Whether you're flicking through Tinder or making eyes at someone from across the bar, it turns out you can tell a lot about a person from the shape of their face. Or at least, you can get a pretty good read on what their sexual intentions might be. That's according to a new paper, published in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, which found that people with a higher facial width-to-height ratio (FWHR) possessed a higher sex drive. Men, but not women, with a high FWHR were also more likely to cheat on a partner and enjoy casual sex.
A group of researchers led by Steven Arnocky, an associate professor at Nipissing University in California, wanted to see if and how face shape affected sexual relationships and mate selection. To do this, they examined the results of two separate studies.
In the first, 145 heterosexual male and female students in a committed relationship were asked to complete a survey. They were quizzed on their interpersonal behavior and sex drive, with questions such as "How often do you experience sexual desire?" and "How often do you orgasm in the average month?". Photographs were taken to work out their FWHR, while other masculine traits (say, cheekbone prominence) were controlled for.
The scientists expanded on these findings in a second, larger study involving 314 students. This time they were asked about their sexual orientation, their sociosexual orientation, and whether they'd consider being unfaithful to a long-term partner as well as their sex drive. FYI, sociosexuality is a scale that runs from restricted (feeling uncomfortable about casual sex) to unrestricted (feeling relaxed about casual sex). Again, photographs were taken to determine FWHR.
In both surveys, male and female students with a higher FWHR tended to have higher sex drives. The second study found that men, but not women, with a higher FWHR were more likely to enjoy or feel comfortable about casual sex (that is, they had an unrestricted sociosexual orientation) and were more likely to consider cheating on a partner. Overall, men indicated a greater preference towards casual sex and infidelity than women.
This adds to previous research that links square-jawed males (ie those with a higher FWHR) to higher levels of aggression and social dominance. Studies have shown that they're generally considered a more attractive option when it comes to one night stands and short-term relationships than their long-faced friends, but might not always make the best long-term partners. This probably comes down to the levels of testosterone men are exposed to as adolescents and in the womb, which not only affects face shape but influences sexual behavior and desire.
"Together, these findings suggest that facial characteristics might convey important information about human sexual motivations," Arnocky explained in a statement.