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How guys look at girls: Sex or relationship?

Last updated on: June 12, 2012 18:34 IST


A study has found that men look at women in two different ways, based on whether they're considering a short- or long-term relationship.

When guys are looking for a short-term partner, they just look at a girl's body -- particularly the waist/hip area.

They only start focusing on her face when they're thinking of a long-term partner. Not exactly surprising. But there are probably evolutionary reasons. Guys check the body to look for fertility. They check the face to work out character -- will she make a good partner?

Researchers in Hong Kong did three experiments with heterosexual people and the results showed the same trends.

One hundred and eleven men and women were told to picture themselves in a relationship with a person of the opposite sex.

Fling or commitment?

The first group had to imagine they were the main characters in an 'I-want-to-spend-the-rest-of-my-life-with-you' story. They had to think of a cosy evening with the girl or guy, having dinner and talking about a future home and kids. At the end of the evening they kiss goodnight and part.

The second group had to imagine they were on a cruise. They meet an attractive person, flirt, jump into bed for a one-night stand and never see him/her again.

All the participants were then shown photos of people of the opposite sex, and the researchers measured where they fixed their eyes.

For the women there was no big effect. They focused equally on a guy's face and body.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

© is a journalistic website about love, sex, relationships and everything in between.

Hips or face?

Photographs: Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

With men, though, there was a steady trend. The guys who were told to think about a one-night-stand situation fixed their eyes on the hips and waists of the girls in the photos. The guys who were given the long-term relationship scenario focused on the girls' faces.

It's likely that women do pretty much the same thing, but it depends on where they are in their menstrual cycle, say the researchers.

But anyway, at this point they dropped the women from the experiments and went on with just the men.


Spot the difference

In the second experiment, 116 men were told once again to imagine the same scenarios. Then they were shown two photographs of the same girl. In each photo she had on different accessories, either around the hips or the face.

The participants had to identify where and what the difference was between the two pics. Similarly to the first experiment, the men told to dream of a hook-up spotted the difference in the waist area faster than in the face area. The guys told to think of a happy-ever-after scenario were quicker to spot the differences in the face.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh


Photographs: Sharayah Sherry, USA/Wikimedia Commons

In another experiment, guys had to tell the difference between the letters 'O' and 'Q' next to a photograph of an attractive waist or face.

The one-night-stand guys were slower to spot the difference on the hip-waist photo -- distracted by the sexy body. But the long-term-relationship guys were slower on the face photo -- their attention went to the girl's face.


Having babies...

All this goes to show that when guys are after quick sex, they cut to the chase and look at the hips and waist. What's actually happening is that they're instinctively checking out her fertility, say the researchers.

The waist-hip ratio is the best physical clue a guy can get to a woman's fertility. With a narrow waist and voluptuous hips, she's likely to be the right age to get pregnant. As a mating strategy, he's essentially planning a hit-and-run.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh

...Or bringing up kids

Photographs: Anwar Mirza

But when guys are thinking about long-term commitment, they look at a girl's face. Most probably, they're trying to judge her character -- honest or dishonest, submissive or aggressive, sexually reserved or frivolous.

Here, he's weighing not just whether she's likely to get pregnant, but whether she'll be the type to stick around and do a good job of bringing up the children.