Coitus, sex, mating; whatever you want to call it; putting our genitals together for the sake of the species is one of the oldest and most fundamental human movements there is; and I could argue that with the exception of Jesus, and a handful of test tube babies, we are all a product of it.
As we can see from the body of literature, the laws of animal attraction span vastly across the kingdom of our four legged, feathered, and scaly friends; and while many of the communication patterns and mating rituals seem quite different to the untrained eye, many are operating under the same conditions.
This investigation first began with the most basic of primal signals, the olfactory phenomenon known as pheromones.
Animal Attraction and Pheromones
According to the Journal of Chemical Ecology, Pheromones are defined as:
- “substances that are secreted to the outside by an individual and received by a second individual of the species, in which they release a specific reaction, for example, a definite behavior or a developmental process.”
- Pheromones make other members of the species do something specific…
While the action of pheromones can be most readily observed in the insect world, their reptile friends have also been noted in their olfactory communication. The Canadian red-sided garter snake, uses a series of nonvolatile saturated and monounsaturated long-chain methyl ketones to attract her mates.
This is interesting, but at the end of the day, who the fuck wants to attract a snake?!
If we are going to get anywhere in this inquest of animal attraction we are going to have to move our examination up the hierarchical ladder.
Animal Attraction & Monkeys
In a study reported by Nature the use of pheromonal sex signalling has been observed in monkeys.
It was demonstrated under these conditions…
- In between a set of female monkeys and males monkeys layed a lever activated door.
- First they switched off the male monkeys olfactory sensation (yeah they have a switch)
- Then they pumped the female monkeys full of estrogen and waited.
- The male monkeys didn’t give a fuck.
- The scientists then flipped their noses back on.
- Once olfactory sensation was restored the monkeys soon realized what pleasures they had been overlooking and quickly figured out that they had to activate the lever 250 times before being allowed access to all that sweet goodness.
No specific pheromone was identified in this study though one could postulate that a high concentration of sex hormone (estrogen in this case) has something to do with the behavioral output of these monkeys.
Animal Attraction & Humans
While in a lot of respects we humans are basically monkeys, and we definitely use the sensation of smell in many of our day to day activities, it seems that human sex pheromones are a bit harder to observe and their existence has yet to be proved. (Engen, 1983)
Despite having much of the same equipment as other mammals (everything you need to send and receive pheromonal messages), and using sent based signalling in some areas such as menstruation, breastfeeding, and proclamation of mood; humans don’t seem to receive sexual “releaser” pheromones (the ones that makes others do the nasty with you) in the same way similar animals do. That being said, it is possible they are received along a different avenue.(Whysocki 2004)
The abstract of this study from Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology completely sums up the inconclusiveness of the pheromone debate. While there is no clear evidence of whether we are technically using pheromones to communicate there is evidence to show that we use chemical signalling through olfactory sensation.
While it doesn’t look promising that we can “make” someone have sex with us just by filling the room with our stink, it has been shown that our levels of sex hormones, testosterone and estrogen, can have mood affecting properties on their yin or yang counterparts.
Saxon et al studied the effects of 4,16-androstadien-3-one (androstadienone), a musky secretion produced in linearity with high levels of testosterone. They tested females reactions to males at a speed dating event who were or were not laced with androstadienone. The females were asked to rate the males on attractiveness (not necessarily sexiness) and the results showed that they prefered the males rich in androstadienone.
Androstadienone secretion levels are directly related to testosterone availability.
(This is an amazing paper on Testosterone and Sport)
Burke et al reported that both men and women (women more sensitive) are affected by androstadienone showing increased activity in the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus is an area of the brain which “regulates endocrine, autonomic and behavioral functions….including temperature and metabolic rate, thirst and hunger, sexual behavior and reproduction, circadian rhythm, and emotional responses.
Psychoneuroendocrinology found that women, in it’s presence, reported androstadienone reduced feelings of nervousness, tension, and other negative feeling. This was consistent with the changes observed in their autonomic nervous system.
So now that we know sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone) are a driving force behind many of these olfactory communications that play a role in the psychophysio responses of women and monkeys (and most likely men); let’s look a bit more how else these sex hormones affect our tendencies in attracting a mate.
A very interesting article, Testosterone increases perceived dominance but not attractiveness in human males, says this…
- Testosterone may be particularly revealing as it is purported to be an honest indicator of male fitness.
- Evidence suggests that certain features on the human face indicate hormonal levels during growth.
- Symmetry is a big one
- women judge the attractiveness of potential partners based on the appearance of these features
- male facial features that are affected by testosterone are possibly used as direct cues in mate preference.
What they found was that anyone can be found super attractive (sexy) no matter what level of sex hormones they have and those who exhibit a high level of testosterone are seen to be more dominant. Dominant males are chosen more readily as mates than what is perceived as attractive.
Interestingly, Kenrick et al (1994) made these reports on the difference between attraction and dominance based choices in mates:
- Females’ evaluations of their relationships were unaffected by exposure to physically attractive males but were lower after exposure to targets high in dominance.
- Males’ relationship evaluations were not directly influenced by the targets’ dominance, although the effect of physical attractiveness was significant only for men exposed to women low in dominance.
- These data support predictions derived from an evolutionary model and suggest that such models can be used to generate testable hypotheses about ongoing social cognition.
( I wonder how the men reacted to physically attractive women who were also highly dominant?)
PNAS came out with these findings…
- People’s reported like-attract-like based preference in mate do not actually reflect mate choices. (What you say you like is not what you go for…)
- Men choose women based on their physical attractiveness (so simple.)
- Women, who were generally much more discriminating than men, chose men whose overall desirability as a mate matched the women’s self-perceived physical attractiveness. (what the hell?!)
- Actual mate choices is very much in line with the evolutionary predictions of parental investment theory.
So basically men just go for hot chicks who they think could bear and raise strong offspring (Puts, 2010) and women go for men who they perceive as being winners who are on an overall level of awesomeness that is equal to how physically virtuous they think they are.
(Whether you are going to mate with him or learn from him; next time you see a dude with a really hot chick you should probably figure out what makes him so cool.)
While there are many factors that will ultimately affect a person’s choice in mate…
- Similar values/interests
- Socio Economic Status
- Hygiene Habits
What we are seeing overall from all these studies is that perceived dominance is what attracts women into partnerships while men are more attracted to physicalities. Our levels of sex hormones during early development all the way through adulthood greatly shape these outwardly projected traits.
There are tons of natural things men, women, and those falling somewhere in between, can do to affect the balance of their sex hormones.
- Many more crazy things…
Achieving optimal hormone levels not only will increase your chances of successfully mating, it will make it a more enjoyable experience, and increase your overall health and human performance.
If you would like some coaching on hormone balancing, increasing your chances of successfully mating, or just want to experience the calming effects of androstadienone; please get in touch!