A new study lends further credence to the growing body of research on how birth control pills can alter women’s preferences in men. Researchers found women who chose their partner while on oral contraceptives tended to be more satisfied with their relationships in general—overall, they had longer relationships and were less likely to separate than women who didn’t—yet were less sexually satisfied than women who began their relationships while not on the pill.
Researchers looked at 2,519 women, all of whom were mothers, some of whom were using oral contraceptives when they met their partners and some who weren’t. The majority were from the United States and the Czech Republic, although small numbers of participants from the UK, Canada and 43 other countries were included.
“Our results show some positive and negative consequences of using the pill when a woman meets her partner,” said lead researcher Craig Roberts. “Such women may, on average, be less satisfied with the sexual aspects of their relationship, but more so with non-sexual aspects.”
Except … couldn’t there be something about women who choose not to take oral contraceptives that also makes them more likely to be sexually satisfied (or at least to say they are)? Women who weren’t on the pill may have been less sexually active prior to getting with their current partners. They may be more highly religious. There are confounding factors.
Moreover, women who began their relationships on oral contraceptives—though less likely to give their partners high scores for sexual adventurousness—reported higher scores for nonsexual aspects of their relationships, such as financial provision and their partner being a good father. That doesn’t necessarily exactly sound like ‘Mr. Wrong‘ (and, no, the study did not say women who hadn’t been on the pill ended up with ‘more handsome partners,’ just that they tended to rate these partners higher in attractiveness).
Earlier this year, researchers said oral contraceptives were making women choose less masculine men than they would if not under the pill’s influence. As Briana pointed out then, even if the pill does interfere with women’s supposed evolutionary attractions—how does that mean the men they do pick aren’t right for them? We make choices about whom we date, love and marry for all sorts of reasons, and who’s to say certain considerations are somehow less of a rightful basis for partner selection that some sort of innate hormonal impulses?
People tend to fall for this ‘natural’ = correct fallacy, but today we’ve got a lot of different concerns than our procreation-seeking ancestors (hence, the need for birth control in the first place), and saying that in interfering with these impulses, birth control leads us to the ‘wrong’ mates—it’s silly. I find research on how hormonal contraceptives can alter our preferences and our memories fascinating—and I think it’s important to women know about this potential. But I’d love to see any research on birth control get covered without a heap of hysteria and moral judgements attached.