Can sex make you more attractive?
Well, in the eyes of your partner, perhaps. A study conducted at the Universität Bonn discovered, after injecting 40 male participants in monogamous relationships with oxytocin, that hormone-saturated men found their partner irresistibly attractive. However, the oxytocin only resulted in a spike of attraction towards the participants’ partners – pictures of long-term acquaintances or co-workers left the participants cold.
Oxytocin floods the brain’s reward system during and after sex, activating the same areas of the brain that are active during a drug high. This hormone is not only released during sex, but during other kinds of touch, like hand holding or massage. Oxytocin is responsible for feelings of trust and deep affection, and scientists theorize that this temporary post-coital high is in place to incentivize partnership in our otherwise non-monogamous species. Either way, you can be sure that when you’re getting down and dirty, whomever you’re with is finding you overwhelmingly appealing – especially if you’ve been together for a while.
So sex can make you more attractive (temporarily) to a partner. But can having more sex make you more attractive to strangers? There’s no conclusive research either way. However, having sex for intrinsic reasons (i.e. because you’re in the mood and excited to do so) can lead to health benefits, like reduced stress levels and improved immune system functionality. Feeling good might just make you seem more appealing to whomever you’re pursuing.
Assuming that you successfully make yourself more attractive, it follows that you’ll be so incredibly irresistible that you’ll be able to have even more sex, creating a feedback loop wherein by making yourself even healthier, and attracting even more partners, you’ll become the most appealing Sexual Dynamo on the planet. Especially because attractive people have more sex, right?
Science, however, argues that this isn’t true, especially if you’re a woman. According to a study by sociologist E.A. McClintock, attractive women are actually less likely to have casual sex than their less attractive friends. McClintock discovered that, due to the double standard surrounding female sexuality in Western culture, attractive women are more likely to form exclusive attachments than purely sexual relationships. For men, however, she discovered the inverse to be true: the number of sexual partners increases with increasing physical attractiveness. McClintock thus theorizes that attractiveness is a kind of social currency, wherein individuals cash in on their physical appearance to gain what’s socially desirable (for women, she theorizes, this is a stable relationship; for men, it’s a casual sexual encounter).
Ew. Gender norms.
As with all studies that use something as subjective as physical attractiveness as a metric, take this with a big ol’ teaspoon of salt. Little other research indicates that attractive people have any more sex than unattractive people. This said, sex can make you feel great, and feeling great is pretty sexy in and of itself.