Red is not a proxy signal for female genitalia in humans. "Red is a colour that induces physiological and psychological effects in humans, affecting competitive and sporting success, signalling and enhancing male social dominance. The colour is also associated with increased sexual attractiveness, such that women associated with red objects or contexts are regarded as more desirable. It has been proposed that human males have a biological predisposition towards the colour red such that it is 'sexually salient'. This hypothesis argues that women use the colour red to announce impending ovulation and sexual proceptivity, with this functioning as a proxy signal for genital colour, and that men show increased attraction in consequence. In the first test of this hypothesis, we show that contrary to the hypothesis, heterosexual men did not prefer redder female genitalia and, by extension, that red is not a proxy signal for genital colour. We found a relative preference for pinker genital images with redder genitalia rated significantly less sexually attractive. This effect was independent of raters' prior sexual experience and variation in female genital morphology. Our results refute the hypothesis that men's attraction to red is linked to an implied relationship to genital colour and women's signalling of fertility and sexual proceptivity."
Bonus figure legend from the full text (the actual figure is quite graphic):
"Figure 1. Right labium minus of vulva base image no. 2. The 4 different colour conditions used in the experiment are shown. To account for unpredictable colour variation between computer monitors and printers, colour conditions were calibrated to the computer monitors used in this study. Left to right: Pale pink, Light pink, Dark pink, Red."
Photo: flickr/Newtown grafitti
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