The Situationist

The Color of Sex Appeal

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 31, 2008

Theresa Tamkins has an interesting article on CNN.com, titled “Wearing Red May Boost Your Sex Appeal.”  Here are some excerpts.

* * *

Does wearing the color red give you a sexual edge? Maybe, according to a new study, which found that men find women sexier if they’re sporting a crimson hue rather than, say, blue or green.

However, red won’t make you look smarter or more competent, says study author Andrew Elliot, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester in New York.

“We only found the effect for attraction, so males don’t rate females in red as more intelligent, more likable, or as having a better personality; they only rate her as sexier and more attractive,” he says.

Men also were more likely to say they wanted to have sex with a woman and that they would be willing to spend more on a date if she were in red, according to the report in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (pdf here).

In a series of five studies, about 150 heterosexual men (homosexual men and those with red-green color blindness were excluded) rated photographs of women framed in red, white, gray, green, or blue, or with the woman in a red or blue shirt.

On a 7-point scale, with 1 being the least sexy and 7 a white-hot sex goddess, the color red added about 1.25 points to the rating, says Elliot.

That’s nice, but given the looming election, one might wonder: Does wearing red make you more attractive in the voting booth too?

* * *

“We actually have other research showing that red on the cover of an IQ test leads to worse performance, so red is actually a negative color [in some instances],” says Elliot.

* * *

Why is red so sexy? The researchers have a couple of theories.

One is cultural: From red roses to Valentine’s Day, red is the universally recognized sign of romance; it makes sense that men may subconsciously associate the color red with sex.

. . . . “There’s also a possibility — a rather provocative possibility — that there’s a deeply embedded sort of tendency for heterosexual men to see red as an attraction cue because that’s what happens in the wild.”

For example, the rumps of some primates turn red during ovulation, so it’s possible that men have some tiny portion deep in their brain that recognizes red as a mating symbol — even though it’s an association that hasn’t come in handy for a few million years.

* * *

However, it’s all speculation at this point. The study can’t determine if red is sexy because we’re all just a bunch of animals running around in business suits, or if red is a culturally determined sex symbol. It also can’t determine if wearing red has an effect outside the laboratory.

* * *

To read the entire article, click here.  For related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Body Image,” “The Situation of Hair Color,” “The Magnetism of Beautiful People,” Survival of the Cutest,” “Spas and Girls,” “Fitting in and Sizing Up,” and “Shades of Fairness and the Marketing of Prejudice.”

Thanks to (situationist) Andrew Perlman for sending us this link.

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