Looking for Love in All the Right Places

It was over 50 years ago that The Shirelles asked, “Will you still love me tomorrow?” But the doo-wop-y girl group’s question is far, far […]

It was over 50 years ago that The Shirelles asked, “Will you still love me tomorrow?” But the doo-wop-y girl group’s question is far, far older than its 1961 release date. As long as there have been men and women, there has been the question of long-term versus short-term mating.

Thanks to the sexes’ differential reproductive biology, all things being equal, it behooves men to sow their seeds in as many fields as possible, whereas women benefit most from picking only the most dedicated farmers. But things aren’t always that straightforward. In other words, all males aren’t always on the lookout for a short-term mate. Some seek long-term partners, and they’re the ones that intend to love you tomorrow.

A new study in Evolutionary Psychology reveals that these different motivations direct male’s attention to different female body parts. And with good reason.

The female body and face advertise a great deal of information. How symmetrical her features are and how smooth her skin is, both indicate her overall health and immunity to disease. Additionally, faces give us cues to trustworthiness and honesty, cues that the rest of the body can’t quite convey. To the male mating mind, a trustworthy face means paternity is certain (read: he thinks he has a better shot of his baby actually being his baby, which is mighty important when it comes to evolution). Her face is also a good indicator of a female’s age, which has a large impact on her fertility. But the best clue to fertility is her waist-to-hip ratio.

The authors of the study, a team from The Chinese University of Hong Kong, assert that focusing on the face is about looking forward to the future of a relationship, but ogling the body – the waist in particular – is about immediate rewards. Fertility, after all, is pretty time-sensitive. They asked if male attention could be captured by, distracted by and perhaps even shifted to different areas of a woman’s body based on whether a man was in the short- or long-term mating mood, and indeed it can.

It seems that we have evolved so that our attention is directed where it needs to go. Males looking for long-term loving look to the female face, but guys who aren’t in it for the long haul look to the body. When it comes to finding long-term lover, paying attention to the face helps the romantic males amongst us to be certain that the child that they are looking after is their own. Zooming in on the waist helps other males solve the problem of where to sow those short-term seeds for maximum effectiveness.

This is hardly an earth-shattering result. But it does make possible the following: what one might see looking through male eyes isn’t far off from the visual scope of a predator. That is, while predators had the ability to hone in on their specific prey using heat signals, evolution has allowed human men – like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse “The Body” Ventura, both males who were in the first “Predator” movie  – to non-consciously, automatically focus their visual attention to the bits of female anatomy relevant to the nature of their own hunts…

About Jaimie Krems