Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fertile women dress to impress

And as long as I'm writing about aspects of gender and sexuality, this is interesting:

Fertile women dress to impress, U.S. study finds
Women dress to impress when they are at their most fertile, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday in a study they say shows that signs of human ovulation may not be as mysterious as some scientists believe.

A study of young college women showed they frequently wore more fashionable or flashier clothing and jewelery when they were ovulating, as assessed by a panel of men and women looking at their photographs.

Some will say, "Nothing surprising about that." Others will say, "It's just a stereotype."

We report. You decide.

The point is that, even though human females have an estrous cycle like most other placental mammals do, it has been believed that they do not exhibit outward signs during the most receptive part of the cycle. According to the Wikipedia article,
Humans, unlike some other species, do not have any external signs to signal receptivity at ovulation. Research has shown however, that women tend to have more sexual thoughts and are most prone to sexual activity right before ovulation.

The new research is saying that lack of external signs is another gender myth, although the signs are subtle:
"They tend to put on skirts instead of pants, show more skin and generally dress more fashionably," said Martie Haselton, a communication studies and psychology expert at the University of California Los Angeles who led the study.

Writing in the journal Hormones and Behavior, Haselton and colleagues said their findings disproved the conventional wisdom that women are unique among animals in concealing, even from themselves, when they are most fertile.

It's interesting that, apparently, this is only a behavioral change, and that there are still no outward physiological signs of peak fertility.

Hormones are still at work. It's just that in humans their effect is on the brain only, rather than on the epidermis.

More detailed report: Forget Basal Body Temperature -- Check Out Her Clothes; Signs Of Ovulation May Be More Obvious Than Supposed

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Natalie Angier, in "Woman: An Intimate Geography" has a chapter on this, basically agreeing.

But she does add parenthetically (p219) "Of course, it doesn't hurt that midcyle is also the best time to wear your tightest and most revealing clothing, as that is when you are free of premenstrual water retention and blemishes and any fear of leaking menstrual blood."

A fascinating book. Highly recommended.

2/04/2007 01:40:00 PM  

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