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The Role of Facial and Body Hair Distribution in Women’s Judgments of Men’s Sexual Attractiveness

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Abstract

Facial and body hair are some of the most visually conspicuous and sexually dimorphic of all men’s secondary sexual traits. Both are androgen dependent, requiring the conversion of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone via the enzyme 5α reductase 2 for their expression. While previous studies on the attractiveness of facial and body hair are equivocal, none have accounted as to how natural variation in their distribution may influence male sexual attractiveness. In the present study, we quantified men’s facial and body hair distribution as either very light, light, medium, or heavy using natural photographs. We also tested whether women’s fertility influenced their preferences for beards and body hair by comparing preferences among heterosexual women grouped according their fertility (high fertility, low fertility, and contraceptive use). Results showed that men with more evenly and continuously distributed facial hair from the lower jaw connecting to the mustache and covering the cheeks were judged as more sexually attractive than individuals with more patchy facial hair. Men with body hair were less attractive than when clean shaven, with the exception of images depicting some hair around the areolae, pectoral region, and the sternum that were significantly more attractive than clean-shaven bodies. However, there was no effect of fertility on women’s preferences for men’s beard or body hair distribution. These results suggest that the distribution of facial and body hair influences male attractiveness to women, possibly as an indication of masculine development and the synthesis of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone via 5α reductase.

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Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the Editor and three anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments, which helped to improve the article. We also thank Rob Brooks for additional comments and suggestions on drafts and subsequent revisions. We are also grateful to all the men who provided the beard and body hair stimuli and all the participants who volunteered to complete surveys.

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Correspondence to Barnaby J. W. Dixson.

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Dixson, B.J.W., Rantala, M.J. The Role of Facial and Body Hair Distribution in Women’s Judgments of Men’s Sexual Attractiveness. Arch Sex Behav 45, 877–889 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-015-0588-z

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