Column: Big Bad Wolf

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Edits: ZS EL J JLB
Notes: Quotation marks are for print, the italics are for online version

Headline: Column: Big Bad Wolf
By KATELYN RINGROSE

Stop relying on fairy tales for your romantic information; instead, turn to science! Learn to pay attention to the body language of people around you, and understand that most of our communication is silent.

It’s true that opposites attract. In order to avoid incestuous repercussions, people tend to gravitate toward mates who exhibit different physical traits from themselves. Why Grandmother, what a big nose you have…

Better to smell you with, my dear. In a sense, our noses have been designed for sex. Smell allows us to determine if a person is healthy, compatible or related to us. Our noses prevent inbreeding by making the pheromones of our relatives smell repulsive to us.

Why Grandmother, what big eyes you have… People with dilated pupils, an indication of lust, are perceived as more attractive than those with smaller pupils. Better to see you with, my dear. Keep an eye on the dance floor, and see if you can recognize ovulating females. Women who are ovulating usually have a heightened sex drive and tend to use more exaggerated movements when walking or dancing.

According to Discovery’s 2009 film The Science of Sex Appeal, people’s movements also become more pronounced when individuals whom they want to impress are watching them.

Why Grandmother, what big ears you have… Exaggerated traits are often perceived as sexy, as they indicate fertility and general health. Wide hips aid in childbirth, breasts nourish offspring and store fat and those sexy dimples on a woman’s back indicate how well-nourished she is.

Better to hear you with, my dear. Higher levels of estrogen heighten the pitch of a person’s voice, indicating how close a woman is to ovulation and how much testosterone a man was exposed to during puberty.

Why Grandmother, what frighteningly big teeth you have… Human beings are designed around a bilateral central axis with two canines, two ears, two eyes, etc. Minute deviations in this symmetry often suggest a lack of health, so the more symmetrical a person’s features are, the more we tend to associate them with fertility and beauty.

Better to bite you with, my dear. Sexual aggression can often be hormonal. Female copulance pheromones, scents that women release during sex, have an incredible impact — they can make the sniffer unable to recognize traits that would normally be perceived as unattractive. The smell of the pheromones is often likened to rancid butter — perhaps the contents of Red Riding Hood’s basket had gone bad.

It’s highly unlikely that the Wolf loved Red; he was probably lustful. Anthropologist Helen Fisher took MRIs of people in love and discovered that lust and love are located in two separate, but connected, areas of the brain. Lust triggers the release of dopamine, and only after the brain becomes accustomed to this dopamine release does the area of the brain associated with achievement become stimulated — this is love. Romantic love triggers the same area of the brain as a drug (and chocolate) addiction.

The wolf’s unique facial traits probably didn’t register with Red Riding Hood as being unfriendly, because she was an introvert. Traits such as smiling and facial relaxation, in potential partners, are most important to those who identify as extroverts, whereas introverts tend to place less value on social cues. Socially similar people tend form longer-lasting relationships. You can take a quiz to see what social pattern you are most likely to be attracted to at BBC.com.

Oxytocin, a chemical released during sex and childbirth, increases libido and monogamous urges. Serial killers, like the wolf, are often found to be lacking the ability to secrete oxytocin. Norepinephrine, another sexually related chemical secreted by our bodies, amplifies our production of sweat. Sweaty palms are not just nerves; they are products of love in its infantile state.

There’s another reason why the wolf was attracted to Red Riding Hood — red is the color most commonly associated with sex. In a study directed by Andrew Elliot and Daniela Niesta — when given images of dates dressed in red, subjects responded that they would spend more money on these dates than on dates with similar individuals who were dressed in different hues.

Use your animal instincts and gather subtle sexual clues — by opening your eyes, nose and ears to your surroundings. Stop being a naive Red Riding Hood; instead, become the Big Bad Wolf.

KATELYN RINGROSE loves twisted fairy tales; send her your love stories at knringrose@ucdavis.edu.

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