Preferences for masculinity in male bodies change across the menstrual cycle

Horm Behav. 2007 May;51(5):633-9. doi: 10.1016/j.yhbeh.2007.03.006. Epub 2007 Mar 24.


In human females cyclic shifts in preference have been documented for odour and physical and behavioral male traits. Women prefer the smell of dominant males, more masculine male faces and men behaving more dominantly when at peak fertility than at other times in their menstrual cycle. Here we examine variation in preferences for body sexual dimorphism. Across two studies, both between- and within-participant, we show that women prefer greater masculinity in male bodies at times when their fertility is likely highest, in the follicular phase of their cycle. Shifts were seen when rating for a short-term but not when rating for a long-term relationship. In line with studies showing similar effects for facial sexual dimorphism, we also show that women prefer greater masculinity when they think themselves attractive than when they think themselves less attractive. These results indicate that women's preferences for sexual dimorphism in male bodies follow a similar pattern as found for sexual dimorphism and dominance in other domains and such differences in preference may serve a similar function. Cyclic preferences could influence women to select partners when most likely to become pregnant that possess traits that may be most likely to maximize their offspring's quality via attraction to masculinity or serve to help acquire investment via attraction to femininity.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Choice Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Fertility / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menstrual Cycle / physiology
  • Menstrual Cycle / psychology*
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual / physiology
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Reference Values
  • Sexual Behavior / physiology
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Social Desirability*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric