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Birth control pills may influence mate selection

 Packages of Bayer aspirin and Schering Yasmin contraceptive pills lie on a table at a pharmacy.
Packages of Bayer aspirin and Schering Yasmin contraceptive pills lie on a table at a pharmacy.
Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images

Birth control pills have widened a woman's choices in dealing with her own sexual freedom. Possible side effects from the pill and the increased risk for venereal disease and possible emotional discomforts should of course be kept in mind if a woman chooses to use birth control pills to enhance her sexual freedom. Keeping these considerations in mind it appears taking the birth control pill has an influence on a woman's choice of a mate. Researchers have begun to suspect that birth control pill use has the potential to interfere with key mechanisms which play a role when women choose a sexual partner reported The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

It has been seen in studies that women, particularly during the most fertile days of their menstrual cycle, search for specific physical, psychological, and behavioral characteristics which are indicative of genetic quality in a short-term sexual partner. With the introduction of the contraceptive pill in the United States in 1960 the FDA made a significant contribution to the emancipation of women. Women who choose to use the pill often feel they are now in a better position to pursue their personal life goals. At this time it is estimated the birth control pill is used by more than 60 million women across the world. It is therefore clear that questions and concerns related to the impact of pill use are significant.

The impact of pill use on mate selection has generated a great deal of interest. It has been shown in previous research that women using the pill do not appear to exhibit maximum sexual receptivity, or what is called oestrus sexuality. Instead these women generally display sexual preferences and interests which are similar to those of women during their nonfertile phases. The researchers took into account the Good Genes Sexual Selection Theory. It is purported by this theory that when people differ in their heritable quality, people who mate with those who have greater heritable fitness should gain advantage over those who do not.

When women are in the fertile phase of their cycle it is anticipated they should seek male traits or characteristics which emphasize the quality of a man's heritable fitness when they are looking for short-term mates. Because there is no benefit for women from a short-term mate's heritable fitness when they cannot conceive, they should lessen the value of indicators of heritable fitness because genetic benefits cannot be gained. It has been found that women generally find these features to be most appealing when they evaluate potential short-term mates and they are ovulating.

The phase of the menstrual cycle in women has been found to be linked to changes in preferences for indicators of genetic quality which are offered by men. Greater than 75 percent of the studies in the last decade investigating women's cycling mate preferences have demonstrated that women seek out specific characteristics in men when their fertility is maximal. It has been seen that women who are ovulating generally have a preference for men with more stereotypically masculine features such as being tall, exhibition of dominance, competitiveness, and high intelligence.

Researchers have considered whether the increase in preference for certain attributes remains unchanged in pill users because it prevents ovulation and normal fertility. It has been suggested by new evidence that by eliminating oestrus the pill changes the natural preferences in women for markers of both genetic quality and compatibility in mates. Researchers pursued an investigation of whether the contraceptive pill, which leads to prevention of ovulation, may lead pill users to prefer and seek partners with less masculine physical, psychological, and behavioral features than nonpill users.

The results have been consistent with past literature showing that in comparison with a group of nonpill users, women who were taking the pill scored significantly lower on the Partner’s Masculinity Index (PMI). This new research demonstrates an association between birth control and women’s preferences for psychophysical traits in a sexual mate reports Wiley. The results of this research have indicated that with regard to mate selection taking the pill may psychologically influence women’s preferences in regard to certain characteristics of an ideal sexual partner.

An awareness of the impact of the pill on sexual mate selection by women opens up new horizons of consideration when women are presented with the option of taking the pill. It appears that the birth control pill has a significant impact on what a woman perceives of as desirable in a man due to the effects of the pill on the woman's hormones and ovulation. Women should consider this impact on their sexual desires and what this may mean to them personally when deciding whether or not to take the pill.

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