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Lap dancers 'in heat' are the ones to watch

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  • Chris King
    Lap dancers in heat are the ones to watch * 11 October 2007 * NewScientist.com news service * Colin Barras TAKE a bunch of lap dancers, some lustful men and
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 16, 2007
      Lap dancers 'in heat' are the ones to watch

          * 11 October 2007
          * NewScientist.com news service
          * Colin Barras

      TAKE a bunch of lap dancers, some lustful men and a fistful of dollars, and you have the best evidence yet for the controversial idea that women send out signals which reveal their fertile periods.

      Last month, biologist Randy Thornhill challenged the orthodoxy that women do not undergo regular bouts of hormone-induced oestrus, or "heat", when they are at their most fertile - something most female mammals experience (New Scientist, 15 September, p 18). Now a study of the tips men give to lap dancers, conducted by a colleague of Thornhill's, lends further support to the argument for oestrus.

      Geoffrey Miller and his team at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, compared the earnings of lap dancers who were menstruating naturally with those of dancers taking the hormonal contraceptive pill. During the non-fertile periods of their menstrual cycle, both sets of dancers earned similar tips. But when naturally cycling lap dancers entered their fertile period they earned significantly more in tips than their co-workers on the pill (Evolution and Human Behavior, DOI: 10.1016/j.evolhumbehav.2007.06.002).
      “Lap dancers menstruating naturally earned more in tips during their fertile period than co-workers on the pill”

      This is the first evidence that oestrus, and its influence on attractiveness, has "a real effect on women's earnings", says Miller.

      However, even on non-fertile days lap dancers with natural menstrual cycles still earned reasonable tips, reinforcing the idea that men are clearly paying for the lap-dancing experience rather than for any perceived opportunity to procreate.

      But the study does appear to show that the dancers somehow advertise their fertility to men, who then consider them more attractive during this fertile phase, as reflected in their tips. How they advertise, however, and whether they do it consciously, is unclear. "We don't know the mechanism of attraction," says Thornhill, who is also at the University of New Mexico but was not involved with the study. "Are the men detecting the scent of oestrus? Or does the women's behaviour change?" he asks.

      "Previous research has shown that women's faces, scent and clothing become more attractive in oestrus," Miller notes. For example, earlier this year, Martie Haselton at the University of California, Los Angeles, found that women were judged to dress more attractively during their fertile periods, although the correlation was slight. Other studies show women become more confident during oestrus, says Thornhill. In the context of lap dancing, that may subtly change their behaviour and make them more appealing to clients.

      Love - Learn more about the science behind it in our comprehensive special report.
      From issue 2625 of New Scientist magazine, 11 October 2007, page 17

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