Saturday, October 13, 2007

What We Can Learn From Lap Dancers

I doubt learning that lap dancers make less when menstruating comes as much of a surprise to folks, but lap dancers making 40% money more during the fertile phase of the cycle vs. the luteal phase is quite a difference. I doubt they need the money more then. I remember seeing a study in which men were asked to rank women's attractiveness in pictures and this was correlated with their time of the month. Women who were around the fertile time came out ahead. Maybe I'm just weird, but this stuff fascinates me, mostly because it is so subtle and seemingly unnoticeable. Ask 10 guys to tell you if a given woman off the street is fertile and they will look at you like you are off your rocker (at least I would). Yet, the effect of a woman's seemingly hidden fertility is measurable in such an amazingly dramatic fashion. Somehow men must subconsciously know this. My guess is that somehow women are subconsciously communicating this information as well. Bizarre.

MB

PS: I wonder if there are any wise old matchmakers out there who have known this for eons and kept all of us technologically advanced and culturally disconnected societies in the dark.

11 comments:

Kevin said...

MB,

I agree that it is fascinating, for exactly the "subtle and unexpected, but meaningful" reason you describe. In fact, that reason is similar to how I view faith, wherein objective proof can be hard to come by or point to.

I've never had a lap dance, but I was a bit surprised that New Mexico considers it to be "sex". I guess it is a form of sexual touching.

The sample size looks a bit small (18 dancers, 60 days, 5300 dances), but the distinction does seem rather pronounced, particularly with the 7 on birth control pills earning less across the board (some sustained effect?) and also not having the peaks.

The evolutionary psychologist focuses on the theory that "estrogen modulates motion abilities," while pheromones are less likely, but when coupled with the picture test you mention, it suggests to me that there may actually be a more complex combination, including some superficial changes -- though I guess posture would be a "motion ability".

If wise old matchmakers did know this bit of information, how would they use it? Match during highest attraction? :) I wonder if men have any sort of similar oscillations, but I can't think of what they could correlate with.

The main use I see is that lap dancers should stop taking birth control if they want to earn more money (monitoring that change would make a good study, too).

Kevin

MarkC said...

MB,

I am very surprised that this effect would translate through pictures. If you could dig through your memory to remember anything about that study that might help me identify it, I'd love to look it up.

I am not at ALL surprised that this effect exists in person. Whether it is a subtle change in the woman's attitude, a specific scent the body puts off, or some subconscious difference in posture that bodies sense when in close contact, this seems very reasonable (even expected) to me.

However, I would not expect the effect to relate to, say, a dancer on a stage, and I am even more shocked that it would relate to a photograph. I would expect the factors to be dependent on close physical proximity.

Fascinating... thanks for sharing!

(And by the way, thanks for being patient with my unplanned hiatus. I'm hoping to work my way back into the flow of the discussion.)

Mark

MamasBoy said...

Mark,

I didn't think I would be able to find anything, but was actually sucessful enough to find journal paper which seems to coincide with my memory of the newspaper article. The journal article is from the Procedures of the Royal Society of London. I'm assuming that this wasn't forged, since it was not on the Royal society website.
http://www.facelab.org/include/download?id=16
Here is a comment at the end of an news article on this paper which criticizes the study.
http://www.boingboing.net/2005/11/03/new-scientist-hormon.html
And a couple more news articles on the same journal paper.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/4396230.stm
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4691.html

This article, one must pay to see.
http://www.nature.com/news/2004/040329/full/news040329-6.html;jsessionid=DD82C5C29283057B4203795454D8B4A9

This article discusses the attractiveness of smell and correlates that with cycle timing.
http://www.livescience.com/health/060118_armpit_odor.html

This article says fertile women find other women uglier. So, apparently, cycle timing influences self-esteem and views of others.
http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn4691.html

MB

MarkC said...

MB,

Cool! Thanks for the links. That was interesting stuff.

