Penis size interacts with body shape and height to influence male attractiveness

Edited by Wyatt W. Anderson, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, and approved February 28, 2013 (received for review November 6, 2012)
April 8, 2013
110 (17) 6925-6930

Abstract

Compelling evidence from many animal taxa indicates that male genitalia are often under postcopulatory sexual selection for characteristics that increase a male’s relative fertilization success. There could, however, also be direct precopulatory female mate choice based on male genital traits. Before clothing, the nonretractable human penis would have been conspicuous to potential mates. This observation has generated suggestions that human penis size partly evolved because of female choice. Here we show, based upon female assessment of digitally projected life-size, computer-generated images, that penis size interacts with body shape and height to determine male sexual attractiveness. Positive linear selection was detected for penis size, but the marginal increase in attractiveness eventually declined with greater penis size (i.e., quadratic selection). Penis size had a stronger effect on attractiveness in taller men than in shorter men. There was a similar increase in the positive effect of penis size on attractiveness with a more masculine body shape (i.e., greater shoulder-to-hip ratio). Surprisingly, larger penis size and greater height had almost equivalent positive effects on male attractiveness. Our results support the hypothesis that female mate choice could have driven the evolution of larger penises in humans. More broadly, our results show that precopulatory sexual selection can play a role in the evolution of genital traits.

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Acknowledgments

We thank J. Burchell, J. Irons, H. Kokko, E. McKone, and R. Reynolds for technical support; P. Backwell, I. Booksmythe, R. Catullo, and R. Lanfear for comments on previous drafts of the manuscript; and Geoff Miller and one anonymous referee for their thoughtful and constructive comments on our manuscript. This project was funded by the Australian Research Council; ethics approval was granted through Monash University (MUHREC Approval CF11/1378 – 2011000764).

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Information & Authors

Information

Published in

Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Go to Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Vol. 110 | No. 17
April 23, 2013
PubMed: 23569234

Classifications

Submission history

Published online: April 8, 2013
Published in issue: April 23, 2013

Keywords

  1. genital evolution
  2. multivariate attractiveness
  3. multiple cues

Acknowledgments

We thank J. Burchell, J. Irons, H. Kokko, E. McKone, and R. Reynolds for technical support; P. Backwell, I. Booksmythe, R. Catullo, and R. Lanfear for comments on previous drafts of the manuscript; and Geoff Miller and one anonymous referee for their thoughtful and constructive comments on our manuscript. This project was funded by the Australian Research Council; ethics approval was granted through Monash University (MUHREC Approval CF11/1378 – 2011000764).

Notes

This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.

Authors

Affiliations

Brian S. Mautz2 [email protected]
Research School of Biology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia;
Present address: Department of Biology, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1N 6N5.
Bob B. M. Wong
School of Biological Sciences, Monash University, Melbourne, VIC 3800, Australia; and
Richard A. Peters
Department of Zoology, La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC 3086, Australia
Michael D. Jennions
Research School of Biology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia;

Notes

2
To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: [email protected].
Author contributions: B.S.M., B.B.M.W., R.A.P., and M.D.J. designed research; B.S.M., B.B.M.W., R.A.P., and M.D.J. performed research; B.S.M. and M.D.J. analyzed data; and B.S.M., B.B.M.W., R.A.P., and M.D.J. wrote the paper.

Competing Interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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    Penis size interacts with body shape and height to influence male attractiveness
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
    • Vol. 110
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