Cyclic Changes in Female Sexual Interests

Biological and sociocultural variables can cause cyclical changes in female sexual interests and mate preferences. Women's sexual desire and behavior are known to be influenced by the menstrual phase, with women reporting higher sexual interest and arousal throughout their fertile period. This is assumed to be due to hormonal changes, such as increased estrogen and progesterone levels.

Cyclic Changes in Female Sexual Interests

It is well established that female sexual interests and mate preferences can vary across different stages of the female reproductive cycle. These changes are primarily driven by hormonal fluctuations, particularly estrogen, and progesterone. In particular, changes in estrogen and progesterone levels during the menstrual flow might influence a woman's sexual wants and preferences.

According to research, women have greater sexual desire during ovulation, when they are most fertile. Women are more attracted to men who demonstrate attributes associated with good genes and physical attractiveness, such as masculine look, symmetry, and muscularity, at this time. Women's sexual interests and partner preferences can also be influenced by their social environment.

When women sense a scarcity of eligible males in their social surroundings, they may prioritize attributes linked with good genes over those associated with good parenting and investment. Conversely, women may be more likely to prioritize attributes associated with good parenting and investment over those linked with good genes when they perceive abundantly available men.

The Phases of Menstrual Cycle

The menstrual cycle is the monthly cycle in which a woman's body prepares for pregnancy. It is separated into stages, each characterized by hormonal changes that might influence a woman's sexual preferences and desires.

  • Menstrual Phase − The menstrual phase begins the menstrual pattern and lasts from the first to the last day of menstruation. Estrogen and progesterone levels are low during this phase, and women may experience cramping and pain. Although sexual desire may be decreased during this period, some women may experience an increase in sexual interest due to the endorphin release that occurs during the sexual engagement.

  • Follicular Phase − The follicular phase lasts 10-14 days following menstruation. Estrogen levels continue to rise during this period, and the ovaries prepare to release an egg. Women's sexual desire may increase during this phase as estrogen levels rise and their bodies prepare for ovulation. During the follicular phase, women tend to seek more masculine characteristics in possible mates. Men with deep voices, masculine facial characteristics, and muscular bodies are preferred. During this stage, women are more concerned with their physical appearance and are vulnerable to short-term partnerships.

  • Ovulatory Phase − The ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle occurs around day 14 of the cycle when one egg is discharged from the ovaries. During this phase, estrogen levels are at their peak, and women may experience increased sexual desire and attraction to masculine traits in possible partners.

  • Luteal Phase − The luteal phase lasts about 10-14 days following ovulation. Estrogen levels fall, and progesterone levels rise during this phase. Women may notice a drop in sexual desire during this time but may also be drawn to nurturing and kind males. During the luteal period, women choose more feminine characteristics in possible mates. Men with softer voices, gentler facial characteristics, and less muscular physiques are preferred. Women are also less concerned with their physical looks during this stage and are more inclined to want a more serious relationship.

    These cyclical changes can also affect other aspects of a woman's mate preferences, including her preference for physical attractiveness and her willingness to engage in short/long-term relationships.

The Good Genes Extra-Pair Copulation Theory

According to the "good genes" theory of extra-pair copulation (EPC), females engage in sexual encounters outside their primary partnership to acquire genes more favorable to their offspring than those of their primary partner. According to the hypothesis, males with attractive physical characteristics, like colorful feathers or strong muscles, suggest genetic quality and excellent health, and females seek out these characteristics to improve the fitness of their progeny.

Women use extra-pair copulation (EPC) to gain access to "good genes" from possible mates who are not their primary partners. According to this idea, women are more prone to participate in EPC during the follicular period of their cycle, when their estrogen levels are maximum. This elevated estrogen level is supposed to increase a woman's interest in possible mates, making her more inclined to engage in extra-pair copulation.

There is some data to back up the EPC good genes concept. Researchers evaluated the genetic variety of offspring produced by EPC in a population of red-winged blackbirds in a study published in Evolution. They discovered babies produced through EPC had greater genetic variety than those produced through the primary partnership. Furthermore, the study discovered that males with more attractive physical characteristics, such as longer wings or brighter feathers, were more likely to produce offspring via EPC.

Furthermore, studies have indicated that males with more attractive physical qualities have higher levels of genetic variation, lending credence to the notion that these traits reflect genetic quality. However, there are also alternative explanations for EPC. For example, some researchers have suggested that females may engage in EPC to gain access to resources or to form social alliances with males. Additionally, evidence suggests that EPC may be influenced by factors such as sexual conflict, mate availability, and the opportunity for genetic benefits.


Moreover, hormonal fluctuations during different periods of the menstrual cycle substantially influence cyclic changes in female sexual attractions and mate preferences. During their fertile period, women choose good genes and physical appearance in possible partners, whereas, during their luteal phase, they prioritize good parenting and investment.

Updated on: 04-May-2023


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