Human oestrus.

Department of Psychology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA.
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (Impact Factor: 5.29). 06/2008; 275(1638):991-1000. DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2007.1425
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT 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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