PARIS – Men looking for a quick fling prefer women with more feminine facial features, says a study that delved into the evolutionary determinants of the mating game.
Feminine features such as a smaller jawbone or fuller cheeks are closely linked to a woman’s attractiveness, which is taken as an indicator of health, youth and fidelity and other traits, says the study, released Friday. Feminine features are associated with a higher level of the female hormone estrogen, which is linked with reproductive success.
Studies on women have shown a similar preference for a hunkier man for a fling but a geekier one to settle down with — possibly a more reliable bet for helping to raise children.
In a study with several hundred heterosexual male volunteers, a team of researchers made composite pictures of women’s faces and asked the men which ones they would choose for long- or short-term relationships. There were two versions of each face — one with slightly more feminine and one with more masculine features. The faces were taken from European or Japanese faces.
Men rated women with more feminine features more highly for a fling. The preference was especially high among men who were already in a steady relationship.
“When a man has secured a mate, the potential cost of being discovered may increase his choosiness regarding short-term partners relative to unpartnered men, who can better increase their short-term mating success by relaxing their standards,” wrote the study authors. But in making long-term choices, men “may actually prefer less attractive/feminine women,” they added. Previous research has found that attractive women are likelier to be unfaithful, particularly if their partner is ugly.