Bright red lipstick, red roses, the lady in red—it seems as though all things love and romance are associated with the color red. For years, scientists believed this was because it subconsciously made men think of red female genitalia, which signaled fertility and sexual arousal. But turns out, that's not actually the case, according to new research from the University of Kent in the U.K.
To come to this conclusion, researchers showed 40 men manipulated photographs of the female vulva that had four subtle, yet different colors, ranging from pale pink to red. The men then rated the sexual attractiveness of each image. The results showed that the men rated the reddest shade significantly less attractive than the three pink shades. All of the pink shades were basically rated the same by the men, according to the study.
Researcher Dr. Sarah E. Johns, who teaches Evolutionary Anthropology at the School of Anthropology and Conservation at the University of Kent, said she wasn't surprised by the results.
"On the whole, we expected to find the result we did," Johns says. "We were myth-busting — in other words, trying to dismantle 'folk psychology.'"
In fact, the most surprising result of the study was that the men didn't rate the pictures of the women's genitals as being all that sexually attractive overall. Although the reddest shades were still least preferred compared to the pinker shades, Johns says.
So does this mean that you should forgo the red dress or red lipstick? No way, Johns says. Men still find the color red attractive — just for other reasons that aren't fully understood yet.
"Maybe it makes men feel competitive (other studies have shown this), so maybe men are more competitive about women in red and therefore desire them more," she says. "Wearing red will still get male attention but for different reasons than it reminds them of sexually aroused labia!"
Jennipher Walters is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomedGirls.com and FitBottomedMamas.com. A certified personal trainer, lifestyle and weight management coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and regularly writes about all things fitness and wellness for various online publications.