Sample —Science Tips for Improving Your Sex Appeal

From Science and Lust (Beck & Branch, 2018).

Twelve lively essays about the beasts we’ve always been.

  1. happy belly with shadowAki Sinkkonen of the University of Helsinki suggests that, over the ages, a woman’s belly button has been a sign of her vigor, sexually and reproductively. Reviewing assessments of male preference conducted by other researchers he noted that women’s innies are very popular. And, he says, that ideally those innies are delicate—not too much hooding, and not too cavernous. [1]
  2. When bad odors happen to good people, it’s decidedly unsexy. Some people stink no matter how often they bathe. In a study at a smell lab in Philadelphia, scientists ran a simple chemical test on 353 people who had “malodor production” that couldn’t be explained by poor hygiene, flatulence, or dental problems. They found that about one third of them tested positive for trimethylaminuria (TMAU), a genetically-transmitted disease that thwarts the body’s ability to metabolize trimethylamine (TMA), a chemical compound common in eggs, some legumes, wheat germ, saltwater fish, and organ meats. When TMA is inadequately metabolized, it accumulates in urine, sweat, and saliva. The result is a gently radiating, fishy stench that is far from popular in wine bars. TMAU is easily diagnosed with a chemical test that can be run in a medical lab. And that’s good, because a diet hygienically “clean” of the foods carrying high TMA concentrations clears the air. [2]
  3. Gentlemen think blondes are young.  At Poland’s University of Wroclaw 360 men were shown pictures of a woman whose photo had been manipulated to display her with blonde, brown, and dark brown hair at 20, 30, and 40 years old. When blonde she was generally judged to be younger. [3]
  4. Gentlemen prefer blonde hitchhikers. Researchers at France’s University of South Brittany had five young women rotate between blonde, brown, or black wigs while hitchhiking. Blonde wigs elicited offers of rides 18 percent of the time. Brown and black wigs “stopped traffic” only 14 percent and 13 percent of the time, respectively. [4]
  5. By Internet survey, a professor of consumer behavior and marketing at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration learned that waitresses who are blonde get better tips—especially if they are also busty, skinny, and young. [5]
  6. Men: Prepare to toss your toupees. In studies conducted at the Wharton School, subjects looking at photos judged men with shaved heads to be taller, stronger, and more dominant than those wimps with hair. [6]
  7. Men Again: If it’s a one-night-stand you’re looking for, rouge up your facial scars. Scientists at the University of Liverpool found that women looking for short-term relationships prefer facial scars, perhaps seeing them as signs of bravery. They don’t want to marry those men, but they do want to have a good time with them. [7]
  8. Whatever happened to Our Bodies, Our Selves? Surveying 2,451 women, researchers at Indiana University learned that pubic waxing is associated with more positive genital self-image and sexual function. Really? [8]
  9. And really again? Psychologists at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania found that college students make no negative assumptions about a woman when told that unshaved body hair is a result of a medical condition. But when they’re told that she’s hairy because she’s a feminist, many rate her as unfriendly, immoral, aggressive, unsociable, and dominant. [9]
  10. Publishing about the years 1842-1971 in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, evolutionary biologist Nigel Barber noted that, whenever the marriage market in Britain got tight for men, facial hair came into fashion. [10]
  11. Archeologists in London have found a jar of cosmetic cream from about 2,000 years ago, when Rome occupied Great Britain. It was made of animal fat, starch, and tin—which represents an improvement over other cosmetics of the time, which were lead-based. A modern batch made of the same ingredients left faces looking spectacularly white.  [11]
  12. With the idea that higher status makes them more sexually attractive to richer men, many women spend time and money on clothes and cosmetics. But they would definitely not go to those all that trouble if they were wasps. Researchers in Arizona painted onto “blue-collar” female wasps the dots typical of high status female wasps. The blue collars got beaten up by all the other female wasps. [12]


[1] Sinkkonen, A. (2009). Umbilicus as a fitness signal in humans. FASEB Journal 23 (1), 10-2.

[2] Wise, P. M., Eades J., Tjoa S,, Fennessey, P.V., Preti, G. (2011). Individuals reporting idiopathic malodor production: demographics and incidence of trimethylaminuria. Am J Med 124 (11), 1058-63

[3] Sorokowski, P. (2008). Attractiveness of blonde women in evolutionary perspective: studies with two polish samples. Perceptual and Motor Skills 106 (3), 737-744.

[4] Guéguen, N. (2012). The sweet color of an implicit request: women’s hair color and spontaneous helping behavior. Social Behavior and Personality 40 (7), 1099-1102(4).

[5] Lynn, M. (2008). Determinants and consequences of remale attractiveness and sexiness: realistic tests with restaurant waitresses. Archives of Sexual Behavior 38 (5), 737-745.

[6] Mannes, A. E. (2012). Shorn Scalps and Perceptions of Male Dominance. Social Psychological and Personalitiy Science 4 (2), 198-205.

[7] Burris, R. P., Rowland, H. M., Little, A. C. (2009). Facial scarring enhances men’s attractiveness for short-term relationsh. Personality and Individual Differences 46 (2), 213-217.

[8] Herbenick D., Schick V., Reece M., Sanders S., Fortenberry J.D. (2010). Pubic hair removal among women in the United States: prevalence, methods, and characteristics. Journal of Sexual Medicine 7 (10), 3322-30.

[9] Fahs, B. (2013). Shaving It All Off: Examining Social Norms of Body Hair among College Men in a Women’s Studies Course. Womens Studies 42, 559-577.

[10] Barber, N. (2001). Mustache Fashion Covaries with a Good Marriage Market for Women. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior 25 (4), 261-272.

[11] Mansell, K. (2014). Recreating a 2,000-year-old cosmetic. Nature. doi:10.1038/news041101-8.

[12] Strassmann, J. E. (2004). Animal behaviour:  Rank crime and punishment. Nature. doi:10.1038/432160b