As a science-for-choads watcher, I have to admit that this choad-based science made me pause. (Hat tip.)
Birth control pills could screw up a woman’s ability to sniff out a compatible mate, a new study finds.
While several factors can send a woman swooning, including big brains and brawn, body odor can be critical in the final decision, the researchers say. That’s because beneath a woman’s flowery fragrance or a guy’s musk the body sends out aromatic molecules that indicate genetic compatibility.
Apparently, these are the findings of an evolutionary psychologist, not a biologist.
“Not only could MHC-similarity in couples lead to fertility problems,” said lead researcher Stewart Craig Roberts, an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Newcastle in England, “but it could ultimately lead to the breakdown of relationships when women stop using the contraceptive pill, as odor perception plays a significant role in maintaining attraction to partners.”
I didn’t want to be an asshole about this, so I did some Googling of this guy, but couldn’t find his name on the University of Newcastle’s website. So I have no idea what department he’s in, or if the story identified him correctly. What I do know is that the study was done on a group of only 100 women, and 40 were on the pill, and some changed their preference for the smell on a piece of paper. How many did or how strong their changes were isn’t noted. That’s a small sample size and hazy results. And a lot is being extrapolated from this, including the hint that women who go on the pill are less faithful than women not on the pill for reasons outside of their control—women are ruled by our hormones, you know.
Past studies have suggested couples with dissimilar MHC genes are more satisfied and more likely to be faithful to a mate. And the opposite is also true with matchng-MHC couples showing less satisfaction and more wandering eyes.
Those are the pill ladies. The implication is easy enough to piece together, as you can see. I never thought I’d see evo psych wankery be called upon for “scientific” reasons to oppose contraception. Evo psych wanks prefer to argue that 50-year-old college professors are most at home fucking 18-year-olds because the biological imperative makes teenagers want their aging sperm. Or that autism in men perversely shows women should get out of the sciences and back into the kitchen. Or that rape is just that biological imperative. As a rule, they’re not going to sign onto wank theories that could, if taken seriously, reduce the evo psychologist’s opportunities at sex with a lot of fertile young women, which is exactly the sort of thing that this research would support. Or maybe taking a whack at a tool that’s helped countless women secure their own access to public society and careers is worth even giving up that.
This is just really bad, especially now that anti-choicers are really on the offensive against women’s right to use hormonal contraception, trying to define it as abortion. The arguments about “life” are the public face of the anti-choice movement, but at the end of the day, it’s always about the belief that contraception freed female sexuality from male control, and that is the end of civilization itself. Hardly a day passes on RH Reality Check when I don’t get lectured by some wingnut about how the use of contraception means I’ll never really know what profound hetero love is like (see today’s!), presumably because a woman isn’t really happy unless she’s completely submitted to the patriarchy, and sex isn’t profound unless it’s a duty you tolerate with terror, because you don’t want to get pregnant with your 10th child, but you can’t say no and afford to run off your husband-master, the only source of income. I suppose “profound terror” if a form of profundity, as is “profound submission” and “profound depression”. But if you die in childbirth, you get to be a profound Catholic saint. Real profundity, for women, can only come when you’re too dead to appreciate it.
A lot of abusive, fucked-up men already have major issues with contraception, and see a female partner’s use of it as a sign not that she’s trying to avoid pregnancy, but that she’s cheating. The last thing women in these relationships need is for their abusers to have an excuse to say the pill makes you cheat. But this works on a larger level, with cheating as a symbol of everything that goes wrong when women are permitted to own their own bodies instead of having men as the owners.
Is it true? Eh, who knows? The research reported here is weak. What I want to see is a research study into whether or not men cheat more when they realize their wives are dependent at home, and couldn’t leave if they wanted to, so there’s no consequences if the wives find out. Now that would be an enlightening project.