The download link you provided for the study didn't work. I think you accidentally linked to the wrong study, but even when I fixed the ID number in the link, it wouldn't download anything.

To get the study, you have to go to Facelab's Articles page, then scroll down past the "2006" heading to the study titled "Facial appearance is a cue to oestrogen levels in women". Click on the link to the PDF from there, and the full results of the study are available.

The study does not actually appear to compare attractiveness at different points in the menstrual cycle. In fact, if I'm reading it correctly, the study adjusts the estrogen and progesterone levels that it uses for comparison based on the woman's point in her period, to come up with a comparison at a normalized point in the woman's cycle.

The study, from what I can tell, basically says that women with naturally higher overall levels of estrogen are more attractive (but that makeup can level the playing field).

The BBC article you cited referring to the study backs that up, and ends with this statement:

"[Dr. Tony Little] said his studies with co-worker Craig Roberts showed female attractiveness also fluctuated throughout the menstrual cycle, peaking at a woman's most fertile days."

I guess I'll have to do some more digging to find that study. I'm interested to hear how it was carried out.

I can't imagine that being at a particular point in the cycle changes a woman's facial structure. And in a photograph, subtleties of mood and attitude don't translate well. I can only imagine that subtle attractiveness cues such as skin coloration, fullness of the lips, brightness of the eyes, etc... could potentially be affected by a woman's menstrual cycle? Other than that, I can't imagine what would come through on a photograph.

Anyway, thanks, MB!

Mark

Kevin said...

Thanks for the summaries, guys!

steviepinhead said...

It's probably just my aging eyes, but after reading all of that, on first glance I managed to misread the first two letters of the word "summaries" in Kevin's comment.

Kevin said...

Did I type "summaries"? I meant "mammaries". Nice catch, Stevie. :)

Kevin said...

I just caught MB's label for this post. That cracked me up, MB. :) And I quote:

"I Refuse to Label This... Would You Care To"

In honor of Stevie, I think it should be categorized under "thanks for the mammaries".

Brad said...

Men conned by women's wiggle

Women who are ready to conceive are the least likely to walk with a sexy wiggle, according to scientists.

A Queen's University, Ontario, team examined volunteers' walks and the levels of sex hormones in their saliva.

They found those with alluring walks were the furthest away from ovulation - the opposite of what they expected, reports New Scientist magazine.

Women give a variety of signals to advertise when they are ready to conceive and lead researcher Meighan Provost had expected a sexy walk to be among them.

She analysed the gait of female volunteers, showed video clips to 40 men, asking them to rate the attractiveness of the way the women walked, and then matched the results to the hormone tests.

She said the results, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behaviour, were so surprising that she had repeated the experiment again with another group of male viewers.

The women who were most fertile at the time of the experiment walked with fewer hip movements and with their knees closer together.

She now thinks the findings tally with other research suggesting that women want to conceal their ovulation from males other than their chosen partner.

Ms Provost said: "If women are trying to protect themselves from sexual assault at times of peak fertility, it would make sense for them to advertise attractiveness on a broad scale when they are not fertile."

Kevin said...

Brad,

Interesting article. Thanks for sharing it.

I suppose it is not contrary to MB's article given that the hypothesis is that the women walking may be trying to conceal their ovulation, perhaps contrary to the primary goal of lap dancers.

It seems like that study would benefit and eliminate variables by using the same women at different points in their cycle, but it gave me the impression that they merely made statistical correlations.

Kevin

purple_kangaroo said...

I read somewhere that women tend to take more care in their appearance and dress and behave slightly differently when they are fertile. Fertility and hormonal change definitely affects a woman's feelings about herself and about the opposite sex, that's for sure. It seems logical that this would come through on some level to men observing her.

MB, I created a "sexuality and gender issues" category for another post and took you up on the challenge to label this one as well. I wasn't sure whether to remove the "I refuse to give this a label" tag or not, though.