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Rivalry plummets as women age

Hormonal changes caused by menopause soften the biologically driven rivalry between women. A study published last week reveals that menopause alters the way women judge attractiveness in younger members of the same sex, resulting in a greater preference for feminine facial characteristics. Previous studies have shown that fertile women – especially around the time of ovulation – are more likely to downgrade the good looks of other women. Benedict Jones of the University of Aberdeen and other researchers in the UK showed that women who had recently gone through menopause found feminised versions of female faces more attractive significantly more often than the women who were still on the cusp of major hormonal change. “Following menopause, the importance of competing with highly attractive and feminine women decreases,” Jones said. “What is surprising is that we did not find an effect of menopause on the judgments of men’s faces.” Both sets of women showed about the same, slight preference for male faces with feminine qualities. That all women appear to be ambivalent about choosing virile hunks or more frail sensitive types is not too hard to fathom, Jones said. “Masculine men will generally be healthier, but women perceive them as being rather untrustworthy and as bad parents. And they may be right – masculine types tend to prefer short-term to long-term relationships,” he said. Feminised men, by contrast, make better life partners.

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