Poor little down-and-out T
I devote a chunk of BLONDES to the Environmental Security Hypothesis (ESH), which says that in tough times men prefer women who are slightly older, heavier, taller, more mature-looking, and less curvaceous. In good times, men go back to their default: younger, shorter, lighter, curvier, big-eyed, feminine-looking damsels. It’s as if men unconsciously seek what is practical when the going gets tough — strong and robust women. (FYI – women’s preferences in men don’t fluctuate under adverse conditions.) The ESH has been supported in a variety of studies, including one with ravenous college students, another with men in a “crisis” mind-set, and a famous one that tracks the dimensions of Playboy Playmates of the Year over several decades of economic ups and downs.
What exactly drives men into “Environmental Security” mode? Low blood sugar levels are one possibility, as noted in the study of hungry men. Low testosterone (T) levels are another, and men’s T levels fluctuate all the time. They’re known to surge when men win a game or have a confrontation and dip when they’re feeling down. A new study led by Lisa Welling at the Face Research Lab found that when men’s T levels are high, they report stronger attraction to femininity in women’s faces. When levels are relatively low, men report a weaker preference for femininity. Put another way: High testosterone loves high estrogen. Low testosterone might not mind lower estrogen.
The results inspire some prurient speculation. Do guys who are generally low in T have a preference for “more masculine” women? In the current economic environment, are testosterone-deficient Wall Street traders trading in their trophy wives for sugar mamas? Are curvy, girly strippers making less than their heavier, hipless dominatrix colleagues?