Women who are afraid of violence within partnerships prefer to date less masculine men, researchers say. The study is the first to find that violence within partnerships influences women’s partner preferences.
Worldwide, 30% of women report that they have experienced some form of physical and sexual violence from their partner during their lifetime. Statistics show that 38% of murders of women are committed by a male partner and violence coming from partners is a very real threat. The new study, published in the journal Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, provides evidence that this threat shapes whom women find attractive.
The researchers from the University of St Andrews in the UK asked 83 women participants to complete a questionnaire about their health, education, access to media and feelings of danger from public violence and the likelihood of violence within partnership.
The participants then selected which male faces they considered more attractive from pairs manipulated to differ in masculinity level. “We found that even after controlling for participant age, education, access to media (TV and internet) and health, violence within partnership had a large influence on masculinity preferences,” said Martha Lucia Borras-Guevara, from the University of St Andrews.
Previous studies have suggested that masculine men may be effective protectors for women against public violence. However, such studies have ignored the fact that when women prefer a more masculine man, they may also be putting themselves at risk from violence coming from the same partners.
“Preferring more feminine men may reflect a strategy of women to avoid partners who are more likely to behave aggressively and dangerously towards them, that is, more masculine partners,” said Carlota Batres, from the University of St Andrews.