Does the contraceptive pill alter mate choice in humans?
Alexandra Alvergne and Virpi Lummaa (2010)
Female and male mate choice preferences in humans both vary according to the menstrual cycle. Women prefer more masculine, symmetrical and genetically unrelated men during ovulation compared with other phases of their cycle, and recent evidence suggests that men prefer ovulating women to others. Such monthly shifts in mate preference have been suggested to bring evolutionary benefits in terms of reproductive success. New evidence is now emerging that taking the oral contraceptive pill might significantly alter both female and male mate choice by removing the mid-cycle change
in preferences. Here, we review support for such conclusions and speculate on the consequences of pill-induced choice of otherwise less-preferred partners for relationship satisfaction, durability and, ultimately, reproductive outcomes.
A few quotes:
"Cycling preferences in women are likely to enable discriminative mate choice at peak fertility for mate genetic quality and/or compatibility."
"All ovulatory-cycle effects are potentially modified by oral contraceptives. The impact of such oestrous disruption on reproductive success is currently unknown although it is likely that if oestrus is adaptive, then any drug specifically designed to eliminate ovulation and the associated oestrus psychological and physical changes will have maladaptive side-effects."
"We can ... predict that: (i) the use of the pill when choosing a partner for reproduction has consequences for actual mate choice ... and (ii) commencement or cessation of the pill influences the quality and stability of pre-existing long-term relationships."
"There is emerging evidence that the use of the pill by women can disrupt: (i) the variation in mate preferences across their menstrual cycle; (ii) their attractiveness to men; and (iii) their ability to compete with normally cycling women for access to mates."
"It is worthy of note that since the approval of the pill as a contraceptive method by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1960 and the subsequent rapid export, for example, to Canada (1961), Australia (1961) and Europe (West Germany, 1961, UK, 1961, France, 1967), the potential side-effects on a range of women’s psychological attributes and behaviour have never been investigated by FDA or drug companies. Given the centrality of relationship satisfaction and offspring quality in the subjective well-being of women and mothers, drug companies marketing hormonal contraception should be encouraged to institute large-scale clinical trials investigating behavioural and psychological side-effects potentially associated with oral contraceptives, and any possible maladaptive side-effects of pill use on mate choice, attractiveness, relationship satisfaction, divorce probability and offspring health."