A study of female lap dancers shows men are more attracted to women who are ovulating. Dr Karl searches for the subtle signs that boost a woman’s sex appeal.

Forget the lipstick ladies! Men find women more attractive when they’re ovulating (Source: IvanovaInga/iStockphoto)

Most women do not know when they are ovulating, and neither do the overwhelming majority of men. To be fair, it is pretty subtle. After all, if men can’t tell when a bathroom needs cleaning, or the garbage emptying, what hope have they got with ovulation?

But there is a small subset of sensitive men who somehow ‘sense’ when a woman is ovulating and these special men are the clients of the gentlemen’s clubs.

Most gentlemen’s clubs are dimly lit, serve alcohol and play music loudly. The male clients are usually between 20 and 60 years of age. They generally start the evening by getting a pile of $20 bills from the club’s ATM, and relaxing with a few little drinkies.

The lap dancers tend to wear very little perfume, are shaved all over, and many have breast implants. To be able to keep up with the heavy physical demands of lap dancing, they do aerobic and resistance weight training, and this makes them fit and lean.

In this study, 18 lap dancers from gentleman’s clubs in Albuquerque, New Mexico, volunteered. (They were paid only $30 for volunteering.) Between them, over the two-month course of the study, they performed 296 shifts (each about five hours long) and did some 5,300 lap dances. Seven of them were taking the oral contraceptive pill, while 11 had normal menstrual cycles. Their average age was about 27 years, and they had been lapdancing for about six years.

The lap dancers did not get paid a salary by the club. Their only income was the tips. To earn their money they had to “appear more sexually attractive than the other rival dancers working the same shift and by doing the ’emotional labour’ of ‘counterfeiting intimacy’ with male club patrons”.

A typical shift would run about five hours. During this time they would perform a few stage dances (perhaps every 90 minutes) to advertise themselves. For this they would receive only small tips typically one to five dollars and usually only from the men seated closest to the stage. This would total only 10 per cent of their earnings.

Having ‘advertised’ her presence, attractiveness and availability, a lap dancer would spend the rest of her time walking around the club asking the men if they wanted a ‘lap dance’. The real money would come from these three-minute lap dances averaging around $14.

The dancers who had normal menstrual cycles and who ovulated earned more money ($276 per shift, over the two-month period) than the ones on the pill ($193).

The results again showed a clear difference within or across the menstrual cycle. If the lap dancer was menstruating, she earned only $184 per shift. If she was not menstruating, but not fertile either, she earned more $264 per shift. But if she was in the fertile part of the menstrual cycle (ie, ovulating), she earned the greatest sum of money $354 per shift.

Another separate study claims that a woman’s voice can betray her fertility.

Dr Pipitone and colleagues recorded 51 women reading out numbers (between one and 10) at four different times during the menstrual cycle. This included the peak fertility time at ovulation.

The recordings were rated by 34 men and 32 women in terms of being attractive. There was no real change in attractiveness over the month for the women who were taking hormonal contraceptives (the pill). But there was a definite peak in attractiveness when the women were at their most fertile, at ovulation. (Like some parts of the body, the female larynx, or voice box, is supposed to be influenced by female sex hormones).

Other studies claim that around ovulation, women show a definite increase in verbal fluency and creativity as well as in facial attractiveness and soft tissue body symmetry.

Their waist-to-hip ratio also shrinks (so a slimmer more attractive waist combined with child-bearing hips would stimulate a man’s deep instincts to father children). Ovulating women are also supposed to smell more attractive.

There is also evidence for a human version of the mate-guarding behaviour shown by the lion to his harem of lionesses. It was a bit milder than a bloke attacking random men with his fingernails and bare teeth, if they came near his girlfriend. No, it was simply that on the days when she was at her most fertile, he would ring her more often at random times to see what she was doing! This is technically described as “higher proprietariness, attentiveness and vigilance”.

Maybe I should leave this topic with the words of Sharon Stone: “Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake whole relationships”.

Tags: reproduction-and-contraception, psychology, social-sciences, relationships, anatomy

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Published 03 July 2012

2012 Karl S. Kruszelnicki Pty Ltd

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03 Jul 2012 3:05:16pm

Hope lots of “independant research” went into this article Doc.

