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How Hormones Affect Attraction

How Hormones Affect Attraction

Vicki Santillano | Divine Caroline

September 27, 2010

It’s said that women are prone to change their minds at the drop of a hat, which may have some truth to it, at least among many of the ladies in my life (myself included). But if men had the same surges of hormones month after month that women do, they’d be a little indecisive, too.

Our monthly cycles introduce varying degrees of hormones into our systems that have an effect on mood, pain (hello, cramps and swollen body parts), and even attraction. We may have types we’re drawn toward regularly—tall, dark, and handsome, or intensely pensive artists, for example—but all that changes with the flip of an estrogen switch. Depending on our cycle stage, we might go for masculine over sensitive or “Mr. Take Charge” over “Mr. Nice Guy.”

Near Ovulation, Estrogen Likes Testosterone

During a woman’s monthly cycle, various hormones are released at certain times to prompt ovulation. These include luteinizing hormone (LH), estradiol (a steroid/sex hormone that’s part of the estrogen group), and progesterone (another steroid hormone). Throughout the years, studies have been somewhat contradictory as to what effects these hormones have on attraction, but as of late, consensus seems to be that they do affect how women see men, especially near ovulation.

A 2004 study published in the Journal of Sexual Research showed that women have stronger sexual desire and more sexual fantasies near an oncoming LH release, which happens around mid-cycle and triggers ovulation. Researchers believed that the large amount of estrogen in the female system that stimulates the LH surge also increased sexual thoughts.

A study performed at University of California, Santa Barbara concluded similarly, linking estradiol with a preference for men with higher testosterone levels. It was actually the first of its kind to directly show that connection between sex hormones. Researchers asked seventy-five women to rate pictures of men by attractiveness. Both the women and photographed men gave samples of their saliva to test their hormone levels. The women with higher estradiol levels liked the faces of men with higher testosterone levels the best.

Macho Men vs. Sensitive Souls

Masculine personality traits also become more desirable for women around their ovulation times. A 2004 study conducted at the University of New Mexico and published in Psychological Science found that ovulating women are attracted to men who display “social presence and direct competitiveness.” When female volunteers were shown videos of men competing for lunch dates, those in the highly fertile part of their cycles reported being more interested in the men who were aggressive and confident.

However, that was only in short-term situations; when asked about attractiveness in terms of longer partnerships, they rated less positively.

Next Page: What if I’m already in a relationship?→

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