Alternate headline: Feminists and liberals outfox evolution, produce generations of genetically unfit children.
This explains the Obama election fervor among the young, hip and with it, no?
All joking aside, this subject–how the Pill changes a woman’s selection of mate–has long fascinated me.
First, a little science.
Genetic expression controls our pheromones. When all is working as it should, we are attracted to mates with whom we would create the strongest and best offspring, largely based on that person’s scent. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, sex equals reproduction.
So it should come as no surprise that the Pill–which artificially alters a woman’s fertility–would artificially alter her taste in men. No biggie, right? Every girly-man needs a good woman. Well, not from an evolutionary standpoint. From the WSJ:
Evolutionary psychologists and biologists have long been interested in factors that lead to people’s choice of mates. One influential study in the 1990s, dubbed the T-shirt study, asked women about their attraction to members of the opposite sex by smelling the men’s T-shirts. The findings showed that humans, like many other animals, transmit and recognize information pertinent to sexual attraction through chemical odors known as pheromones.
The study also showed that women seemed to prefer the scents of men whose immune systems were most different from the women’s own immune-system genes known as MHC. The family of genes permit a person’s body to recognize which bacteria are foreign invaders and to provide protection from those bugs. Evolutionarily, scientists believe, children should be healthier if their parents’ MHC genes vary, because the offspring will be protected from more pathogens.
Pretty cool, eh? (Or pretty scary, actually). Even more:
What happens to a woman during her most fertile days?
- Her voice becomes higher pitched.
- Men are more attentive to her, with behavior ranging from thoughtful to jealous.
- Her scent becomes more attractive to men.
- She seeks men with more masculine features.
- Her social behavior changes, including increased flirting.
- She tries to look more attractive and may choose more-revealing clothing.
In short, the Pill wipes out the fertility changes with dire consequences for the mating pair.
Such natural preferences get wiped out when the woman is on hormonal birth control, research has shown. Women on the pill no longer experience a greater desire for traditionally masculine men during ovulation. Their preference for partners who carry different immunities than they do also disappears. And men no longer exhibit shifting interest for women based on their menstrual cycle, perhaps because those cues signaling ovulation are no longer present, scientists say.
Some women using birth-control pills have long reported changes to their libido and mood. Research is still in the early stages to explore the implications of taking hormonal contraceptives for women’s choice of mates and for fidelity in relationships. Researchers speculate that women with less-masculine partners may become less interested in their partner when they come off birth control, contributing to relationship dissatisfaction. And, if contraceptives are masking women’s natural ability to detect genetic diversity, then the children produced by parents who met when the woman was on the pill may be less genetically healthy, they suggest.
So the Pill grants the taker the magic ability to avoid pregnancy. But with it comes a chemical potential for less fidelity, relationship dissonance based on nothing other than biology and less genetically healthy kids. Not so magical anymore, is it?