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What if oestradiol could really affect the relationships of highly attractive women?

A recent study at the University of Texas published in the  "Royal Society Journal Biology Letters" suggests a connection in  attractive and young women between  high levels of oestradiol and some peculiar characteristics in mating behaviour.

According to this study, high levels of oestradiol are correlated with:
1) self and other perceived attractiveness 2) an inclination to mate outside the current relationship
3) dissatisfaction with the primary partner
From an evolutionary perspective, a high level of oestradiol is a winning characteristic because it is   associated with high  fertility, high probability of conception, increased mating motivation and higher mating standards.
The study’s results suggest  that “whereas high-oestradiol women reported being significantly more likely to have a serious affair, they did not indicate a greater likelihood of having brief sexual encounters”

Let us assume, for the sake of discussion, that these results and conclusions are correct. What would this imply? An attractive young woman with high oestradiol levels has a strong tendency to cheat on her primary partner in order to get a better one.
Once we accept this, we might  start to rethink athe widespread stigmatization of unfaithful women. These women could employ this biological evidence to vindicate themselves since science suggests that deceiving a partner   is a winning   strategy from an evolutionary perspective.  These women could be the victims of evolutionary drives.Indeed cheating and changing partners could   be such rooted tendencies in these people that they could contribute  to their  “human flourishing”.

We  can all agree that an intense and full relationship  can affect human happiness. If cheating results  in the destruction of a rich relationship, this might result in unhappiness. However if cheating is not discovered and the relationship is not threatened, it’s not obvious that anyone suffers.  From a utilitarian approach to life, if the deceived person is not informed about what is gong on,  and he’s not harmed in any other way, nothing morally wrong happens.

Furthermore, if we were to establish that some people are unable to be faithful, and a simple check of something like the  oestradiol levels could reveal who belongs to this category, one solution iwould be to suggest to them to get involved just in  open relationships  where cheating is not perceived as “tragic” event.
Many  such women might be discriminated against because of their tendency to be unfaithful, and they might face many difficulties trying to find a partner that would accept a high risk of being cheated on and dismissed for a better one.
Something I’d expect to happen would be jealous men forcing their girlfriends and wives to check their oestradiol level in order to know if they will be more likely to be cheated on.

But on the other hand men might not be the only ones complaining about the situation.  In fact we can’t exclude that at a certain point of their lives, these women could start to desire to be in stable long-term relationship where they could finally feel happy and satisfied. 
In this case a possible practical strategy could be try to artificially reduce oestradiol levels, but this solution would be acceptable if, and only if, the woman was the person suffering because of her lively sexual behaviour.

However,since the study suggests that these women are not particularly interested in one-night stands but rather they are attracted by men that seem to be better partners than the current ones, a better strategy for making a relationship last longer would be to find a boyfriend/husband able to satisfy high expectations. If such a man exists ….


royal society journal biology letter

the telegraph

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2 Comment on this post

  1. Note that rapists “could be the victims of evolutionary drives”, but that does not suffice to say that science “vindicates” such behaviour. Explanation is not justification.

    And while hedonistic theories deny that there’s any harm in secretly betraying someone (or, for that matter, violating an unconscious person without leaving any physical trace), many would consider that a reductio of hedonism rather than a justification of secret betrayal or violation.

    “if we were to establish that some people are unable to be faithful…”

    I haven’t read the study — is there anything to suggest such a strong conclusion? (That would be very surprising…) I agree with the spirit of the suggestion though: open relationships may be advisable for those disposed against monogamy. (Of course, it’s not “cheating” if your partner has allowed it.)

    “Something I’d expect to happen would be jealous men forcing their girlfriends and wives to check their oestradiol level in order to know if they will be more likely to be cheated on.”

    Though note that this would only make sense if oestradiol tests were more reliable indicators of infidelity than the simple test of whether the woman is highly attractive.

  2. I suppose the fault in this discussion lies in the question-begging term, “cheat”. For example, sexual side-trips in “open” marriages cannot be “cheating” be definition. Women with the tendency to continuously shop for the better man shouldn’t marry, so that their wanderings to new presumably more evolution-beneficial relationships is not stigmatizede. Today, that is quite possible since the importance of marriage to sexual relationships is in decline. The only thing to worry about is the possiblity the result of these better breeding relationships might grow up in unsteady homes.

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