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Do Birth Control Pills Make Exotic Dancers Less “Titillating?”

In a recent article, I discussed how birth control pills alter the type of men that women find attractive, not to mention the quality of women’s sex lives. However, the sexual side effects of oral contraceptives don’t stop there. In fact, being on the pill even seems to impact the amount of money women can earn from a night of exotic dancing! Yes, you read that right.

In a titillating study (pun intended) of professional female lap dancers, researchers found that naturally cycling women (i.e., women who were not taking a hormonal contraceptive) experienced an increase in tips when they were ovulating; women on the pill did not show a similar peak in their earnings at any time of the month.1 This difference translated to real money too—naturally cycling women pulled in an average of just over $354 per shift while ovulating, compared to a more modest $200 per shift for women on the pill.

However, we cannot definitively say why some of these women made more money than others. Did ovulating lap dancers alter their behavior in ways that made them more attractive and tip-worthy? Or were their male customers somehow able to detect when the dancers were ovulating, and this made them more willing to part with their cash? It is probably a bit of both. For instance, research shows that ovulating women tend to dress sexier and show more skin.2 So, perhaps the ovulating dancers chose to wear more sensual or revealing outfits (or no outfits at all!). And, this is going to sound kind of weird, but research shows that men experience a bigger increase in testosterone levels (a hormone related to the initiation of sexual behavior) after sniffing shirts worn by ovulating women than after sniffing shirts worn by non-ovulating women.3 This suggests that men may subconsciously be able to pick up on female ovulation through their noses. Thus, the amount that men tip an exotic dancer may not only depend upon her looks, but also how she smells.

Either way, whatever it is that leads ovulating dancers to receive bigger tips gets wiped out when women are on the pill. Before any of you exotic dancers think about going off birth control in the hopes of getting rich, however, just remember that a few nights a month of good tips is hardly enough to make a dent in the cost of raising a child should you happen to get pregnant.

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1Miller, G., Tybur, J. M., & Jordan, B. D. (2007). Ovulatory cycle effects on tip earnings by lap dancers: Economic evidence for human estrus? Evolution and Human Behavior, 28, 375-381.

2Haselton, M. G., Mortezaie, M., Pillsworth, E. G., Bleske-Rechek, A., & Frederick, D. A. (2007) Ovulatory shifts in human female ornamentation: Near ovulation, women dress to impress. Hormones and Behavior, 51, 40-45.

3Miller, S. L., & Maner, J. K. (2010). Scent of a woman: Men’s testosterone responses to olfactory ovulation cues. Psychological Science, 21, 276-283.

Dr. Justin Lehmiller - Science of Relationships articles | Website/CV
Dr. Lehmiller's research program focuses on how secrecy and stigmatization impact relationship quality and physical and psychological health. He also conducts research on commitment, sexuality, and safer-sex practices.

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