Human Oestrus

Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (Impact Factor: 5.05). 06/2008; 275(1638):991-1000. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2007.1425
Source: PubMed


For several decades, scholars of human sexuality have almost uniformly assumed that women evolutionarily lost oestrus--a phase of female sexuality occurring near ovulation and distinct from other phases of the ovarian cycle in terms of female sexual motivations and attractivity. In fact, we argue, this long-standing assumption is wrong. We review evidence that women's fertile-phase sexuality differs in a variety of ways from their sexuality during infertile phases of their cycles. In particular, when fertile in their cycles, women are particularly sexually attracted to a variety of features that likely are (or, ancestrally, were) indicators of genetic quality. As women's fertile-phase sexuality shares with other vertebrate females' fertile-phase sexuality a variety of functional and physiological features, we propose that the term oestrus appropriately applies to this phase in women. We discuss the function of women's non-fertile or extended sexuality and, based on empirical findings, suggest ways that fertile-phase sexuality in women has been shaped to partly function in the context of extra-pair mating. Men are particularly attracted to some features of fertile-phase women, but probably based on by-products of physiological changes males have been selected to detect, not because women signal their cycle-based fertility status.

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    • "For example, multiple matings could have facilitated resource acquisition, either in direct exchange for sex (Symons, 1979) or by eliciting paternal investment from multiple men via paternity confusion (Hrdy, 1981). Additionally, indirect benefits may have been derived by ancestral women who accepted resources and parental effort from a primary mate while engaging in extra-pair copulations with men of superior genetic quality (Gangestad & Thornhill, 2008; Greiling & Buss, 2000; Smith, 1984). Extra-pair sex may also have served as a useful “insurance” against the possibility of infertility in a primary mate or as a means to promote genetic diversity in offspring as a “hedge” against environmental unpredictability (Smith, 1984). "
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    ABSTRACT: In environments in which female economic dependence on a male mate is higher, male parental investment is more essential. In such environments, therefore, both sexes should value paternity certainty more and thus object more to promiscuity (because promiscuity undermines paternity certainty). We tested this theory of anti-promiscuity morality in two studies (N = 656 and N = 4,626) using U.S. samples. In both, we examined whether opposition to promiscuity was higher among people who perceived greater female economic dependence in their social network. In Study 2, we also tested whether economic indicators of female economic dependence (e.g., female income, welfare availability) predicted anti-promiscuity morality at the state level. Results from both studies supported the proposed theory. At the individual level, perceived female economic dependence explained significant variance in anti-promiscuity morality, even after controlling for variance explained by age, sex, religiosity, political conservatism, and the anti-promiscuity views of geographical neighbors. At the state level, median female income was strongly negatively related to anti-promiscuity morality and this relationship was fully mediated by perceived female economic dependence. These results were consistent with the view that anti-promiscuity beliefs may function to promote paternity certainty in circumstances where male parental investment is particularly important.
    Archives of Sexual Behavior 06/2014; 43(7). DOI:10.1007/s10508-014-0320-4 · 3.53 Impact Factor
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    • "In turn, females who preferred more masculine males as high-fertility sex partners might have produced children who themselves attracted a larger number of sex partners (thereby creating selective pressure favoring cycle shifts in women's preferences for masculinity). Furthermore, noting that evidence for the ICHH in humans is weak is not a novel contribution; indeed, many evolutionary psychologists would agree (e.g., Scott et al 2012; Thornhill and Gangestad 2008). Moreover, the ICHH outlines only one possible mechanism underlying associations between masculine traits and physical condition (i.e., good health). "
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    ABSTRACT: Many studies have documented systematic shifts in women’s mate preferences and sexual motivations across the ovulatory cycle. Harris (2012) presents a nonreplication of one particular finding in this literature—namely, that women’s preference for masculinity in men’s faces shifts across the cycle. Harris critiques the empirical and theoretical literature on cycle shifts and concludes that the cycle shift hypothesis should be abandoned. Here, we situate Harris’s findings within the broader empirical literature and respond to several of the points in her critique. We conclude that the evidence for cycle shifts in women‘s mate preferences and sexual motivations is much stronger than Harris portrays and that she mischaracterizes the theoretical basis of this work.
    Sex Roles 11/2013; 69(9-10). DOI:10.1007/s11199-013-0273-4 · 1.47 Impact Factor
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    • "In addition to replicating the association between women's conception risk and their preference for male scents associated with testosterone, future work should aim to identify chemicals males emit responsible for shifts in preferences for scents associated with both T (if robust) and developmental stability. From an evolutionary perspective, one major outstanding question is whether these chemicals constitute specialized signals of male qualities or byproducts of male qualities (see Thornhill & Gangestad, 2008). "
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    ABSTRACT: Women in the fertile phase of their menstrual cycle show an enhanced sexual preference for masculine expressions in behavioral, morphological and scent traits. These masculinity preferences may be associated with testosterone (T) levels in males and hence connote male quality as a sire. Thus, a scent preference of fertile-phase women for T is predicted. A recent study, however, found no evidence for this, but reported that women prefer the scent of men with high cortisol (C). That study had low power to detect the predicted effect, as well as other methodological limitations. We tested women's preferences across their ovulatory cycle for the body scent of men who varied in T and C, using a larger sample of men and methods used in research on cycle preferences for symmetry-related male body scent. Conception risk in the cycle positively predicted women's scent ratings of men's T; scent ratings of C or T × C interaction were not robustly related to conception risk. Conception risk is related positively to a preference for scent of men's symmetry. This preference is distinct from that arising from a preference for the scent of T. The male-emitted chemical(s) responsible for these preferences shifts across women's cycle remain unknown.
    Evolution and Human Behavior 08/2013; 34(3):216-221. DOI:10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2013.01.003 · 3.13 Impact Factor
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