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Ask Dating Guy: Why Is Red Sexually Arousing?
If you listen to Bon Jovi’s “Bed of Roses,” what do you see in your head? Try to picture where your mind goes when you hear the Jov belt out the famous chorus, “I want to lay you down on a bed of roses…” Stop before you get to the bed of nails — what colour are the roses? I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess none of you imagined a sexy pile of thorny-stemmed white roses, or a literal floral mattress of mixed peach and pink pastel petals. You only see red… and even though getting frisky on a pile of roses is more overrated than sex on the beach, you’re probably starting to get turned on enough by the image, despite how unsexy the act would actually be.
Men and women alike have been seduced by power of red long before Bon Jovi gave us the idea to make a DIY mattress of roses, but males and females are fond of the colour for different reasons. Andrew Elliot, professor of psychology, and Daniela Niesta, post-doctoral researcher, at the University of Rochester, are responsible for the first academic study on the power of the scarlet hue specifically over men. Without going into details about the ins and outs of the research project (if you’re curious about the details, read up on it here), Elliott and Niesta found that men tended to be notably more attracted to and sexually aroused by ladies in red, too. And get this, they’re willing to drop more money on red-clad romantic interests too, dropping more cash on dates who dress in the crimson shade.
Before we get to why women like men in red, men’s attraction to females in the attention-grabbing context when you consider mating rituals of prehistoric times. This won’t exactly be as fun as the bed of roses visual exercise, but imagine for a minute a baboon with her hind end in the air awaiting a mate. Let’s not argue over what shade of red it happens to be. We’re all seeing the same thing, and it’s a fair enough bet to assume the modern man is still in touch with his instincts to procreate (even if he always practices safe sex) – the same ones we credit with making wide hips on women sexually arousing to men.
“Our findings confirm what many women have long suspected and claimed – that men act like animals in the sexual realm,” wrote Elliot and Niesta to conclude their study. “As much as men might like to think that they respond to women in a thoughtful, sophisticated manner, it appears that at least to some degree, their preferences and predilections are, in a word, primitive.”
So if men’s attraction to ladies in red stems from primitive mating instincts, why do women like men in red? Elliott led a similar follow-up study to find out if red has any persuasive powers over women when it comes to who they hook up with. “Red, rank, and romance in women viewing men” showed that women in China, the United States, the UK, and Germany all tended to find men in red more sexually desirable than men in any other colour. Apparently this attraction has less to do with evolutionary instincts and more to do with socially conditioned associations of red with power and social status. “In primitive societies, sacred objects were painted or coated in red to enhance their potency and convey a sense of great importance,” the study claims. “In ancient China, Japan, and sub-Saharan Africa, red was viewed as a symbol of prosperity and high status. Classical Romans called the most powerful men ‘ “the ones who wear red.’ “
So if you were thinking of wearing pink or being a blue Valentine this year, reconsider red. Sure, you might look like an overly-enthusiastic participant in Hallmark-created consumer holidays, but it also might get you laid. When the time to get primitive with your dates inevitably comes, I’d recommend not actually doing it on a bed of roses. A mattress, bear-skin rug, or kitchen floor is much more civilized.
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