What Women Want

A recent study of the skulls of human ancestors and modern humans provides evidence that certain male facial features have evolved due to sexual selection. Apparently, over the history of humankind, women have selected males with relatively short upper faces (i.e., the space between the brow and the upper-lip is scrunched proportionately to the overall size of the head). One conclusion that might be drawn from the study is that men with such caveman-type features might have been most attractive to the opposite sex and thus most likely to attract mates for reproduction, passing along their caveman features to the next generation and so forth.

Eleanor Weston, a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London, said that "the evolution of facial appearance is central to understanding what makes men and women attractive to each other. We have found the distance between the lip and brow was probably immensely important to what made us attractive in the past, as it does now."

But, um, wait a minute. . . Research at St. Andrews University in Britain found that modern women see guys with excessively masculine features as unsuitable long-term partners, and that they see men with feminine facial features as more committed and less likely to cheat on them. The press release for the report states:
The study, which is published in the current edition of Personality and Individual Differences, asked over 400 British men and women to judge digitally altered pictures of male faces made to look more masculine or feminine. The participants were asked to predict personality traits including sexual behaviour and parenting skills based on what they saw.

Men with masculine faces, with features such as a square jaw, larger nose and smaller eyes, were classed as significantly more dominant, less faithful and made worse parents than feminine-featured males. They were also thought to have personalities that were less warm when compared to their `feminine' counterparts, who had finer facial features with fuller lips, wide eyes and thinner, more curved eyebrows. The scientists say it gives further insight into what people see in others when choosing potential partners.

Taken together, these studies illustrate a curious phenomenon.

First, women are attracted to men they know are bad for them. OK, we already knew that.

Second, if the second study can be taken seriously (despite the crude experimental technique), it could suggest that there are two sociobiological intuitions that are in constant conflict in the female brain: the desire to mate with men with caveman features, and innate knowledge that such men make bad mates.

Of course, that second study doesn't exactly prove that women have such an innate knowledge-- rather, women may find feminine male faces to be better parents and more faithful simply because they remind women of other women. In other words, study number two could mean that women find men to be bad mates in general.

Neither conclusion is exceptionally good news for the non-caveman-faced man. Such a man will either not get laid at all, get laid only because he looks like a woman, or will get cuckolded and raise some caveman-looking children that are not his own.

Cheer up, GEICO caveman. Things could be worse.