What women want: how ovulation affects women’s choices

Women’s behavior can drastically change throughout the month as their hormones fluctuate. These behavioral changes can influence anything from the men a woman is attracted to, to her choice of clothing.

UTSA’s Assistant Professor of Marketing Dr. Kristina M. Durante performed research on ovulating and non-ovulating women. Durante argues that a woman’s behavior shifts when she is ovulating; women also compete for romantic attention and are attracted to different men during that time.

“We should see it playing a big role in shifting women’s behavior, specifically behavior that can impact mating outcomes — increasing your attractiveness, competing with other women, thinking about what kind of mate you want and having thoughts about men who have a higher genetic fitness,” said Durante.

“For women, we don’t see an attractive man and our estrogen levels go up, because it is a very intricate, complicated process to regulate fertility in the reproduction of that one sex cell. We don’t operate physiologically the same way that men do.”

She asked a group of non-ovulating women if they believed a “bad boy” would stay and father their child — 41 percent answered no. The result increased by 10 percent among women who were ovulating. During a TEDx Talk in October 2013, Durante spoke about a woman’s ovulation cycle and how it affects her behavior. Her talk was titled “Fertile, Flirty, and Fierce: Hidden influences on women’s courtship, competition and consumer choice.”

Durante began her talk by asking the audience to think about the next 28 days of their lives and how many times they thought about sex.

“Their (men) testosterone goes up and down in little waves, but never as dramatic as we see of estrogen cycling for women,” Durante stated, “Women also have testosterone, but it is very low-level and it (estrogen) isn’t the primary sex hormone.”

In one of her studies, Durante had a female student sit down with a canister filled with colored pencils and paper. She asked the woman, who was not ovulating, to draw an outfit she would wear to a party. The outfit came out to be relatively conservative. Durante asked the same woman, when she was ovulating, to draw an outfit she would wear to a similar party. The result was a marked preference to wear more revealing clothing.

“There are many consumer products that women purchase to impress other women,” said Durante. She explained that the motivation behind a woman’s decision to buy an expensive handbag or the latest high heels is mostly meant to compete with other women.

Durante’s research has also shown that women are dressing more for other women than they are dressing for men. When a woman sees a “bad boy” figure, she will most likely aim toward him rather than to a man who is a provider and future father figure.

Durante compared the preferences and fantasies of a married woman with children to wanting a piece of chocolate cake. While the desire to sleep with a “bad boy” is stronger during those few days of ovulation, it is not uncontrollable.

While Durante teaches class, she briefly sees the competition for male attention among her female students. “I am not specifically looking for it right here, but I do see it all the time and in different facets,” said Durante.