15 Scientific Factors That Secretly Influence Who You Have Sex With

We're sorry to tell you that free will is an illusion.
15 Scientific Factors That Secretly Influence Who You Have Sex With

Of all the things you want control over in your life, who you have sex with probably ranks pretty high. Fortunately, considering that we have not, in fact, descended into a Handmaid’s Tale dystopian nightmare (yet), it probably feels like you do. Well, we’re sorry to tell you that free will is an illusion and you’re as beholden to the tyranny of biology as the grubbiest little worm when it comes to who you rub your genitals on.

What Side They Approach From


(Joshua J. Cotten/Unsplash)

Imagine a faceless, shapeless blob (that is, someone whose attractiveness you can’t otherwise judge) leaned over and whispered into your ear something sexy like, “Let’s go out behind the bushes and get weird.” If they said it into your right ear, you’re 50 percent more likely to be like, “Sure thing, featureless monster.”

Whether You’re Ovulating


(Estée Janssens/Unsplash)

Ovulation (that is, the phase of a woman’s menstrual cycle when she’s fertile) lowers women’s standards, so maybe stay home for a few days if you’re not looking to make some mistakes. Better turn your phone off, too.

Birth Control

Women who go off hormonal birth control to procreatively bone might be in for a nasty shock. It tricks their bodies into thinking they’re already pregnant, making them attracted to more nurturing guys, so once they quit to have Mr. Sensitive’s baby, they might find they’re suddenly into the opposite, i.e. broad and grunty.

How Much They Smile

Woman smiling

(Vinicius Wiesehofer/Unsplash)

This one depends largely on who you are and who you’re trying to get with: Men prefer women who smile more, while women like men who smile less (or even look vaguely ashamed). Extrapolate and/or quit society as needed.

Whether They Touch Your Arm


(Flavie Martin/Unsplash)

Lightly touching a woman on the arm makes her more likely to agree to dance or give out her phone number because touchers are considered more attractive and (sigh) more dominant. Again, we’re not saying it’s not problematic, but it’s kind of humanity’s problem.

The Tilt of Their Head

Those MySpace girls were on to something. When women tilt their chins down, they’re considered more attractive. Again, the opposite is true for men, so show off them nose hairs, boys.

Facial Hair (If No One Else Has It)

Bearded man

(Drew Hays/Unsplash)

Remember those embarrassing few years back when every (capable) man between the ages of 16 and 35 looked like they were on the bench for ZZ Top? There was a reason for it, at least at first. Women do like beards, but only when most men don’t have them. Once a critical fuzz threshold has been reached, they revert to a preference for the Gillette look.


You have a secret superpower, and it’s sensing immune profiles. (We never said it was cool.) Women prefer the smells of men whose genetic immune profiles are the most different from their own, which is helpful for your future offspring but also to everyone hoping to avoid a distant cousin.

If You’re Scared

Screaming man

(Timothy Dykes/Unsplash)

If you ever find yourself weathering some heavy turbulence, don’t be surprised if your fellow passengers start looking like airline snacks. Your body tends to mistake the racing heartbeat of fear with one of lust, tricking you into thinking you’re turned on by whoever you’re with, which is why scary movies are a time-honored drive-in tradition.

What Your Parents Look Like

The Freudians weren’t right about much, but we do gravitate toward people who look like our preferred-gender parent. This would seem to counteract the whole “genetic diversity” thing, but it’s mostly body type, with a preference for only a slight resemblance in faces, which still means if you saw your parents from behind in a strange place, you might consider hollering.

Literally Just Being Nearby

There’s a concept called the propinquity effect that ties attraction to sheer physical proximity. Basically, the more often you bump into someone, the more likely you are to start thinking they’re kinda cute. This is not a blank check to start stalking someone’s social media and “just happen to show up” everywhere they go.

Who You’ve Had Sex With Before

Young couple

(Taisiia Stupak/Unsplash)

Think you don’t have a type? Wrong. You might not have started out with one, but one of the biggest factors of our perception of beauty is familiarity. We prefer faces similar to those of our friends, loved ones, and yes, exes, because we associate those people with good times. It’s not all freaky biological pranks -- sometimes we just want someone who reminds us of our favorite weirdos.

Top image: Toa Heftiba/Unsplash

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