation of the theory of mate preference. With the emergence of sociobiology and its concepts, such as sexual selection, it became clear that males can be seen as competing for females like other members of their species (Martinec Nováková et al., 2014). These qualities would prove successful in securing a mate and maintaining a species. The theory of mate guarding suggests that males are not just competing for access to mates but also for the possession of the individual female itself by making sure she is not impregnated by any other male (Martinec Nováková et al. 2014). The more the male can fight off any competition, the greater his likelihood of fathering offspring that survive into adulthood. Sociobiological principles can equally explain this form of mate preference. The male’s desire to guard his mate stems from his need to provide for his future offspring by keeping her away from other males who could potentially father these offspring.
The changes influence mate preference in ovulation. For instance, same-sex women will consistently shift towards preferring men during periods of high fertility and increased sexual receptivity while remaining sexually bisexual about whom they choose as partners over time (Gangestad et al., 2014). The shift in mate preference is influenced by mammalian preceptors that act to assist women in choosing mates who are likely to be able to support offspring. Particularly prominent among these are estrogen and progesterone, which work together to help females choose “sexually reproductive” men where males tend to be larger and more fertile (Dehlendorf et al., 2013). The idea is supported by other studies showing that changes in preferences for masculinity and femininity occur across the ovulatory cycle. For example, women prefer masculine men during high fertility phases but also during periods of reduced fertility when they may not want as many children. Changes in sexual orientation might also be hardwired. For instance, these preferences might be innate in women who prefer masculine men during high fertility phases of their cycle (Gangestad et al., 2014). Studies show that many lesbians have changed their preferences from being more homosexual in one phase of their cycle to being more heterosexual in another. Hence the reason why most women in a same-sex relationship are bisexual.
On the contrary, the evolutionary psychologist Geoffrey Miller suggests that women are more likely to seek out same-sex friendships because it allows them to receive attention from women that they may not routinely get from men (Miller & Maner, 2011). The attention given will be more valuable to her than male attention because female attention leads to good genes passing on their traits to the next generation. When choosing mates, women may be better off looking for attractive females over attractive males because it allows them to secure long-term relationships with females rather than males. Although natural selection pushes women to choose masculine mates during ovulation, women also prefer understanding and supportive mates (Martinec Nováková et al., 2014). According to Miller’s theory, women will be more likely to attempt the female same-sex strategy if they perceive their partners will not retaliate against them. The main advantage of same-sex social interactions is that they can be used to check on the quality of potential mates.
In addition, there have been numerous types of research on the topic of how men react differently to ovulating and non-ovulating women. Miller explained the hypothesis that during the mid-cycle phase, levels of testosterone rise, which reduces changes in men’s preferences for women with various characteristics (Miller & Maner, 2011). These are attractive preferences during their fertile time around ovulation compared to other times in their cycle when they are less fertile. During the ovulation period, men desire women who are more attractive than they do at the time of non-ovulation. This is because women appear more attractive when their fertility is higher, which may be a way for the human species to continue. Men find a woman more attractive toward ovulation due to her secondary sexual characteristics such as larger eyes, fuller lips, thinner waist, and larger bust size (Miller & Maner, 2011). They also prefer a woman’s face to be less angular and more feminine-looking at the time of ovulation. These results were found in some cultures but not all, though. In some regions, this did not hold, despite having similar conceptions of attractiveness. In other regions, the results were similar, except that the latter groups appear to be more negative toward feminine traits. For example, during ovulation in eastern Europe, men place less importance on a woman’s face, which they tend to prefer as more masculine—large eyes and full lips are not as important as they are in western Europe (Gildersleeve et al. 2014). This is especially true during the mid-cycle phase, when women are most fertile. However, it does not mean that this is common, even though men prefer these characteristics during ovulation. The effects of these preferences may vary by culture since some cultures do not find them attractive (Gildersleeve et al., 2014). This is especially true of less developed regions, such as those that still have cultural values emphasizing physical attractiveness and the biological basis of attraction.
Research has shown that women tend to prefer masculine men with the most masculine voice, testosterone-driven odors, and aggressive personalities when ovulating. This results from the evolutionary mating strategy (Gildersleeve et al., 2014). The theory is that if a woman mates with a man who possesses these characteristics, she may have a higher chance of conceiving because these cues signal that he is more fertile and will provide good genes for her offspring. However, other research says this preference for masculinity exists less from an evolutionary standpoint and more from cultural upbringing, whereby women are socialized to find more masculine qualities attractive. In a 2011 study, women of all ages were asked to rate the attractiveness of men based on facial masculinity and voice qualities. The results found that women of all ages had similar preferences for the masculinity of a potential mate (Gildersleeve et al., 2014). Although, they tend to prefer more feminine men as they get older. The researchers found that the preference for masculinity decreases with age and is greater for men’s voices than their faces. The decline in attraction is thought to be the result of cultural upbringing and exposure to media and advertising, which is prevalent in Western culture.
Odor is a cue to mates that a woman is ovulating. When a woman is ovulating, they produce an odor called the “faint rose scent.” Both humans and dogs can detect this faint rose scent. The best time to mate with a woman during her most fertile period is when she has this scent because it means she will be most likely able to get pregnant with your child. The scent of a woman’s fertility is not as important as her body odor (Krems et al., 2016). However, for men, it is one of the most important features of sexual attraction. Research has shown that women have a greater need for scent cues than men because they also need visual cues to gauge fertility. Women require scent cues primarily from their wrist and ankle regions because this area directly correlates with ovulation and pregnancy hormones (Krems et al., 2016). Men primarily rely on feint scents such as perfumes or colognes, which either sex can use without risking unwanted pregnancies due to hidden pheromones (Miller & Maner, 2011). This idea was proven when men were asked to rank the importance of various female body odors independent of male attraction. They ranked the scents of tight clothing, chemicals, pheromones, and secretions from menstrual periods higher than body odor. Scent can be a much more powerful indicator of both sexual interest and fertility without visual cues to judge fertility. For instance, research had shown that both men and women rated an individual’s attractiveness as greater when odors from those individuals were rated as signaling high fertility levels (i.e., smelling like ovulation signals high reproductive fitness).
In conclusion, some evidence suggests that good genes, mate guarding, and scent cues of fertility can examine the changes across the ovulatory cycle. Changes across the ovulatory cycle result from mate selection’s attraction, as it determines whether she is interested in short-term or long-term mating. Ovulation causes increased testosterone levels, which stimulates her to be attracted to masculine faces and more aggressive behavior. Her preference for a mate alters across the cycle, depending on what kind of partner she needs at that particular point in her ovulation cycle. During ovulation, women’s preference for masculine faces boosts the attractiveness of the dominant men.
Women show signs of being attracted to dominant male faces when they are in their fertile phase, but this attraction usually decreases by the end of their cycle. The extreme male dominance during this phase is likely to indicate an infertile mating strategy, but it is unclear why women prefer to pair up with a shorter-term partner rather than a long-term one. The implications show that these gender preferences are natural; they impact our behavior without realizing it. Women are attracted to the male who will invest the most in her and her offspring. Men who are confident, healthy, and resourceful will be more likely to make these investments. Lastly, women like masculine scents because they remind them of their mates; the scent is more alluring if she has previously mated with a masculine man.
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