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04 Jul 2012 1:51:48pm

I’ve heard this one before (not the voice bit – that’s kewl!), and it’s pretty fascinating, but for a lapdancer I think we need to chuck in to the mix the simple explanation that she’s probably a lot hornier during ovulation, and her dance will just be sexier. I’ve been on the pill for a year or so now, to give myself a break from the rollercoaster of the menstrual cycle, but I know when I used to ovulate, I was a right randy little monster-monkey. (Nothing on how randy I was during my pregnancy though – dear heaven!!) And I think the poor earnings during menstruation can be conversely explained by the fact that you feel rubbish and usually not very sexy at that time.

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04 Jul 2012 2:15:51pm

Firstly the comment, “After all, if men can’t tell when a bathroom needs cleaning, or the garbage emptying, what hope have they got with ovulation?” is both sexist and a non sequitur. Your above that Dr Karl. Having said that, great piece and very interesting, can you please post the associated studies?

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05 Jul 2012 2:41:23pm

I would have thought that someone that uses such big words as ‘non sequitur’ would understand when someone is facilitating humour.
You must be a riot at parties.

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19 Jul 2012 7:11:07am

Tell a similar joke with a woman as the subject and see if he gets away with it. He already copped it below from “Listen to the Women” and he was just talking straight science. If you don’t see the double standard your beyond help.

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29 Jul 2012 8:37:12am

Hi D… you do have a point, but political correctness only works when its in favour of women. Its one of the many hundreds of unwritten rules of PC. So relax.. and have a chuckle at our expense.
Fellow man.. Dale

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05 Jul 2012 10:42:54am

Once again the men are claiming to be experts on what women think and feel.

Dr Karl says that ‘most women do not know when they are ovulating’. How many women have you asked Karl?

As a woman who knows her body, I strongly dispute this claim. Most women I know would be quite aware of when they are ovulating, and its impact on others. They revel in being ‘on heat’, and enjoy making full use of it.

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05 Jul 2012 8:52:54pm

To “Listen to the women”. I don’t think all women know when they are ovulating – if they all did, there would be no need for the ovulation test kits that many hopeful mothers-to be-use! It may be that the signs are more obvious in some women than others.

I think the relatively low attractiveness of the dancers on the pill should be a strong advertisement for ditching the pill for all women on the pill who find themselves often over-looked by men!!!

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05 Jul 2012 9:09:55pm

How many times have you checked your egg is present? in utero ,as opposed to feeling “on heat” which is actually a term correctly used in oestral animals as opposed to menstrual primates

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08 Jul 2012 11:01:15pm

“the men claiming to be experts on what women think and feel”

… I think this is actually one man, not claiming to be an expert. Yes, there could be a citation attached to Dr Karl’s “Most women..” assertion.

If you’re going to take issue with it, though, you’re going to need a citation for your own “most women..” statement.

I’m a fantastic bleeder with a very noisy menstrual cycle, and a feminist, and I haven’t a clue when I’m ovulating precisely.

I’d ask you to refrain from speaking on behalf of all women when attacking one man.

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03 Aug 2012 12:15:08am

That’s funny…fantastic bleeder and noisy menstrual cycle…I just had the image of the Cops being called to your home. “Madam, can you keep the noise down, it’s disturbing the neighbours”

…and I’m pretty sure being an “ist” anything helps with knowing exactly when you’re ovulating.

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09 Jul 2012 6:12:46pm

Dr Karl, could you please give us the citations of the research studies you mention in this article? Thanks in advance. Matias

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15 Jul 2012 7:53:57pm


Ovulatory Cycle Effects On Tip Earnings By Lap Dancers: Economic Evidence For Human Estrus?, Geoffrey Miller et al, Evolution And Human Behaviour, November 2007, pages 375381.

Fertile Women Betrayed By Voice, New Scientist, 3 May 2008, page 14.

Women’s voice attractiveness varies across the menstrual cycle, by R. Nathan Pipitone et al, Evolution and Human Behaviour, July 2008, pages 268-274.

Acoustic Measure of Hormone Affect on Female Voice During Menstruation, by Larry Barnes et al, International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, March 2011, pages 5-10.

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19 Jul 2012 7:20:17am

Thanks Dr Karl. Be great if you put these in the transcript every week.

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03 Aug 2012 12:20:06am


…and while we’re at it, can we have a discussion on what citation method is to most people’s liking?

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03 Aug 2012 12:23:24am

So when I say in a jestful manner to a young fellow who I’ve noticed has been taking a keen interest in a girl, “Ah, been sniffin’ around, (insert girl’s name) I see”

So it has some basis in fact and not just an offensively humourous, to me, comment. Sweet.

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