Pill Changes What Women Want in a Partner? (Reuters)
Pill Changes What Women Want in a Partner? (Reuters)Greencolander/Flickr

A recent study conducted in Italy has found that women who consume oral contraceptives desire different characteristics in an imaginary man compared to women who don't take pills.

Whether their choices of men in real world hold the same traits as that of the imaginary remains uncertain, but with over 60 million women taking pill globally, it is possible that mating desires gets altered.

"It is important to reflect on these aspects from an evolutionary point of view, as changes in preference for indicators of genetic quality in a sexual partner are considered to be functional and adaptive," told Alessio Gori, lead author of the study and a psychologist at the University of Florence to Reuters.

Previous research have found that when women see images of their potential guy partners while they are in the most fertile period of their menstrual cycle, they are likely to prefer men with more of masculine traits.

Oral contraceptives stop ovulation, so women who are on the pill don't experience the most-fertile time of the month.

To find out the differences that women desire in a man, the researchers enlisted 195 women between the ages of 18 and 50. In the survey, the questionnaire included the preferences of various traits such as masculinity, including athleticism, social class and shoulder width.

They also filled out a 56-item portion of the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2, a well-known personality test, to assess how masculine or "submissive" the women themselves were feeling.

Participants also provided information about their menstrual cycles and if they were using contraceptives.

Out of the participants, 39 percent were on pills and 100 of the women were between 11 and 21 days of their menstrual cycle – the period when ovulation occurs and women are most fertile.

The survey indicated that women not on the pill preferred men with more masculine characteristics, both physical and psychological.

Women on the pill scored a little lower in their wish for masculine traits, according to the report in the Journal of Sexual Medicine.

The results are interesting, said Christine Drea, an evolutionary biologist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. However, a woman's preferences for an imaginary mate often differ from the one she chooses in her real life.

"I question that a woman's fantasies about someone she might want to have sex with are necessarily predictive of the actual men with whom she tangos," said Drea, who was not involved in the study.

"The vast majority of women, however, are not married to Brad Pitt or George Clooney. Instead, they're married to individuals with whom they're actually compatible - someone who acts right or smells right," Drea said.

Though, the recent study indicates the pill may affect the traits in ideal mate, such a fantasy may have slight impact on selecting real mate.