Thursday, March 05, 2009

Lap Dancers Show That Estrus is Not So Hidden

Geoffrey Miller, Joshua M. Tybur, Brent D. Jordan of the University of New Mexico have done a wonderful study to see whether human beings can tell when a woman is ovulating. Unlike most animals, people have "hidden estrus." One good consequence is that men pay attention to their mates all the time, whereas in other primates females only get attention when they are "in heat." However, human beings may be able to tell when a woman is ovulating in more subtle, even subconscious, ways.

Miller and colleagues asked eighteen lap dancers to keep track of their menstrual periods, work shifts, and tip earnings for 60 days - more than 5300 lap dances. The researchers noted differences between women who were on the pill and those who were not.

The result:
Average tips during ovulation = $335 per shift
Halfway through (luteal phase) = $260
During menstruation = $185

Women on the pill, by contrast, showed no ovulation peak for tips.

[Thanks to reader Brittany for the study]


Anonymous said...

And how do we know that the women themselves weren't acting differently?

virginia said...

JD, I think that's the point. When ovulating, something about the women (appearance, scent, behavior, etc) was more attractive or desirable to those men. This study shows that women's estrus isn't as hidden as we imagine, even if we only recognize it subconsciously.

There was a study that I think was discussed in Gruntled's class about college women and how they dressed during different times in their cycles. Across the board, from the most slumpy and tomboyish to the most dressy and put-together, women tended to dress up more (with more accessories, makeup, clothes that fit more tightly, etc) when they were ovulating. But I don't think it was even a conscious decision - "Oh, I'm fertile, I should wear bigger earrings today." It was a subconscious external reflection of what was happening inside.

Anonymous said...

Well, not to get too personal, but I can tell when my wife is ovulating, not because I smell anything (not that I know of), but because she acts much more flirtatious than usual. But "men give tips to more flirtatious women" wouldn't be very surprising.

Anonymous said...

I find your post from Micheal Kruse.
I would like to ask the same questions I asked him about the study.

Do you know the source of the original study?
It would be interesting to find out who funded the study. Was it "disinterested" politicians and another "pork barrel" spending project? Was it an "evil" pharmaceutical industry looking for a treatment for sexual dysfunction in women or men?

It is interesting that women on hormonal contraceptives and anovulatory as a result did not have any peaks and troughs in their tips. Does this have implications for couples and their levels of sexual interest. Do you which group the anovulatory were nearer in terms of their tips?

Anonymous said...

Here's the link to the original study and two other related articles.

Gruntled said...

Thanks, Anon. More citations are always good for fostering empirical argument.

To back up Virginia's point, I think the fact that estrus affects both men and women subconsciously is worth making, given the main starting point that human estrus is hidden.

I thought it was equally important that women on the pill lost that nuance in their own behavior (probably) and in men's reactions (definitely).