For many women, oral birth control is a constant part of our lives from the minute we’re old enough to have sex until menopause. However, there are times when the side effects of the pill are too severe or we’re actively trying to get pregnant and we decide to stop taking it for a while… and that’s when things get complicated in our relationships.
The birth control pill can apparently change our preferences in partners. In a study published in Evolutionary Psychological Science, scientists were looking to confirm or negate previous results which claimed that coming off the pill increases the attraction of the idea of finding a new partner. Basically your current dude stops seeming so great and you start wondering if there are greener pastures on which you could frolic.
The experiments were pretty thorough. The study authors performed two separate experiments to determine whether the fertile cycle of women who recently quit the pill made alternate mates more attractive as compared to women who either had never taken the pill or were still taking it. In study one, the women watched videos of two guys who presented themselves as potential dating partners. One was a self-described “bad boy” who was sexually attractive and super masculine while the other was average-looking and called himself an “ordinary guy.” Turns out, all the women who were in the high fertility phase of their cycle and had recently quit the pill really wanted a piece of the bad boy.
The proof is in the pudding. In the second study, women looked at photos of men on computer screens but were told nothing about their personality traits. Instead, they were judged based on how quickly they were able to look away from the photos of the men and move onto something else. What happened? You guessed it: the women who’d recently quit the pill were staring at the hot guys like a hawk.
Why does this happen? The study authors urge everyone to take the results with a giant grain of salt given that this was a limited study in both sample size and scope, but they find it interesting (as should we!) that women who were on the pill when meeting their current romantic partner and then go off it during their relationship are more prone to seek out alternate mates (or at least consider them) afterward.