Study of the Day: Fertile Women Want Masculine Men

This is bad news for Kenneth Edmonds. A new study says the fertile women become more attracted to other men if their partner has a less-masculine “baby face.”

Researchers at the University of New Mexico studied 66 monogamous couples over the course of a month. They rated the intelligence and the appearance of the men. A strong jaw, chin, and brow make a masculine face. For the women, researchers surveyed them on their sexual attractions and fantasies during their fertile and non-fertile periods.

Women with masculine-looking partners said their eyes wander less, perhaps because the traits women tend to find sexy when they’re fertile are already present in their partners. However, while those women weren’t looking elsewhere, they also weren’t more attracted to their own manly partners while fertile, suggesting that women’s reasons for wanting sex, not overall desire, might be what varies throughout the cycle.

Breathe easy, baby-faced men. The results only appeared when the women rated men’s sexiness. In terms of long-term attraction, a masculine face didn’t mean much.

“The take-home message of that is that intelligence is probably always pretty important for a woman,” said Martie Haselton, a University of California, Los Angeles, psychologist who was not involved in the current study, but who has studied changes in women across the menstrual cycle. “Low intelligence is not really a turn-on for anybody.”

While it might be good for long-term prospects, intelligence had no effect on the wandering eye. She might stay with you because you’re smart, but it doesn’t mean she’s not thinking about other guys.

In you’re an attractive guy, congrats. Your partner will be even more attracted to you when she’s fertile. Masculine men saw no change in the desire of their mates during a fertile period, according to the survey.

The survey’s findings fit in with evolutionary theory. Our female ancestors would’ve wanted a more masculine male because he’d be expect to produce a heartier offspring. In a way, it’s natural for women to be attracted to a manly man when they’re fertile.

For most women, Haselton said, “it probably happens and it’s gone after a matter of days, and the relationship goes on as it was before.”

So for you round-faced, soft-featured guys, there’s not much you can do. It’ll pass, but when your wife is fertile, she may be secretly attracted to other guys. Sorry.

About Ryan O'Hanlon

Ryan O'Hanlon is the managing editor of the Good Men Project. He used to play soccer and go to college. He's still trying to get over it. You can follow him on Twitter @rwohan.


  1. Yup. Pre-treatment trans man here, still afflicted with estrogen and bi enough to notice guys, and that is 100% correct. On a normal day designer stubble makes me laugh at its owner for looking like Rolf Harris; when the girl juice is running high the same guy turns into something positively mouthwatering. It’s more than a bit disturbing to realise how much of my sexuality is actually biologically determined.

  2. “A strong jaw, chin, and brow make a masculine face” — but surely it takes more than a masculine face to be thought of as masculine? To me, what makes a man masculine is a broad range of physical and personal traits/qualities that I consider manly, not the “strength” of his jaw, chin and brow.

    BTW: A stereotypically “manly” face in the US — the typical news anchorman with a square jaw — is considered rather plain and boring in my country. I don’t know a single woman who is attracted to that look.

  3. I guess I’ll have to check with the wife on this one!


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