Pill 'makes women less responsive'

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The Independent Online

The contraceptive pill, which liberated sexual behaviour 40 years ago, may be damaging women's chances of choosing the right partner. It makes women less sensitive to natural chemical signals from attractive men, a study says.

The contraceptive pill, which liberated sexual behaviour 40 years ago, may be damaging women's chances of choosing the right partner. It makes women less sensitive to natural chemical signals from attractive men, a study says.

Women who are on the Pill or menstruating are less responsive to chemical secretions known as male pheromones, the findings show.

Pheromones are natural airborne chemical messengers, excreted particularly by the armpits, which are believed to have evolved to help animals choose the best possible mates.

Scientists from Northumbria University say women secretly exposed to pheromones rate all men as more attractive, but the effect is more marked in women who are not on the Pill or who are about to ovulate.

Ugly men stand to benefit the most from pheromones, undetectable to the human nose, because their level of attractiveness increases sharply and puts them almost on a par with conventionally "attractive" men. Dr Nick Neave, who conducted the study with Dr Andrew Scholey, said: "Pheromones can signal genetic quality, body symmetry and good health. Women on the Pill are tricking their bodies into believing they are pregnant and it is known it dampens their desire for sex. So they are less in tune with the opposite sex."

The researchers recruited 32 women, 16 of whom were on the Pill, to rate stories about men, their bodies and faces. The women did the test twice, once mid-cycle and when they were menstruating. Four men who gave pheromones were not allowed spicy food, deodorants or perfumed soap. They slept with cotton pads in their armpits, then stored those in plastic bags in the fridge.

The women were put in cubicles, some of which had hidden pheromone pads and were asked to rate statements such as, "Mike is good looking, Mike has an attractive body or Mike is sexually attractive".

Women exposed to pheromones were 30 per cent more likely to think all the faces were attractive.

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