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August 15

It’s not you, it’s my histocompatibility complex

Filed under: News,Psychology — posted by Breakup Girl @ 6:52 am

The BBC reports that while a woman is naturally attracted to men who smell like a good genetic match (this, to me, would be a musky mix of garlic, teen spirit, and his excellent dog), the hormone havoc wreaked by the birth control pill may turn her on to the wrong guys. “Wrong” here meaning too genetically similar for species diversity, not (necessarily) “that unbelievable douchebag I can’t believe she likes.”

“Women are thought to use smell to identify people with different immune systems and complementary genes…By passing on a wide-ranging set of immune system genes, couples increase their chances of having a healthy child that is not vulnerable to infection,” the article explains. The study in question, in which nearly 100 women — before and after taking the Pill — were asked to sniff male body odor [that’s “odour” over there] samples and choose their favorite. Their “after” choices were apparently very different from “before.” BBC: “The researchers suspect that the results were related to the way the pill simulates a state of pregnancy in women. Once pregnant, the need for a compatible partner for children recedes, they believe.”

Here’s the kicker: “It could ultimately lead to the breakdown of relationships when women stop using the contraceptive pill, as odour perception plays a significant role in maintaining attraction to partners,” said lead researcher Dr. Craig Roberts.

Hold on there, Roberts. It’s interesting, though no giant leap for sciencekind, to observe that since the Pill affects hormones (this we knew) and hormones affect smell (this we knew) and smell (even internal, unconscious) affects attraction (this we knew), that the Pill would affect attraction. But given all of the above, if going off the Pill causes breakups, wouldn’t … pregnancy? Wouldn’t “We’re having a baby” be the other “We have to talk”?

Feh. I know there’s science in here somewhere. But “lead researchers” should leave the headline-friendly love stuff to superheroes. Especially (but not only) when it’s got the faint whiff of “Women and their krazy hormones! Sheesh!”


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